I have become addicted to restaurant make over and investment shows. What fascinates me is how similar their stories are to our development world. This makes sense because they are a business, which is why we build web applications, for business purposes.
A few months ago I came across a CNBC video about Telltale Signs You're In a Bad Restaurant. I thought I would go through the 7 points they highlight and relate them to bad web sites.
Smells - Error Dialogs
Even though I have my settings to 'max annoy' the average user does not. However these errors affect their experience because content is not loaded, buttons are not bound to click event handlers, etc. Basically the page just does not work 100%.
Sometimes these problems are isolated to 3rd party scripts, but the user's blame is projected at you, the 1st party.
Test your code for errors in every browser and platform you can. Do not trust 3rd party scripts and fire the ones that are broken.
Dirty Kitchen, Dirty Floor - Poor Markup, CSS, JS Practices
I am always amazed at how dirty the kitchens are on these shows. You would think they know the show's experts are going to go over basic cleanliness within the first five minutes. They almost never clean up ahead of time.
Keep your code tidy and clean. Your application will run better.
Not Greeted - Slow
The average e-commerce page takes more than 6 seconds to load. The human brain disconnects from a page request after 1 second. About half of visitors leave if a page is not rendered within 3 seconds. It is important you render content as fast as possible.
WebPageTest is an excellent tool to see how your site(s) render. Use the filmstrip to see the rendering progression and the speedindex as a metric to set performance goals. A good speed index value is 1000 or less.
Greeted with Bad Attitude - Out of Date or Low Quality Layout
How confident are you in a site and company when the content and general design screen 2005? What about cheesy buzzword filled content?
Make sure you sell your unique position and value with quality content. Search engines reward good content over filler every time. The reason is people value good quality content over boilerplate filler.
Stay on top of your content. Keep things fresh. Do not let your design fall out of favor. Web design is no different than fashion trends, we like something today, but want something different tomorrow. Yesterday's 960 pixel fixed width sites are no match to a nicely done responsive web site using vivid imagery and typography.
No Aquariums - Stupid UI Features
Have you ever used a web site or application and wonder why the heck they have something on the page, or worse can't find something because it is hidden behind some odd navigation experience?
About 15 years ago a realtor asked me what I thought of the cartoon of herself that walked onto the page and talked via comic balloons. My honesty did not win the account, and I was fine with that.
No Lapel Pins - Bad Color Scheme
Somehow I achieved a good grade in my college color science class. Too bad I forgot much of what I learned. There is a science behind color schemes. Some of it is mathematical, but ultimately psychology rules.
Good design is a composite of various pieces. Color scheme is one of those pieces. There are many online tools available to help with color schemes. Adobe is one of my favorites. When picking colors be aware of what emotions that invoke or what states they may imply. For example red text implies and error state. But it also can be used to excite or make customers hungry.
Color science is fascinating, just don't abuse it and wind up like MySpace.
Food Stains on the Menu - Poorly Structure Information Navigation
User surveys routinely reveal two desired features: fast and easy to use navigation. Fortunately both can be controlled in the development stages. Navigation is interesting because it is hard to designate one page or area more important than others. But this must be done.
For example we know that hiding navigation behind a Hamburger icon does not work. Pair the Hamburger with the word menu and wrap it in a box and almost everyone knows what to do.
A mobile first strategy can help you decide what content needs to be revealed at different points in the application. Maybe you do not need a mega-menu anymore. Consider why you are adding a link before adding it. Then be certain it fits. Real user testing will reveal the real user chosen paths. Accommodate these paths and your application will receive more engagement.
No matter where you work and what your responsibilities are you are always marketing. Your online presences whether an application or general access site represents your company. It is often the only thing a customer or potential user sees and makes a judgment about your company. Make some simple investments in making this experience a good one. Address these points and you will be on your way to happier customers and employees.