Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My Web Design Pet Peeves

Normally, I try to make these blog posts pretty positive. But today - I’m grumpy. I just finished going through more than 50 government websites (at all levels of government), to prep for a couple of web management courses I’m teaching soon; and way too many of them have some really bad design habits that frustrate the heck out of me. So - in hope that some web manager will read this, recognize one of these offenses, and fix it - here they are, friends…my current top three web design pet peeves:
  1. Large photos or graphics billboards in the top left/middle of the home page that cycle through 3-5 different views. Why in the world has this trend caught on? Why in the world would web designers think that a web audience wants to sit there for 10, 15, 30 seconds or more, waiting for these things to cycle through? Honestly, I just want to scream when I see one of these images (and they seem to be all the rage these days).
    Have you ever actually talked to people who are trying to use your website to find out if we like this practice? Yes – a picture often can be worth a thousand words. But why do you waste important front page space – space that could be used to get me to what I really want – to show me pretty pictures or tell me cute little stories or show me what YOU think should be important to me? It makes me think you don’t know (or care about) what I want to do on your website. Enough. Use Amazon or Google or Craigslist as your model – be utilitarian. Pretty pictures do not make me like you better. Efficiency – helping me get to what I want – makes me like you better. (Oh - and PS...I made this same design mistake several years ago when I managed the HUD website. And I got the same feedback I'm giving you now).
  2. Photos of government agency officials. I thought we’d dealt with this problem long ago, but – no – they’re still all over the place. So here’s the thing, agency heads. You don’t own that agency. We - the people - own it. It isn’t your agency. It’s our agency. If we want to know who’s currently serving us as head of our agency, then we’ll go to the “about this agency” page. Please don’t use our websites for personal publicity. It’s incredibly annoying.
  3. Welcome messages. So passé. We don’t want or need to be “welcomed” to your website. Do you think your welcome will make us stay longer? No. All it does is waste space and give us more words to wade through, trying to find what we came for. Please – spare us.

I beg of you, government web managers (and/or those who tell government web managers what to do)…do some usability testing. I’m pretty sure you’ll find out that most of us don’t want this junk cluttering up our government websites. Fast, efficient, effective service – that’s what we want. Amen


Bob said...

Re: Cycling photos: so true - not just in government sites either. what a time waster.

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