Cardinal Sins of Web Design

(Written in 2013)

One thing you learn pretty quickly online is that there are a lot of badly designed web sites around. You don't just sit down and think "What shall I do today, I think I'll put up a web site." You definitely don't say "stuff the content, I don't care what the site is for, I just want to make something pretty," as I've heard from one person who shall remain nameless.

So what do you do? You plan. You have some idea of what you want and why you're doing it before you go near the HTML. It's hard work to alter the structure of an existing site, far easier to build in at the start what you need. I learnt my lesson when I had to restructure a site with upwards of 60 pages. Not fun.

From the good guys at we know that looking at bad examples can be as much use as looking at good ones. Learn what went wrong, and find a better way. Build a better mousetrap.

So, here are my Cardinal Sins of Web Design: And yes, I AM opinionated. Deal with it.

  1. Ignoring Jakob Nielsen's usability advice (he who must be obeyed)
  2. Not working from a site plan
  3. Not knowing what the site is for
  4. Frothy, breathless, pink prose that takes a page to say a sentence's worth of information
  5. Graphics overload (especially advertising graphics that refuse to go away)
  6. Light text on a dark background (this is just nasty)
  7. Pointless graphical animation
  8. Lousy navigation (help, I'm lost and I can't get out!)
  9. Image borders (personal taste, I never like them)
  10. Macromedia Flash (sorry, but I've never seen it on a site and not hated it)
  11. Java applets that take ages to load (and then do something totally pointless)
  12. Pop up or pop under ads (news flash: they don't work! Hello! Is anybody listening?)
  13. Misspellings (please use the spell checker)
  14. Anything with lime, orange and magenta on the same page (unless the page is using them to illustrate what NOT to do)
  15. Eye-popping background images (especially ones that look like they're moving)
  16. Sites that are just "Under Construction" pages, and stay that way for months
  17. Changing standard link colours (unless they're unreadable without it. Pink is for cheerleaders, not for corporates)
  18. Sites without a search feature (anything over thirty pages needs searches)
  19. Inconsistent colour schemes
  20. Fuzzy or badly done images
  21. Music you can't turn off, or actually, any auto-played sounds (please don't take over my computer)
  22. Management/legal/other gibberish (what are you talking about?! In English, please)
  23. Metaphors you can't really understand without enduring the Flash intro (many people skip intros)
  24. Doing the whole site with Flash (you break the back button, inflate the download times, and for what? Dancing elephants?)
  25. Microscopic fonts (use "-1" instead of size="1", we can't all see as well as you) (Thanks to Josh for this one)

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