Top 10 Web Design Mistakes

Good web design is critical for nonprofits, as it for every organization on the Web. Sadly, there’s still plenty of bad decisionmaking related to web design, in all fields.

One of the world’s acknowledged gurus in the field of Web usability is a fellow named Jacob Nielsen. I highly recommend his incredibly useful site at

Each year about this time, Nielsen publishes his annual "Top Ten Web Design Mistakes." It’s always refreshing to check in on the progress being made in this area–or lack thereof.

Here’s a summary of Nielsen’s 2005 report:

This year’s list of top problems illustratess the need to return to Web design basics. There’s much talk about new fancy "Web 2.0" features on the Internet industry’s mailing lists and websites, as well as at conferences. But users don’t care about technology and don’t crave new features. They just want improvements in the basics:

    • Text they can read;
    • Content that answers their questions;
    • Navigation and search tools that help them find what they want;
    • Short and simple forms (streamlined registration, checkout, and other workflow); and
    • No bugs, typos, corrupted data, linkrot or outdated content.

Anytime you feel are tempted to add a new feature or advanced technology to your site, first consider whether you would get a higher ROI by spending the resources on polishing the quality of what you already have. Most organizations–be they corporate, public sector or nonprofit organizations–would contribute more to their website’s business goals through improving content rather than adding a new technology (aside from a better search engine, of course).

I’m a fierce advocate (yes, you can get fierce about communications) on these issues cited by Nielsen in this year’s list:

  1. Small font sizes you can’t read and font colors with low contrast. Ever try to read a 10-point font in gray on a white background?
  2. Flash splash pages. Flash is a very interesting technology and has some great uses. But it’s poorly use by some designers have caused people to begin to "equate animated content with useless content," Nielsen says. And that’s unfortunate.
  3. No contact information. I want to jump out the window when I come across a website that fails to include this most basic and important information. I urge clients to include a contact block on every page.

Take a look at this Getting Attention e-news article for additional strategies on creating a high-impact site for your nonprofit: Shape Your Nonprofit Website to Generate the Actions You Need.

Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments

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