When you’ve been building websites for as long as I have, it’s hard not to develop some snap judgments when looking at new sites. In the interest of making sure YOUR websites aren’t passed over, here are some of the faux pas that make me turn up my nose at a website.
Think “off” white or cream. I hate when sites use these colors rather than just sticking with good old white. In the first place, cream or beige are hard colors to replicate on a screen; they just never look quite right. On the other hand, sites are keeping with the use of neutral colors for the background, which is hard to argue with (and is actually something I’m in favor of!), but white is a better option. In the first place, it’s cleaner — beige-y backgrounds read “dirty”. Secondly, it offers the best contrast for the purpose of reading text. And, finally, it won’t distract from your other content by competing with it.
Inappropriate use of display fonts
There are two types of fonts used on websites: display fonts and body copy fonts. Display fonts are useful for headers, or graphical elements, while body copy fonts are used for, wait for it, body copy! Anything that needs to be super legible and easy-to-read needs to be in a body copy font. This includes navigation elements. It is a pet peeve when I see websites whose menu items use display fonts. If these are large enough to read easily, they take up way too much space; if they aren’t large enough, they’re unreadable. This goes to user-friendliness: If your visitors can’t read your website, they are going to leave your website.
Using Comic Sans — for anything
Among designers, Comic Sans — and users thereof — is a joke. If you heed nothing else, heed this: DO NOT USE COMIC SANS. It is the most overused font, possibly in the history of typography. Anyone with a discerning eye will not take your website (or anything else) seriously if you are using Comic Sans.
Oh, but you like Comic Sans? I do not care. There are too many other, better options for you to fall back on Comic Sans. Just do yourself a favor and delete it from your computer now.
Typographical errors and misspellings
Okay, we’re all human. I know you could probably find a mistake or two on this website. If I become aware of an error, I rectify it, post haste.
I may have mentioned that I have a degree in English. I don’t shy away from using the term “grammar nazi” in reference to myself. If I could red-ink the world, I probably would. The quickest way to look unprofessional on the web is to use poor grammar, misspelled words, or “text speak.” This is not the same thing as using your voice in your web copy. You can write like yourself, in your voice, and still adhere to the rules of the written word. Or at least good writing practices. There is no excuse in this technological age to not write at your best.
Blurry, unfocused, or poor images
Today’s smartphones are comparable to or better than traditional cameras from just a few years back. There are numerous free and paid stock image websites just waiting for you to download a photo. Tabletop photography “studios” are a dime a dozen. Well, maybe a half-dozen. The point is, there is no reason at all for your website to be using less-than-stellar photographs. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good pictures, and you don’t have to break the bank to afford a professional photographer if that’s the route you want to go. Check out my Pinterest board for some of the tools and sites I use to keep my images on point.
This isn’t to say your website will be unsuccessful if you use any of these…”tactics”. In fact, there are plenty of crap-tacular websites that are actually very successful. But given all the competition on the web, any step up is a step in the right direction.