Project Management

Five tips for avoiding common Web design sins

Some basic Web design guidelines are ignored on a regular basis, leading to inefficiency, security issues, and a poor user experience. Ryan Boudreaux offers his take on what not to do when designing your site.

Best practices and guidelines for Web design tend to fall into two categories: do's and don'ts. They might change places every now and then, but most likely the don'ts will end up on someone's list of fixes or changes. Sorting through the vast list of what not to do in Web design, I've come up with my top five, which I'll explain in some detail below.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Web Master blog.

1: Don't create a splash page

With the advent of HTML 5, there is a level of controversy surrounding the use of Flash. And since most splash pages are created in Flash, it's not a surprise that they seem to be on the wane. Splash pages are particularly overdone in many instances with long load times, several minutes of artful graphics, and no navigation. The exceptions are few and far between. Many splash pages can last up to a minute or more, and they become tiring when you want to get into the meat of the content on a Web page. Besides that, most visitors click through or just leave sites to avoid splash pages, and Web browsers have a hard time indexing them in their ranking systems.

2: Don't mix HTTP with HTTPS resources

Security is the point with HTTPS. So why do you find many Web documents that contain a mix of both resources when the intention is to transmit secure data? One of the issues with mixing the two is caching that occurs; another is that non-secure data that can be picked up along the way and replaced with counterfeit content or other exploits. One way around this is to use JavaScript or some other means that can call a separate secure "portal" window as https so that the secure resources are completely separate from the non-secured http.

3: Don't link pages to themselves

This offense is still on many lists, and I can't count how many times I still see this on Web sites today. Visitors get confused, can't remember what page they are on, and forget whether they clicked on that link when the same page refreshes. It is just not a good practice to link any page to within itself.

4: Don't resize the browser window

Many frown on this tactic from a user standpoint since they end up losing all control of the browser screen size. Most folks have their window size set a certain way and typically will close out any sites that automatically change the browser window.

5: Don't use frames

Some Web sites still use frames, especially for badges, widgets, and embedded content on a small scale. But typically, the widespread use of frames has fallen. Here are a few reasons why frames create weaknesses for Web sites:

  • Search engines have trouble reading content within frames.
  • Not all browsers support frames.
  • Adding a favorite or bookmarking a frame generally will not work correctly.
  • Framed Web sites often don't close properly when content is viewed through several frames.
  • Printing Web content within frames becomes problematic and typically requires a separate print-friendly option as a workaround.

Additional Web design resources


Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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