Ugly Websites

Their problems are more than pixel deep. Whether they’re aesthetically beautiful or not, websites can be just like people – ugly on the inside.

If thinking about and working with websites takes up a large portion of your life, from either the designer or client perspective, it’s not true — it isn’t “better to look good than to feel good“. Looking marvelous aside, here are three ways a beautiful website can screw you if the details aren’t paid attention to.

No Google Juice

Search engines need help if you want your website ranked well. You need good content that people want to read (if you’re a client, that’s probably your responsibility), but the site also needs well formated HTML. This isn’t some code that needs to be cracked. Here’s a clear explanation on how to get a better search ranking. Following those simple recommendations tells search engines what’s important on the page; the HTML creates a hierarchy of the page information.

When you’re following HTML standards, the website can be visually ugly, which is a subjective opinion, though to Google the site can look marvelous.

If you’re a client looking to buy web design services, this is important to you. Just because you don’t know how to code doesn’t mean you can’t ask this question of a prospective hire: “do you know what the ‘semantic web‘ and HTML coding standards mean to a website?”

No Readers

If your website is full of javascript doodads, useless Flash animation, text with low contrast, images sliding by at breakneck speed, or impossible to understand navigation, it could still look good. But who’s going to want to read anything on a site like that? What about the actual content?

Everything I described above isn’t content. That’s what is keeping visitors to your site from enjoying your content. They’re distractions from the actual purpose of the content. Want proof? Check out this heat map of the Wired.co.uk website and the design change they made in reaction to their research.

Make the content of your site the hero, not the bells and whistles. Otherwise, you’ll drive readers away.

Not Responsive

Picture this: your new website looks marvelous! It literally takes peoples breath away when you show it to them on your 27″ monitor. The website is launched and people with phones and tablets start using it. Oh, did you remember those users? Today, that’s roughly 20 percent of all web traffic, and those numbers are growing by double digits each month.

Can you afford to ignore 20 percent of your website visitors? Maybe today, but how about in a year when 25 percent of the web traffic is from smartphones and tablets?

Websites are beautiful when they work. And they work when they’re optimized for search, the content is highlighted, and they’re responsive to meet users where ever they are. Simple, really.