Web Development

Quick Tip: Five don'ts of web design

Ryan Boudreaux lists his top five don'ts for web design and explains why they're not good ideas.

There are a plethora of best practices and guidelines for web design, and many fall within two categories, either the do's or the don'ts. These might change places every now and then, but most likely these don'ts will end up on someone's "to-do" list to fix or change. 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.

Don't!

#1 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 is not a surprise that these 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 these become tiring quickly when you want to get into the meat of the content on a web page. Besides that fact, most visitors click through or just leave sites to avoid splash pages; web browsers also have a hard time indexing them in their ranking systems.

#2 Mix HTTP with HTTPS resources

Security is the point with HTTPS, so why is that 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 together is caching that occurs, and another is the unsecure data that can be picked up along the way and replaced with counterfeit, spurious content or other exploits. One way around this is to use JavaScript or other means which can be utilized to call a separate secure "portal" window as https so that the secure resources are completely separate from the non-secured http.

#3 Link pages to themselves

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

#4 Resize the browser window

Many frown on this tactic from an end 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 Use frames

Some websites still use them, 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 websites:

  • Search engines have trouble reading content within frames.
  • Not all browsers support frames
  • Add a favorite or bookmarking a frame generally will not work correctly
  • Framed websites often do not 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 work around.

About

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...

10 comments
guywayne
guywayne

Requiring add-ins such as media players, or the latest bleeding-edge flash player that must be downloaded is another problem. If your target audience isn't tech-savvy, they will leave rather than download and install add-ins.

tstivers
tstivers

"web browsers also have a hard time indexing them in their ranking systems." should be "search engines also have a hard time indexing them in their ranking systems."

Snak
Snak

On Frames (which we use very effectively): 1 Search engines have trouble reading content within frames. 2 Not all browsers support frames 3 Add a favorite or bookmarking a frame generally will not work correctly 4 Framed websites often do not close properly when content is viewed through several frames. 5 Printing web content within frames becomes problematic, and typically requires a separate ???print friendly??? option as a work around. 1. We do not use frames for any content a search engine needs to see 2 What absolute rubbish 3 See 1 4 See 2 5 See 2

phillipmilks
phillipmilks

The most egregious irritating Web Faux paux is requiring the viewer to have the latest HD screen, to have the latest Java junk that only MS Exploder uses, to have the latest version thereof, and to use MS Exploder !! Not all the potential users/customers have the latest and greatest of SW & HW - this can cost sales and viewership!

swelch
swelch

You may want to explain the difference between frames and an iframe. It is acceptable to use iframes in current websites. As an example, Facebook is getting rid of it's fbml language in favor of iframes. Inline frame is just one "box" and you can place it anywhere on your site. Frames are a bunch of 'boxes' put together to make one site with many pages.

henryfredles
henryfredles

The biggest reason for not using frames is that they are not Sec. 508 compliant; that is, they raise hell with "blind browsers." It's silly to say that their content cannot be spidered by search engines. It's equally silly to say that framed websites often do not close properly or don't print--bad code is bad code. As for not working with "some browsers" (and which would they be, pray tell?) the same can be said of JavaScript, and Flash, and cookies, and...

sparent
sparent

I can understand the point being made about self-link. I do find links to bookmarks within the same page useful, when the content is rather large.

ddalley
ddalley

Makes absolutely sure that a link delivers what the user expects. When a user clicks on something, s/he wants to stay in control of what is received. Makes sure that you don't lock the browser from going "back". It is so frustrating to want to retreat through the browser's "back" history only to get locked into someone's site and still have nothing useful in the dropdown list.

thewebmaster
thewebmaster

On that framed page, include this to return them to A main frame page: if(self==parent) { document.write('THIS IS A FRAMEs page'); document.write('You are being transported to frames in 2 seconds'); document.write(''); } ... and yesssss, I know, some don't have JavaScript turned on (2%). It does really work. Microsoft uses it and it is mentioned in gotapi.com. It does take some programming to make it all work right. It does take proper design to make it work so that users understand. You must know your target audience (ie. a motorcycle website). They do work for the right situations. Be flexable. Be willing to think outside the box. (the above code might not show it the way I posted it - but you get the idea)

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