(And you can prevent most of them with a little bit of thinking)
1. Keeping ALL the content.
I know. It’s hard to let go. You’ve been together for years, through thick and thin — through redesign after redesign.
But it’s time to ask yourself if this is really going to work out — if your hundreds of pages of website content truly solve your visitors’ problems.
Solution: It’s not enough to just ask yourself if content needs to stay — you’ll always convince yourself that content needs to stay, just in case. That’s website-content-hoarder mentality — and, unfortunately for website visitors, a terribly common way of thinking. Perform a website content audit. Examine your website analytics data. Talk to actual users and prospective customers. You can say what you need to say in fewer words and fewer pages. Break up with your aging, stale content.
Many times, our Content Strategists play the role of a couple’s counselor, helping to identify what content is suffering from content ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial), and what’s actually useful.
2. Trends over timelessness.
There’s nothing wrong with following web design trends — it’s easy to take pieces from popular, trendy websites and adapt them — but it’s far more important to keep your eye on the goals of a website redesign and answering how you can help visitors achieve their goals.
Solution: Follow this simple design philosophy: don’t date your design; remain true to your brand. Usability always comes first.
Design trends are fine if they help you solve visitors’ needs, but if you want a parallax-scrolling site just because it’s the cool thing to do, we’re going to have a discussion first — we’ll always recommend the best tool for the job.
3. Making everything important.
One area where we have to help a lot of clients is when we’re told that nearly every message is important. However, when we dive in deeper, we find out what’s truly important.
This is particularly true when there are lots of stakeholders or departments that have a say in the website. Everybody’s message needs to be on the front page, and that’s how you end up with the dreaded homepage carousel.
“If everything is important, then nothing is.”
— Patrick Lencioni
Solution: Each page can have one thing that’s the most important. Respect content and visual hierarchy, and watch what happens — visitors will be thankful you’re not overloading them. Yes, that means some things will get less page real estate, but it’s for the best. Instead of someone taking no action and learning nothing, they’re far more likely to take at least one thing — your main message — away.
Free design tip: The best way to keep a page from looking “busy” is to stop making everything important.
4. Making device usage assumptions.
“People will never use that on their mobile phones.”
It’s a troubling phrase that’s uttered all too often. Throughout the past decade, when people started designing websites to work on mobile devices, they dealt with a smaller form factor by cutting out content so only a few pieces of content appeared on the screen.
Decreasing the amount of content is generally a good thing (see above) — but when you only decrease content on particular devices, you’re making a dangerous assumption that people who happen to be browsing a website on a mobile device don’t need the same content as somebody sitting at a desk with a mouse and keyboard.
Generally speaking, assumptions without data are not a good idea when it comes to web design.
Solution: Don’t make assumptions on behalf of people who use your website. Don’t penalize people because of the device they’re using.
Take the time and effort to make your content work (and work well) regardless of device or screen size.
5. Missing opportunities to capture attention.
Your website is probably designed to convert people on the fence into customers, right?
Hopefully your website provides some sort of value to help those people — but that tiny “Contact Us” link tucked away in the top corner doesn’t make it easy to take the next step — especially if someone’s not ready to buy something right now.
Solution: In addition to making the step to contact you as simple as possible, also provide people with the option to sign up for email updates or otherwise stay in touch. Make it as easy as possible, and give an incentive to continue following along. Not everyone is ready to buy today, but they shouldn’t forget about you.
One more thing: remember your website has more than one page. Lots of people land on a page nestled deep within a website when they enter from a Google search. Every single page — not just the homepage — needs an action to help not only people who are ready to buy, but also people who aren’t quite there.
6. Interrupting the experience.
“But Steve, you just said to capture attention!”
You’re right — but it can’t come at the expense of the people actually using your website for the reason they entered in the first place.
It feels like every time I read a news article, I lose focus on the content. I’m bracing in anticipation for when a jack-in-the-box-like pop-up is going to cover my screen, asking me to sign up for an email list — totally stopping me from what I was doing.
Email signup pop-ups might be the worst part of the web today. Unfortunately, these pop-ups actually work for adding email signups, but I fear the short-term focus of these popups, which work against the very essence of User Experience. It’s absolutely OK to ask people to stay connected — it’s doing that before the task is completed that isn’t OK with me.
(And don’t even get me started on the websites that block you from seeing any content before you sign up for their email list or close the pop-up.)
Solution: It’s OK to ask for something after you’ve given value, but never stop people from what they were doing. Respect people who use your website; if you respect people over time, they will notice and remember.
You will bring in higher-value prospects to your email list if you attract them with your content instead of forcing the sign-up form down their throats. Explain the benefits of signing up — answer what additional value someone gets for signing up, how often they’ll get something, and if you really care about your customers, what you’ll give them right now when they sign up.
But let them do it on their own terms.
7. Not thinking about the transition for users.
You’re redesigning your website, and that’s great — but don’t forget about the people who actually use what you have now.
This is an area where lots of website redesigns fail. Everybody involved gets so caught up in the new website project that they don’t give thought to the shock of a returning customer coming to a new site for the first time.
Unexpected change leads to frustration. Just think of the perennial “Change Facebook back to its old layout” groups and petitions that used to appear all over the web whenever Facebook would tweak their design.
Solution: Think constantly about the experience of your visitors — beyond the new website itself. Consider simple on-boarding techniques like implementing intro.js to explain new features. Part of our standard process at Liquid is using 301 redirects to move old URLs to new URLs — you never know who has a bookmark to an old page, including Google.
See the obvious trend? Things fall down when someone isn’t thinking about the end user’s interests.
Our process at Liquid places real people at the center of the problems we solve for our clients.
About Steve Luvender
Steve Luvender is a Senior User Experience Designer at Liquid Interactive, where he works with organizations to design and implement solutions that delight people and create business results.