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Web Crimes: how to avoid common website design mistakes

Thinking about designing your own website? Think again about adding any of these "features"?

1. Animated gifs. You know the ones: the dancing baby, the rotating email sign. No matter what you chose, nothing screams out "amateur" quite like an animated gif. Next!

2. Mouse trails. Those little pictures, or strings of letters that "follow" your mouse everywhere it goes. In my case, they follow my mouse all the way to the "back" button, so I can surf on to somewhere less annoying.

3. Music. If I wanted to listen to music, I'd play some myself. Meanwhile, I'm reaching for that back button again?

4. Indecipherable colour schemes. Navy blue text on a black background. White on yellow. Ye Gods! It hurts my eyes just to look at it, never mind read it. Just say no.

5. Poor spelling and grammar. Specifically: text speak. It's bad enough on your mobile phone, never mind your website. If you're going to go to the trouble of setting up a website, at least make sure people can read it without cringing. Or it'll be that "back" button for you?

So, that's how to get it wrong, but how do you get it right?

There's no great mystery to great website design. Simplicity is the key; while there are a few people out there who go crazy for the piped music and the animations, there are probably a thousand more who're just driven crazy by them. A clean, simple website isn't going to offend anyone - or prevent people from actually viewing the content of your site.

Remember that unless you're a website designer yourself, it's the content that really matters. Visitors don't come to your website to admire the pretty colours: they come to buy something, or to find information. If the thing they're looking for is obscured by your website design, they won't stick around to find it.

At the end of the day, design is a matter of taste, and you'll never be able to please everyone who visits your site. Functionality is a different matter altogether, however. Make sure your website is clearly designed, content rich, and easy to navigate, and you'll be on the right lines. Just stay away from those animated gifs?

Amber McNaught is co-owner of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd. - the small business specialists. Hot Igloo offer a range of services to businesses, including website design, public relations, internet marketing, copywriting and more. Visit their website at: http://www.hotigloo.co.uk


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