Quartz Mountain Weblog
Covering the latest in Online Marketing, Web Design, and Internet related news.
Everyone makes mistakes, and web designers are no exception. However, there some web design goofs that are frequently made by designers who are just starting out - so consistently that most web designers will admit to committing some or all of these at some point early in our careers.
We aren't talking about the real amateur problems, like cheesy animated GIFs, loud backgrounds, and horrible font choices. Here we're looking at mistakes that you might see from professionals who get paid good money for their work. And it often looks good. But even a site that looks great to the untrained eye can conceal problems beneath the surface (and invisible to the client).
1) Insufficient Browser Compatibility Testing
Everyone in the world doesn't use the same combination of web browser and operating system as you do. Rookie web designers might check their design in one or two browsers, but few do any extensive testing on the full range of browsers and even fewer test on multiple operating systems.
Those who haven't experienced the differences in platforms may be surprised to learn that Internet Explorer for Windows behaves very differently from IE Mac (fortunately the latter is nearly dead).
Professional web designers learn to support as many browsers as possible, even if the extra effort often goes unnoticed by clients. A web site may get only a handful of visitors using Camino, but if one of that small group is looking to make a million-dollar purchase, you want be sure your site looks great to them.
2) Lack of Plain Text
Have you ever seen a search result like this? "Copyright 2005" isn't a very good description of any site, so what's going on here? Usually you'll see this when a page has virtually no plain text content (including ALT attributes and META descriptions).
New designers often succumb to the temptation to lock their text within image files, where they're able to use a wide range of fonts and render them with pixel-perfect precision. Unfortunately, while the end result may look great on screen, it takes longer to load, can't be easily resized, and it's unreadable to machines (including screen readers for the blind).
The internet may have changed a lot since it's early days, but at it's heart it has always been about text, and it still is. As good as computers have become at displaying multimedia content, they're still not very good at understanding it.
Plain text is still the most reliable way of representing information in a way that's understandable to both people and machines, and it's the web designer's challenge to present that text in an appealing way, without resorting to images and other methods which are less accessible.
Multimedia has it's place, of course, but plain text should not be neglected.
3) No Call to Action
Almost every web site is created for a reason. Online stores, obviously, exist to sell products, but many small business sites don't actually incorporate ecommerce features. These "brochure sites" don't just exist to provide information; they are created in the hopes of eliciting a specific reaction from the visitor. It may be a phone call for more information, or generating a lead by filling out an online form. Often, new designers focus so much on things like graphics and page layout that they forget to tell the site's visitors what they want them to do.
It's important that a web designer understand the goals of the web site, and structure the site in a way that encourages visitors to take that action.
Sites built to generate sales calls should feature the company phone number prominently on every page, not just buried on a contact page. If the goal is to have visitors fill out a form, then the link to that form should be the most "clickable" element on the page.
Visitors are more likely to do what you want if you give them some direction, and web site owners are much happier when their web site generates real leads and sales - not just page views.
Still Looking Good
Again, a web site can have all of the problems above, yet still look fantastic. That's why these mistakes can go unnoticed by clients and newer professionals. They may not be apparent until the site has been live for some time, and clients begin to complain about poor search engine performance, or lack of conversions, or an important customer who can't view the site properly.
Fortunately, they can all be fixed (some more easily than others) and as designers gain experience we learn to avoid these pitfalls - and discover new ones :)
Designers: What other mistakes did you make when you were just starting out? Or what mistakes do you see newbies making again and again?
*This post was written as part of the Three Blog Project.
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I admit it. Until a few weeks ago, Tuesday nights found me repeatedly dialing the toll-free number for American Idol, voting for Sanjaya. A terrible singer, perhaps, but thousands of American TV viewers delighting in keeping him around week after week. And really, there was no harm in it - the more talented singers on the show will no doubt be signed to recording contracts, regardless of who wins or loses.
The Technorati Favorites list works in much the same way. Being listed doesn't make you a successful blogger, and the best bloggers will find success whether they're on the list or not. Still, the recent appearance of a few "Sanjayas" on the Top 100 list seems to be ruffling the feathers of some A-list bloggers.
Maki Making Trouble
Maki at Dosh Dosh started things off earlier this month when he offered to exchange favorites with anyone who was interested. It turned out that many bloggers were interested. A few weeks later, and the Top 100 list has been invaded by a whole slew of new blogs, many of them virtual unknowns.
While the movement that Maki started has been sweeping through the blogosphere for weeks, it only now beginning to draw the ire of some higher profile bloggers who feel they've "earned" their spot on the list.
Won't Someone Please Think of the A List?
First it wasthe list will soon lose credibility."
Now Darren Rowse at Problogger shares his opinion "that the practice of swapping favorites is a little sad," and that bloggers should spend their energy elsewhere.
In these same posts, both Amit and Darren invited readers to favorite their blogs.
Who is really suffering from this practice of reciprocal favoriting? Certainly not the blogs participating - Maki's original post has inspired hundreds of others, all of whom seem quite enthusiastic about this little movement.
Technorati users? The favorites feature was hardly being used prior to this month, as evidenced by ease with which blogs have been breaking into the Top 100. And some blogs have been gaming the list long before Maki came along: check out MySpace Layouts, favorited by 600+ faceless bloggers who count it as their only favorite. This list has been of limited usefulness for some time.
Technorati's owners? It seems like this "scheme" has brought them more attention, links, and page views from the blogosphere than anything else in recent memory. I can't remember ever seeing Technorati mentioned on so many blogs. And if Technorati really wanted to stop the reciprocal favoriting, some official statement of disapproval would stop a lot of it, and a few lines of code could curtail the rest.
The only victims I can really imagine here are the egos of the A-listers who've held those top positions for so long. Many have been displaced, and some of those who remain may feel their prestige is lessened by their new "lower-class" neighbors. But it's only egos at stake here. Those who have fallen off the list are not seeing a decrease in traffic, their PageRank isn't falling, and 99.9% of their readers will never even notice (unless they choose to blog about it).
In fact, most of those affected probably aren't suffering any ego damage. I seriously doubt that Doc Searls or Dave Winer are losing any sleep over their displacement, if they've even noticed they fell off the list.
Is it pointless to expend energy trying to make the Top 100? Of course it is. Every blogger can find better uses for their time. But some happen to be enjoying trading favorites. Why not let them? They don't appear to be violating Technorati's terms of service, and if Technorati feels the need to stop it, they will.
So to every A-list blogger who feels the need use their blog as a platform to decry the horrible practice of trading favorites, I have to ask: Isn't there a better use for your time?
For every blogger who enjoys exchanging favorites check out Favorite Me, the favorite swapping site Problogger mentioned (but didn't link to), and engtech's program that automatically favorites those who've favorited you. And if you've enjoyed this post, please favorite this blog :)
Update:As I was writing this, Maki was apparently writing a thorough analysis of the criticism he's received. It's a long one, but well thought out.
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Just a quick note to all the web designers and developers out there: Head on over to A List Apart and take their 2007 Web Design Survey. You'll help generate some useful data about our industry, and also have a chance to win event tickets, an iPod, or other swag. If you're like me, you've probably spent hours reading ALA's articles over the years, so a 10 minute survey doesn't seem like much to ask.
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If you haven't seen this meme making the rounds, the idea is to build your number of "favorites" on Technorati and discover some new blogs in the process. I'm usually a bit hesitant to jump on the latest blog meme, but I find this one appealling for a few reasons:
- It brings some attention to Technorati, a site which I use and like, but seems lately to have fallen by the wayside as Google has jumped into blog search and MyBlogLog has rolled out better community features.
- This widespread "gaming" of the Technorati's Top Favorited Blogs list will hopefully nudge them into improving their community features instead of wasting their developers talents on yet another Digg clone.
The rules for participating are below, but first, a brief introduction to the 3 blogs I'm tagging:
- J David Macor blogs about web design and tutorials. Don't forget to check out his collection of beautifully done valid XHTML templates.
- Sean Dinner is a design student writing about blogging and graphic design. And while it may be a bit off-topic, his Day in the Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy posts are great, and will make you feel bad about undertipping for your pie.
- The Antman at Cre8Buzz blogs about word-of-mouth marketing. Word has it that Cre8Buzz will be launching their Word-Of-Mouth Engine very soon, head over to their home page if you'd like to be notified when it goes live.
Those are my adds; all of them deserve a place in your faves (and your feedreader) in my opinion. Read on for the rules and the full list.
-----Start Copying Here-----
Here are the rules:
1) Write a short introduction paragraph about what how you found the list and include a link to the blog that referred you to the list.
2) COPY the Rules and ENTIRE List below and post it to your own blog. You may want to change the titles of the blogs to help avoid duplicate content issues, and increase the amount of keywords your site can accessible for.. Just don't change the actual links to the blogs.
3) Take My New Faves and move them into the The Original Faves list.
4) Add 3 new blogs that you've added to your Technorati Favorites to the My New Faves section. Remember to also add the "Fave Me" link next to the blogs you add. (i.e. http://technorati.com/faves?sub=addfavbtn &add=http://www.yourfavesdomain.com)
5) Add Everyone on this list to your Technorati Favorites List by clicking on "Fave This." Those who want good karma will fave you back. If not, you will for sure get the benefits of faves from the bloggers who continue this list after you.
My New Faves
The Original List
- Grow Your Writing Business - Fave This
- Quartz Mountain - Fave This
- Prime Advertising Blog - Fave This
- Dawud Miracle - Fave This
- Gary Lee - Fave This
- Dosh Dosh - Fave This
- Nate Whitehill - Fave This
- Jeff Kee - Fave This
- Scribble on the Wall - Fave This
- Jimi Morrisons Head - Fave This
- Jon Lee - Fave This
- Samanathon - Fave This
- Eat Drink & Be Merry - Fave This
- The Man of Silver - Fave This
- Hannes Johnson - Fave This
- My Dandelion Patch - Fave This
- Nathan Drach - Fave This
- SiteLogic - Fave This
- Julies Journal - Fave This
- Tea & Slippers - Fave This
- The Thinking Blog - Fave This
- Pencil Thin - Fave This
- Essential Keystrokes - Fave This
- Mom Gadget - Fave This
- Engaging the Disquiet - Fave This
- Monk at Work - Fave This
- Converstations - Fave This
- The Kiss Business Too - Fave This
- HomeMom3 - Fave This
-----End Copying Here-----
Following Matt Cutts' recent announcement that Google will allow users to report paid links, Andy Beard has taken the bold step of submitting his own content to Google's webspam team, in the hope of getting some official statement out of Google. I certainly hope he gets a response, but it seems unlikely.
The disturbing truth is that the only noise out of Google about paid links comes from Matt Cutts' "personal" blog postings. And Matt's stance on the need for machine-readable disclosure of paid links seems to contradict everything Google has ever said about building sites for people, rather than for search engines.
There's obviously a considerable gray area regarding what constitutes a paid link, and Andy's post does a good job of listing many cases where a link may be motivated (directly or indirectly) by financial gain. If Google is serious about identifying and penalizing "paid links," and would prefer that webmasters avoid them, it would seem that the obvious first step is define what constitutes a "paid link." But rather than offering such a definition, or at least some clear guidelines, Google seems content to remain silent while Matt drops hints and spreads FUD.
It's also very troubling that, while no precise definition has been offered, the only "paid links" Matt seems to be concerned about are the cheap ones. Buying links for a few hundred dollars (through TextLinkAds, PayPerPost, ReviewMe, etc) is bad. But links gained through multi-million dollar corporate partnerships are okay.
Currently there's a live link to Google at the bottom of every page of Adobe.com. Are we to believe that this is simply an editorial endorsement of Google by Adobe, and that it has nothing to with the partnership between the two companies? That would be an odd coincidence, since Google's ubiquitous presence on Adobe.com began in in May of 2006, just a month before the announcement of an agreement to distribute Google's toolbar with Adobe software (terms of the deal were undisclosed).
Maybe trading links for financial compensation is okay if it part of some larger business dealing? What about a more clear cut case? Andy says:
Companies are allowed to buy links from the Yahoo directory, which is well known to confer a large amount of trust to a domain, and has been propping up Google's algorithms for years. Will we soon see Google state that the Yahoo directory should be made nofollow for all paid inclusions? Matt Cutts has previously stated that the Yahoo directory is OK because there is editorial review.
So it's alright for Yahoo to sell links because of their "editorial review." Certainly the paid reviews that Andy submitted to the webspam team required much more editorial review than the Yahoo directory can afford to give to the many sites it receives, so if Google's stance on the value of "editorial review" is consistent, Andy should be in the clear.
But then, Matt Cutts doesn't speak for Google, according to his blog's disclaimer, so we're left to wonder about Google's official stance on "paid links." Hopefully, some day soon they'll tell us plainly, rather than making us read between the lines of their employee's personal blog. Is that too much to ask from the company that pledged to "Do No Evil?"