With apologies to Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten, here are the Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design, from someone who has worked as a Web Manager and Web Strategist for many years:
1. The Web Strategy doesn’t follow the Business Strategy.
Whether you’re designing for a Fortune 1000 corporation, a SOHO business, a government agency or a non-profit, your organization has a direction and a purpose, and your Web strategy must reflect and support that purpose. Read The Chemistry of Web Strategy.
2. The Web Design doesn’t follow the Web Strategy.
Assuming your organization has taken the time and effort to develop a documented Web Strategy, your entire Web Design (or redesign) project must be aligned with the objectives of this strategy as it is aligned with your organization’s Business Strategy (see #1 above).
3. No one has developed a content strategy.
Among all the discussions about the site’s presentation design (graphic design), its tools and applications, and its navigational structure, has your Web Design team given any thought to developing a Content Strategy? If your team cannot clearly answers questions such as “How is all the site content being prioritized?” or “What is this content supposed to achieve for us? ” or “Who are the 2-3 target audiences for this content?” then you need to write a Content Strategy or a Content Requirements Plan.
4. Users are not consulted in advance about the Web Design.
Web analytics, surveys, focus groups, use cases, heuristic reviews — these are some of the tools of usability analysis. Often organizations will undertake a major Web Design or redesign project, then afterwards consult their users to try to confirm whether they did a good job designing the site. You can’t please everyone, but once you know how people want to use your site (task flow) and what content and applications are important to them, then you MUST consider these when developing your prototype Web Design.
5. Users are consulted too much about the Web Design.
Don’t be held hostage by user feedback or usability studies, either. When you continue to over-research what people want on your site, you can set up expectations on the part of your users that cannot be reasonably met. As well, you cannot possibly offer everything on your site that users want because the site has to align with your Web Strategy, which has to align with your Business Strategy. (See #1 again)
6. The Web Design is confused with “look and feel”, “colors” and “branding”.
Too often, early discussions about Web Design and redesign centre around “look and feel”. “How will our content fit the new design?” asks the marketing and communications staff. “Let’s not talk about Web Design yet,” say the developers. “Give us a few possible designs,” say the senior executives. If you are leading a Web Design project, one of your first tasks should be making the entire organization know that Web Design is not just about what the site will look like, but also how it will be constructed, how it will be used, and how it will be managed. Yes, branding is a part of Web Design, but it’s not all about branding, either.
7. The Web Design has no muscle.
Web sites that perform tasks for their users must have muscle to do it. That means not just search engines, payment processing, and other applications and databases that make the site work, but also the static content and how its information design helps users with the task of scanning, reading and interacting with content. Sites should be designed based on task analysis and task flow rather than by gathering heaps of content (focus on how it will be used to tell you what will be used).
8. The Web Design has no brain.
Web sites with muscle also have to have a brain that controls the muscle. The brain is the documented site architecture and interaction design — making the site logical and intuitive to most people through the application of best Web practices as well as a by thoroughly following how people want to use the site. The site’s critical navigation design has to be based on task flow so it will make sense to users.
9. The Web Design has no soul.
The soul of Web Design is the collective mass of human beings behind it that may hide behind the “Browser wall”, but nevertheless must imbue the site with humanity and human qualities. A Web Design has no soul if it doesn’t use the language of the marketplace. It will also have no soul if it does not provide ample means for users to contact the Web site’s owners and administrators. And a good Web Design also should have some images of the people who are behind that browser wall.
10. The Web Design is not scalable.
If a single generation of a Web Design cannot be sustained because it cannot accommodate new content and applications without distorting or mangling the original design, then it’s not scalable enough. A Web Design should allow for continuous improvement of the site, a kind of progressive evolution that allows for change as the rule, not the exception. While it’s common to implement minor site design changes through small variations, and to conduct major site redesign every couple of years or so, Web Designers should always be designing for the unforeseeable, the Black Swans, and should always design two years into the future. Not “what we are now,” but “what we will become.”
For more information on Web Design Strategy, contact Garth@DigitalPractices.com.