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I am not a web designer by any means. I have created a few websites an blogs in the past. Each one has a different purpose. Some are to make money by creating high bounce rates others just to get my points and views out there. None have ever been as important or profitable as a dealership website.
One thing that I am starting to pay a lot more attention to is what is considered best practices in the web design world. There is plenty of opinion in this regard out there. Today I stubmled across a blog post titiled 43 Web Design Mistakes You Should Avoid. There are some things I noticed that just leaped out at me manily is some of the things they talk about are shared by many others.
Most noticably these points:
Make the content scannable: this is the Internet, not a book, so forget large blocks of text. Probably I will be visiting your site while I work on other stuff so make sure that I can scan through the entire content. Bullet points, headers, subheaders, lists. Anything that will help the reader filter what he is looking for.
Do not use fancy fonts that are unreadable: sure there are some fonts that will give a sophisticated look to your website. But are they readable? If your main objective is to deliver a message and get the visitors reading your stuff, then you should make the process comfortable for them.
Do not open new browser windows: I used to do that on my first websites. The logic was simple, if I open new browser windows for external links the user will never leave my site. WRONG! Let the user control where he wants the links to open. There is a reason why browsers have a huge “Back” button. Do not worry about sending the visitor to another website, he will get back if he wants to (even porn sites are starting to get conscious regarding this point lately…).
Do not overuse Flash: apart from increasing the load time of your website, excessive usage of Flash might also annoy the visitors. Use it only if you must offer features that are not supported by static pages.
If you MUST play an audio file let the user start it: some situations might require an audio file. You might need to deliver a speech to the user or your guided tour might have an audio component. That is fine. Just make sure that the user is in control, let him push the “Play” button as opposed to jamming the music on his face right after he enters the website.
Make sure users can search the whole website: there is a reason why search engines revolutionized the Internet. You probably guessed it, because they make it very easy to find the information we are looking for. Do not neglect this on your site.
Avoid “drop down” menus: the user should be able to see all the navigation options straight way. Using “drop down” menus might confuse things and hide the information the reader was actually looking for.
Use text navigation: text navigation is not only faster but it is also more reliable. Some users, for instance, browse the Internet with images turned off.
Make sure to use the ALT and TITLE attributes for images: apart from having SEO benefits the ALT and TITLE attributes for images will play an important role for blind users.
Do not use pop ups: this point refers to pop ups of any kind. Even user requested pop ups are a bad idea given the increasing amount of pop blockers out there.
Include functional links on your footer: people are used to scrolling down to the footer of a website if they are not finding a specific information. At the very least you want to include a link to the Homepage and possibly a link to the “Contact Us” page.
Avoid “intros”: do not force the user to watch or read something before he can access to the real content. This is plain annoying, and he will stay only if what you have to offer is really unique.
Use CSS over HTML tables: HTML tables were used to create page layouts. With the advent of CSS, however, there is no reason to stick to them. CSS is faster, more reliable and it offers many more features.
I have brought up these issues with friends that work for website companies and I get the same answer from them all. They say they design sites according to the customers specifications. The auto started audio, pop ups and blinking headlights on flash images is what helps them sell their products and dealers think it is so cool.
Maybe if dealers and website vendors would concentrate on what give the website visitor the best experience onsite conversions would rise. Car dealers train their employees to help misguided consumers in making the right decision or to show them why the customers is wrong without blowing the sale. Are industry website vendors doing the same thing?
Dealers and dealership employees do you think you website vendor is helping you get the most bang for your buck? If so give them a thumbs up at our automotive website review section, if not you know what to do.