Designers, are you guilty of creating information-overload homepages or building the "unwelcome screen?" The experts are here to save you.
Flash is cool, right? And that lovely welcome screen and information-rich homepage your client wanted are just perfect. Or are they? We talked to six top designers and creative directors about their Web design pet peeves. What makes these pros cringe might surprise you.
1. Putting your brilliant design first.
"Whether or not the site is designed elegantly, what really matters to me is whether the navigation is intuitive, and whether the information is organized well. Design, for as much time as we spend on it, if it's all about the visual elements, that can quickly get someone out of that site. I always try to focus on making sure the information makes sense before putting mouse on screen. Plan ahead. Get the answers before laying anything down. Get together with your project manager and design team, and get all the info from the client before start designing. It's also important to get the navigation in front of people to make sure everyone can get that information quickly. Be constantly testing. Only then should you build the beautiful elements, the design of the site, around that. If that's not there the site can be considered a failure. "
— Andres Orrego, associate creative director of Chowder Inc. in New York
2. Going overboard with Flash.
"Flash is certainly a pet peeve. It has its place, for sure, but since the dot.com bust we've come a long way. Today our customers want to be found – they expect to be found – but what does that mean for us? We need to set the stage for search engine optimization, so we need to stay away from Flash. When I see a site overly done, you ask yourself, does it really make sense for you to do that in Flash? No."
— Antonio Navarrete, president and creative director of SilentBlast in Toronto
3. The unwelcoming welcome screen.
"I hate everything about welcome screens. By clicking a link, I've already said that I want to go to visit your site, so there is no need to show me a 'welcome' screen with a quote. In fact, it is almost insulting to call it a 'welcome screen' – I'd almost respect it more if it was called a here-is-an-ad-so-we-can-make-money screen. As it is, this intermediate screen just delays users from accessing your content and gives them an opportunity to leave before they ever arrive."
- Andrew Cafourek, co-founder and digital lead of A022 Digital in New York
4. The boggling homepage.
"People who are using your site, buying from your site, are not going to stay there or buy from you due to your awesome design. Most homepages are completely overwhelming. There is so much there – people try to communicate everything to everyone, and the real content gets lost. That's a design disaster. It should tell people in three to five seconds who you are and what you do. That's it. We have a design philosophy that we take from architecture: form follows function. When you are building a building, you want right angles and perfectly usable space. If you go to our homepage, you will see cleanliness and simplicity. I say this left and right, and my designers say it left and right: Websites have to breathe."
"There's been this maintained notion that everything has to be above a certain pixel dimension, and that everything below that gets lost. I don't think that's where we're at anymore. People do scroll. They like portals. So especially with making BarackObama.com, that was something we stayed away from: We knew people would scroll, and we really wanted to keep more information on the homepage, make it a portal, and allow for more content to be available on the portal page. I think the key to making it work is making sure you present something and design with the pixel dimension in mind. On another site I did, there's type interacting with an image makes you aware that there's more going on below. Especially when you're on blogs, they become very blah-y, and there's no contrast in post styles. They don't keep a variation that keeps readers interested. Variation in consistency lets you forget the fold."
"Many companies organize the site around their own internal categories, which is different from what the audience is actually looking for. In other words, they'll build a site around products, because they're thinking they have to sell the product and the product needs to be front and center. But when you think about it, you have to reverse it and first ask what need are you solving, and then present the product. I think there's internal anxiety to make sure things get covered as a checklist, versus really stepping back and understanding what the users need. You have to have the perspective of an audience that may not know your brand, and there's very often a complete absence of making people aware of your brand is, and why it's relevant."
- Sean Ketchem, strategy director of communication of MetaDesign in San Francisco
7. Hiding who you are.
"Transparency on the Web is the hottest and the biggest thing as far as getting people to purchase or relate to your services. Our portfolio page was always No. 1 for the seven years we've been in business. But then we created videos of each one of our employees talking about what they do and why they love it. That page is now No. 1. By far, the people behind the process, behind the product, are extremely important. We've had clients say 'we went with you because we got to kind of meet everybody before we even walked in the door.' The buying process starts with a relationship. That process can start with a video and tell you personally what I do rather than just a photo and a title. Really show them rather than tell them."