Neil Cumins looks at the unnecessary evils of bad web design…
When the Catholic Church came up with their famous list of seven deadly sins, they probably didn’t have the Internet in mind. However, a seven-point list of website design sins has recently been circulating online as an alternative to the time-honoured perils of lust and greed. There is some crossover between the original list and its search engine-inspired counterpart; companies who take pride in their websites will be the envy of their competitors, whereas slothful download speeds will incur the wrath of search engines and customers alike.
Although Google tries not to publicise the precise composition of its ranking algorithm, these are commonly agreed to be the seven deadly sins of website design when it comes to results rankings:
1. Entry pages
If your site still has an archaic “Click here to enter” homepage, replace it immediately with something that contains searchable content and multiple internal/external links. Entry pages don’t belong in the modern world, unless there is a legal requirement for them, such as with alcohol companies.
2. Leisurely loading speeds
The latest Google algorithm penalises sites that take a long time to download. Flash(y) transitions and self-playing media content can severely hinder mobile users, particularly since 4G remains patchy and erratic.
3. Jumbled layouts
It’s okay to have sidebars and banner ads, but they mustn’t detract from the main content. This should occupy a front-and-center position, identified with distinctive fonts/background/spacing. It should also be immediately distinguishable from supplementary content such as social media buttons or related-article links.
4. Insufficient content
Bing has admitted that the amount of time people spend on a page affects its ranking, and it’s believed that Google also evaluate this. Known as dwell time, it indicates good-quality content capable of retaining a visitor’s attention. A product description page with one image and one line of text won’t take long to view, and would consequently score badly.
5. Dominant advertising
Sites that prioritize advertising ahead of main content are marked down as providing a poor user experience, particularly relating to the part of each webpage visible prior to scrolling down. These changes were incorporated into Google’s algorithm following complaints from users that the information they’d searched for was buried alive among promotions and irrelevant material.
6. Excessive volumes of advertising
Following on from point 5 above, never have more adverts than content. Use frames or visible lines to differentiate ads from main content within a consistent location throughout the site, and avoid invasive adverts that cover the screen or track scrolling. Garish transitional promotions are also best avoided.
7. Dead pages
The more 404 errors and broken links found by search engine algorithms, the less favourably the site will be viewed. Websites need to appear up-to-date to perform strongly, and nothing says ‘obsolete’ like a blank page with a generic error message written in 10-point Lucida Console.
The Fetch as Google facility allows webmasters to see where their websites are falling down, and respond appropriately. It’s part of Google’s webmaster tool kit. Once a site’s ownership has been verified, this tool will identify areas where page design is hampering performance across both desktop and mobile displays. It’s a highly recommended option for anyone keen on bolstering the ranking performance of their website, and achieving the highest possible content quality score.
To get yourself set up with saintly website, visit the UK2 website.