My Top Ten Website Pet Peeves

By: Nancy Barney

I do a lot of surfing on the Internet. I'm always Googling something. Sometimes I'm doing business research. Other times I might be shopping, looking for fun stuff, free stuff, product reviews, or news. The Internet is a wonderful thing when it's done right. When websites are designed poorly, it can be very annoying.

My top ten pet peeves about the design of web pages:

10. Websites with nothing on the home page to identify itself.

You've seen them. Nice graphics, artistic, elegant looking home pages with no information. It might say " BXY Inc.", with a link for 'Contact' and a list of clients. You click on every link, but you still don't know what the company does. Hmmm - must be top secret ... or they are spies ... nobody knows.

9. Flashy, sparkly, swirling intro pages.

You click on a link, expecting to get someone's home page with the information you're after. What you get is a page with pretty pictures flashing or blinking or swirling around. It does this for several seconds, or longer if you're not lucky.

Website programmers enjoy playing with these fancy features (ooh, aah!). They look cool, but they waste the reader's time. They serve no useful purpose, unless you're selling flashy, sparkly things.

Another kind of intro page that is slightly amusing ... you click on the link to a website and you get another page that just says "click here to enter".

8. Music, or any other sound, that starts up when you click on the home page and you can't turn it off.

In the first place, I resent it when people assume I want to listen to their choice of music. There should at least be the option to turn it off.

I find a website that has some good content that I'm interested in, so I go to their home page and the music starts playing some sentimental, mushy song like "Feelings". So I hit the 'stop' button on my browser, but the music goes on ... and on.

OK, fine, I click on one of their interesting links and thank you God, the music stops. When I'm finished with that page, I have to go back to the home page to get to the next link and guess what happens! That's right - "Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings...." So I quickly hit the next link. They have several interesting links on their homepage so I'm am going back and forth 15 times and the music is going off and on 15 times.

Pretty soon, my husband says, "What the heck are you doing over there?" So I either give up on that website or mute my sound.

7. Excessive drop down menus.

Drop down menus have their place when you have an option of 50 states or 100 countries, but I think they should be avoided when there are only a few menu options. This is another one of those cool features programmers like to play with that isn't necessarily productive for the user.

One problem I have with drop down menus is that too often they are coded in text about the size of the width of my cat's whiskers. You have to have the dexterity of a Swiss watch maker to click on the right option.

If the drop down menus have several nested levels - one wrong click on level 5 and you have to start over!

If you have a drop down menu with 100 items, for heaven's sake, please have them in alphabetical order! I was filling out a form with a drop down menu with about 100 countries listed in random order. I had to read the whole list and I finally found my country near the bottom listed between China and Transylvania!

6. Too many moving parts.

Too many moving graphics on every page make it hard to read the content. I know, it's fun to have cutesy animated graphics on personal web pages, but they shouldn't get in the way of reading the content. A little animation is interesting and artistic - too much is annoying and cheesy.

Oh, let's not forget the most annoying graphics of all - animated banner ads that talk to you! Excessive animated banners are distracting and annoying and they look unprofessional on business pages. If a page has too many of them, I won't stay there long.

5. Web page that is too long or too big.

Long web pages are too hard to follow. These are the web sites where the first page goes on and on with no discernable structure. It's like trying to read a 400 page book on 1 very long sheet of paper with no chapter breaks.

Web pages with huge pictures are a problem, especially for Internet surfers on a dial-up connection. Pictures should be resized to no more than 50k-100k and/or compressed. When someone is on a dial-up connection, it can literally take 5 or 10 minutes for a bunch of large pictures to be displayed.

Couple a bunch of large pictures with a web page that never ends and you might as well go watch your favorite movie while the page is loading. People on a slow connection will just give up and go to someone else's website.

4. Totally invalid search results.

If you spend a significant amount of time researching on the Internet you have probably run into this. You enter 'cat jewelry' in the search engine and you get a page that is selling a bunch of stuff, but it has nothing to do with cats or jewelry - and it's not a rock group called Cat Jewelry either.

This happened because the keeper of that website is using the search keyword phrase 'cat jewelry' for their website because they found out it is a popular keyword. This is known as keyword spamming.

What are these people thinking? I guess they think if you throw enough spam against the wall, some if it will stick.

If Google catches you keyword spamming they send a burly guy named Bruno out to stomp on your keyboard. No, seriously, they drop you from their 'lists' and act like you don't exist.

3. Websites that look like they were shot out of a shotgun.

These websites often have the #5 problem also - going on and on with no structure. They have tons of obnoxious banner graphics with no common theme. 'Save the Orphan Rats', 'Best Long Distance Rates', 'Are you a good kisser?', 'Free Insurance Quotes'. They have all kinds of unrelated text links in different text sizes and colors, with no organization or relationship.

Often these unorganized, unfocused websites use about 15 different fonts, sizes, and colors, giving it the look of the work of a 10 year old.

Somewhere on this website there must be something related to what I Googled to get there, but darned if I can find it!

2. Text size that is too small or too large.

Have you ever seen a web page where the text size is so large you have to scroll down to read 3 words? Does the author of that website think they will get their point across by shouting at the top of their lungs? How smart does that make the author of the 4 inch letters look?

Sometimes the text size is way too small. It must be wonderful to have such great eyesight that you can comfortably read letters the size of the year on a penny from 18 inches away. It's ridiculous to go to all the work of creating a website with great content, but it's too hard to read. I know sometimes you can change the text size in your browser, but sometimes you can't.

1. Content is hard to read because of text and/or background colors.

The purpose of having written content on your website is so people can read it, right? So why make it hard to read by having light pink text that you can barely see on a pink background. Add to this scenario text that is too small (see #2) above and have some butterflies or fairies flittering across the screen, and you have a pretty picture that is impossible to read!

The easiest to read is a very dark text on a very light background. Even white text on a black background is harder to read.

When you create a website or web page, avoid anything that wastes the reader's time or causes confusion. Too many fancy features slow down the loading speed. If you want people to read your content, make it easy to read. Your structure and design should be straightforward and organized. When you are building a web site, you need to consider what is best for the readers and they are more likely to stay on your website longer.

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