It’s 2017 and the internet age is well and truly upon us. Having a website is no longer a novelty; it’s a necessary tool for every serious business. Making that website attractive and easy to navigate is a must, and luckily, website design has evolved to the point that the task can be accomplished without too much difficulty.
Despite the best intentions, too many websites still plague visitors with annoying, confusing or downright difficult design issues that lead to visual unpleasantness and unnecessary challenges. While tastes vary, there are some website transgressions that every well-meaning accounting firm should assiduously avoid in the quest for a beautiful and effective site. Prime among that list are these design disasters:
- Clutter. Bringing a wealth of information to site visitors does not require adding a host of widgets and other distractions. News updates, social media feeds, sidebars, recent blog posts, special offers…these are valuable assets but using them in bulk only makes things messy. Choose what’s most important and limit the features that appear on each page. Arriving at your website should feel pleasant and peaceful, not lead to confusion and a deep desire to go home and reorganize.
- Too many fonts. Access to fonts has never been better, which is a development that thrills typography nerds and the design-minded alike. Explore them; use them; love them! But if you use them all in the same place, you risk your site looking like it was designed by a fourth grader who’s just discovered the special effects menu in PowerPoint. Two or three different fonts that work well together is the maximum most sites can utilize gracefully for a consistent and attractive look.
- Too little information. Minimalism is a fine thing, but only to the point that it clarifies rather than mystify. Avoid getting too creative or cute when naming tabs for navigation. Keep overhead navigation bars on desktop sites clean and easy to figure out. When you ask for information, explain what will happen. Don’t make visitors wonder.
- Pop-up interference. Everyone hates popups, and yet, websites continue to use them. Just don’t! At best, visitors will click them closed with increasing annoyance. At worst, people will leave the site entirely, taking with them a negative impression of your brand. Make sign-ups and contact forms easily accessible for those who want them and give everyone else the gift of unfettered access to the information on your website.
- Lame stock photography. Great photographs and images are easily available in the internet age. Take advantage of it. Hire a photographer, use images you prepared yourself or source from the wide range of wonderful and unique stock photos that exist today. There is NO reason to use an image that’s generic, overused or just not very good on your website.
- Blurry graphic content. Have you ever noticed a website with a blurry logo, chart or other graphic? Of course you have, and so have I. It’s truly shocking how many websites contain graphic content that’s either blown up beyond the appropriate size or blurry to begin with. My theory is that site owners think, “It’s the image we want to use, and no one will notice if it’s a little blurry.” But we do notice, and we think less of the brands that let this stand.
- Auto-playing video content. Nothing spikes bounce rates like auto-playing video on a website. There’s a lot to love about this type of content, but only when it’s under the control of the user. Set to auto-play, it constitutes an audible assault that often embarrasses the visitor (because it disturbed others in the room) and feels like a violation of autonomy and control. Offer video, but do not force it on your site visitors.
The choices you make in designing your website have a powerful impact on the impression visitors form of it (and by extension, of your firm). Choose wisely to ensure your website and visitors speak highly of you. You wouldn’t want to repeat the things they’d say upon encountering one or more of these cardinal sins.