November 23, 2008

Internet Annoyances

I've spent much of the last two days with patchy and unreliable internet access. This has recently been fixed by (a) restarting the router again, although that hadn't done anything earlier, (b) my husband closing and restarting Firefox on his computer (uh, huh) or (c) something further up the line that we had no control over but that happened in conjunction with the other two.

In any case, the whole experience reminded me of other internet annoyances. Here are a few tips on how to not make truly annoying websites.

Know the basics of don't: splash screens, Flash-based navigation, media that loads without warning, flashing text, mystery meat navigation and text/background color combinations that will trigger a migraine.

Do not accept any ads you can't wall off from the rest of your layout. Last month, one of the very large internet ad companies was experiencing slow servers, and I don't know how many pages I couldn't see until the ad servers responded. Browsers just didn't know how to draw the pages without the ad information.

Don't design something that looks like navigation but isn't. If that link is on what looks like a button, particularly if that button changes color when moused over, I had better be able to click on the whole button, not just the text. Yes, really, companies do this.

If you can, try not to cram a bunch of links up against the right side of the page; i.e., the scroll bar. Even a few pixels of clear space makes a difference.

Yes, I get that your website is complicated. However, if you're providing information that is available from every publicly traded company, there is no excuse for burying it six to eight clicks deep. It should take me one (easily found) click to get to your corporate site, one to tell you what category of information I'm looking for. At that point, give me a page with a lot of links under different headings instead of making me guess which link I have to click to get to the next step.

Check your traffic logs every now and then. I know of one Fortune 500 company whose website--the main page--has generated errors every time I've tried to load it in the last six months. That doesn't help either of us.

There, just a few tips to make my life more pleasant. If everybody follows them, I can stop being annoyed and get back to writing something interesting.


Anonymous said...

You forgot music. Music may be something to make available at the visitors' option. I can't believe how many business sites have some kind of music. It's not the 1990's any more, Dudes.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Mike, she mentioned music, but used the high brow term "media" ...

I'd like to add this, for bloggers ... (ooops, SZ, this may apply to you!!!) A blog should be linked to an email address that is easy to use. Sometimes readers just need to reach you. For instance, if I'm doing a web carnival, it is nice to be able to contact a blogger to tell them I've posted one of their links. Often, this is impossible.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Good point, Greg. Fixed.

"Media" isn't high-brow. It's collective and, thus, lazy. It covers music and video and whatever they add next year that I won't predict correctly.

Anonymous said...

I know, I was joking about the high brow thing. You being a writer and all.

Stephanie Zvan said...

As I was about the right word being a lazy choice. It takes work to be that lazy.

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