7 Deadly Sins of Web Design

1. Thou Shalt Not Break Brand Guidelines!

Brands aren’t just for corporations: We all live our individual daily lives according to our own unique set of brand guidelines. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at this more closely.

  • Are there certain colours that compliment your eyes, hair or skin complexion better than others? Probably. Chances are you wear them as often as you can so you always look your best.
  • Are there certain personality traits you have that you know people respond well to? Probably. Chances are you try to be polite to people (even complete strangers) because you know that politeness is one of your best qualities. It sends the right signals.
  • Are there certain places you go, brands you wear and slang phrases you use? Probably. Chances are you’ve picked them up from people with similar personalities to you because they resonated with you; and these things will also resonate with the people you want to align yourself with.

OK, so this isn’t done consciously (unless you’re a particularly vain person) but the fact is, our personalities constitute many small elements that fit together to create a bigger picture.

But what if you want to make something a bit more obvious. Do you find the most garish way possible to represent it, for example a 7-foot tall hat with a piece of card stuck to it spelling out a message for everyone to see? I doubt it. Instead, you’d take subtlety as the order of the day and try to build in the important message across many different elements.

Do the same on your website!

I cannot stress this enough. Your brand has a tone-of-voice, a colour scheme, rules about free space and a visual language that are designed especially to engage your target market. Don’t ruin them by breaking those conventions. People will just see a website with no alignment and mixed messages.

Common examples of this include troweling on blocks of huge text in bright red or green, using all-caps, getting rid of empty space (or ‘padding’) in order to make things appear bigger, using tonally inappropriate copy and making grammatical errors for the sake of added impact.

!!!  THESE CHEAP TRICKS LOOK  [email protected]#%ING  HORRIBLE  !!!  [Sic]

Yep. That’s right. They look flaming horrible. These approaches, even when used sparingly, can make a whole website lose its impact; or even worse have a negative impact. For one thing, the reason your company, service and/or product has a brand is this: Your customers aren’t stupid. They certainly don’t want to be treated as such. As the legendary ad-man David Ogilvy once said:

The consumer isn’t a moron… She is your wife

Consumers are cultured, intelligent, ‘advert’-averse and socially sensitive. They can read between the lines and do so daily in their social lives and member communities. They interact with the brands of each other. So patronising them with big blocks of ‘look at me’ text in garish colours will only send the wrong signals; not unlike a man in a 7-foot hat with a message written on cardboard stuck to it. People focus their attention where they feel they want to. Good design should facilitate that process, not force it.

2. Thou Shalt Not Become A Clone!

This corroborates my first point. Your individuality is expressed and conveyed through the collective influence of words, design elements and processes. So stealing words, design elements and processes from other brands is not a good strategy.

Of course inspiration is inspiration, and a flawless process is a flawless process. But there is room for at least some personality within every line of copy, interaction and group of coloured pixels. Simply amalgamating borrowed ideas into a Frankenstein’s Brand creates mixed messages, a contradictory personality and visual tone.

3. Thou Shalt Not Make The Logo Bigger!

Remember what a logo is actually for… stop forcing it down people’s throats.

Your logo is there to be ubiquitously recognised. How? By delivering the simplest visual representation of everything your brand stands for straight into the subconscious mind of the consumer. There’s nothing subconscious about a logo that takes up 25% of your home-page. That will just register in the conscious mind as arrogant, obnoxious and self-important.

People don’t go to your website to see your logo. They are there to get information or have fun. Your logo should be just obvious enough to be noticeably subtle at the same time. A good designer will know how to achieve this. Trust them.

4. Thou Shalt Not Forsake The Value Proposition!

Different bits of design exist for different reasons… use them accordingly.

Icons help to crystallise topics and ideas within content. Logos are meant to stand alone and represent everything the brand stands for. Rotating banners on a website deliver features and benefits and offer insight into the breakdown of services. Heading copy implies the tone-of-voice of everything that immediately follows. There are dozens more I could list.

All of these elements should be created in line with the brand guidelines and the marketing strategy in order to communicate the core value as succinctly as possible – on every single piece of marketing collateral from social media profile to website.

5. Thou Shalt Not Develop Empty-Space-o-Phobia!

If a good professional designer says there should be ‘free space’ around content or in a particular place, it is more than likely a strategic decision. Designers spend a huge amount of their training, time and effort understanding how to frame content where the user’s natural attention is most likely to fall – knowing that people look over here, over there or wherever would be best.

In partnership with an advertiser or marketer, that good designer can plan out the user journey in great depth; not just in terms of clicks but also in terms of where attention is diverted and held.

Again… listen to them! They don’t just make pretty pictures. They create functional designs, tailored to achieve goals.

6. Thou Shalt Not Contract Content Diarrhea!

Blah blah blah. Only say what you have to.

7. Thou Shalt Not Prioritise Anything Over User Experience!

Everything you do is for the user. At least it should be.

At every step of the design process you should be critiquing it with the eyes of your target customer. Do user testing, collect feedback and always try to make things as simple as possible for the user.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

Remember these 7 things as you go forward into the digital world.

The design gods will be watching you! But don’t worry, we’re here to help if you need advice, guidance or a reality check.

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