Critiquing web site designs

I am often asked to critique web site designs DIY-style. Sometimes the only thing I can say that is positive about a design is that I like the use of a particular colour. I always try to be fair but honest.

I really think that there should be no excuses for having an ugly looking website, when you can easily buy a template for around $50 (although I clearly don’t advocate this method!).

Obviously there are create your own site using a ‘template based’ website and services, where you pay a monthly fee, but I have yet to see a nice looking website from this sort of service. It is sometimes a case of giving people false confidence.

I really admire people who really want to give it a go and I aways encourage it when I can. However, I am a firm believer in “know your strengths and weaknesses”. For example, I will leave the accountant to deal with my accounts and hope that he leaves the designing to the designers.

If I could offer any advice, it would be the following:

1. Keep it consistent. There is nothing worse than having the content and layout jump around the screen to put people off.
2. Make sure any images or pictures you use are of the same dimensions throughout.
3. Don’t use more than 3 styles of fonts and then only sparingly.
4. Never use red and blue coloured fonts (it may have worked in the early 1990s but not now)
5. Don’t overload the screen with information. White space is good, gives the eyes a rest and the chance for your content to shine through.
6. Keep all headings, titles and body text consistent (that ‘c’ word again).
7. Stay away from ‘comic sans’ font it’s not nice or funny.
8. Make sure that your navigation is simple and clear for the user to understand.
9. Don’t have a ‘splash’ page on a HTML site, it is just pointless. They were designed for Flash sites back in the early days when people were on dial-up and had wait for the page to load.
10. Keep it consistent (see a theme here?).

If all else fails there are more than enough good websites out there to take inspiration from, and then if that doesn’t work, you can contact someone like me and I’ll do it for you for a modest fee + chocolate buttons.

3 thoughts on “Critiquing web site designs”

  1. Comic Sans is one of my pet hates. I used to see it in corporate use too, which would make me want to say “are you mad????” to the foolhardy person responsible.

    I’d also add – proofread! I know I’m especially picky (be nice, you don’t need to agree to enthusiastically), but it bugs me when a business website has typos and other basic errors on it. I think we get so used to MS Word pointing out every little spelling error, that we get lazy, and forget to check things when using other applications.

    And I’ll second the designer option – I’ve had many comments on the design of my business website, which was professionally designed. I’ve come to the conclusion that I know bad design when I see it, but have no idea how to create a good one!

  2. I forgot about proofreading, yes I would agree that it is very important. Always best to check and then double check your copy, or you could get a friend who is quite good at using her ‘virtual red marker’ and ask her to do it for you!

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