10 Bad Things
On a casual browse through some random websites, you will see so many basic errors that you may give up hope on humanity. “Why do these jackasses not do it right?” you ask. It’s not that hard! Therefore: don’t commit any of these punchable offenses. I may not make the full 10, but hey, who’s counting?
This page was last updated on 2012-08-21
You must maintain your site well. Breaking some links on your site is something that is bound to happen at some point, though there’s plenty you can do to try and prevent it. Try not to move files around on your site once they’ve been placed somewhere. If you must do some rearranging, check that no links still point to the old location, otherwise it’s “page not found” and a user from your site leaving immediately in disgust. Research your links to other sites too, and make sure they’re right. Make the odd check on these if you can.
Your first stop to combat broken links is to look into creating your own 404 error page. Remember, other sites linking to you can break links too. If you see many requests for a page that no longer exists, consider redirecting the requests.
Many of the good HTML editors will now have automatic link-checking as a feature, but the best way to check your links is to run your pages through an » online link checker once a month.
Wouldn’t it be really funny if I made some “accidental” spelling mistakes right now? You know: an irony. But alas, I am not sophisticated enough to be so funny and original. Having typos and incorrect grammar gives the impression of a poorly edited page. A bit of checking through your work will perform miracles on your mess up rate, and make you look far more professional too. A decent HTML editor, like HomeSite with its in-built spell-checker, will help you out with this too.
“Sorry, this page is still under construction”
Yeah, so is this one. This line has become one of the clichés of the web. You’ll hear this countless times: most websites are continuously under construction. Pages are constantly added, edited and reworked.
Don’t bother telling us this. Put something there for us to read, like what the site is going to be when it’s finished, and ask people to bookmark it. Or, if possible, just don’t put your site on the web until it is finished. Don’t allow a site to be found until you think it’s ready.
Oh, and redesigns too
When you redesign your site (you may never have to, but sometimes a change is nice), many sites take the existing site down and replace it with a sheepish message like “we’re redesigning, come back in 2 weeks”.
What if I’m not a regular to your site? I’m not going to come back in two weeks, I want something now, dammit. It would be much smarter to place that redesign message on your page to explain any weirdness with the design, but keep all your content available too, so that casual browsers can read all of that, and be inspired to check out your new design later.
You may keep up to date on all the latest Internet goings on, and therefore have all the latest technologies, but what about Joe Idiot? He doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about and may not want to go and “download” a “plug-in” just so he can see your “really good” site. And even if the surfer knows what’s going on, maybe he doesn’t want to sit through a long download, which may turn out to be a waste of time.
Flash sites are much more common now than they used to be, and recent figures say that something like 95% of all surfers have the Flash plugin installed. If you use Flash, it will often be worth the time to put together a non-Flash version of your site too, for the people who want to read your site but couldn’t be arsed downloading anything.
Also, please make sure you’re using the plug-in for a good reason. All too many sites will ask you to get one with little noticeable effect on the way the site operates. If it can be done with HTML, do it with HTML. Don’t use fancy plug-ins just because you can.
Low update rates
There are respected HTML sites at the moment who have stuff on their site regarding the ‘really new’ HTML 4.01. Pages like this are destined to fall so out of date that they become completely redundant. And it’s alright for me, I know it’s old and so I can discount its information, but what about someone who doesn’t know any better?
If you want visitors to return, you need to show them that more is being added to the site at all times, and that the site is being worked on as they read, which encourages them to come back and check on any new pages or news. Having an updates page greatly helps in this, as the reader can see updates being made, and information being added.
The other side to this is that often, old content is useful when linked from new content. Say, a background to a recent story or something else with a reference to the current news, stored in your website’s archives. Just make sure it still makes sense in the way it was supposed to and give it a going-over before you link to it. Appending to a page’s content is very helpful, as a reader can get both the content as it was, and a further explanation to raise its relevance.
If, in the end, you do lose interest in your site and decide not to update it anymore, make this perfectly clear to your visitors. Add a note to the bottom of every page saying that no new content is going to be available. Otherwise you might have them returning every once in a while and being disappointed time and time again. That’s not nice.
Too much advertising
“Please visit my sponsors. I am just a poor student.”
Advertising is fine; we can live with it, and without it there’d be a whole lot less content on the web. But when sites plaster banners and ‘sponsored links’ all over their content and encourage you to CLICK HERE, many visitors’ tolerance wears thin. Not only are ads annoying and distracting, they also slow the page right down.
No way to make contact
There are few things worse than not being able to contact a website author because they have not given their email address or any other way of getting a message from you. It is frustrating, as you may want to call their attention to something, or ask them personally for some more information on a topic that they seems to know a lot about. It leaves your reader feeling blocked off.
This is self-explanatory. Slow websites drive people away more than most of the other stuff above put together. It is estimated that you have about 5 seconds to get something substantial and interesting on the screen before a lot of your readers lose interest. That isn’t long, but it is possible to get stuff displaying early, and build on that. It’s called progressive downloading.
Because of the nature of the Internet, the “5 second rule” is a little amorphous, so an easier guideline to get your head around is, for an average page, try to keep the combined filesize of your HTML, CSS, scripts, images etc. under 30 kilobytes. A good start would be to check out HTML Source’s Optimisation pages. They should provide all the information and tricks you need to slim your pages down.
Other than that, some simple pointers are: don’t use big graphics, don’t use pointless animations, don’t embed multimedia (music or video) or Java, don’t overload on ads, code efficiently. Get a decent web host too, as the response time of your server will also have to be factored in.