“Ouch, it hurts my eyes!” I yelled at my computer screen, hitting the back button on my browser to get off of the offending website. There were ads and bright colors (in a bad way) all over the place.

Often, we know what we don’t like in other websites. We don’t like a million pop-ups, know that ads should be minimal, and that we don’t care to see random stuff all over the place.

When it comes to your own website however, it can be more challenging. You know your website so well that it can be hard to make sure that it’s communicating properly.

Because of this, it’s important to follow some rules when it comes to creating and designing your website. These rules can help you stay out of trouble when it comes to your user experience.

As someone who provides design services it's especially hard to look at poorly designed sites. It's always clear when someone tries to create their own web page or hired a poor quality design company.

Extra attention should be paid to every minute detail to make sure it performs optimally to serve its purpose. Here are five important rules of thumb to observe to make sure your website performs well and people stick around.

Do not use splash pages

Remember when splash pages were all the rage? It felt like EVERYONE had them.

Splash pages are the first pages you see when you arrive at a website. They normally have a very beautiful graphic design with words like "welcome" or "click here to enter".

In reality, they don’t serve a real purpose. They look nice but you can’t actually do anything on the page other than click to get to the actual page you want.

Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the "back" button. Show them you respect their time by displaying the value of your site up front without the splash page.

Do not use excessive banner advertisements

Did you know that you have three seconds to make a first impression on your web visitors? That’s it. Three seconds.

What sort of impression does it make when all they can see are ads?

Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you will be wasting valuable website real estate. That space could be better used to show your value to the visitor.

Instead, provide more valuable content and weave relevant affiliate links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy. While ads are a valid monetization strategy, they should be used carefully to avoid annoying visitors.

Have a simple and clear navigation

One of the worst things you can do is throw up roadblocks that prevent your visitor from finding what they are looking for. Complicated navigations do just this.

You have to provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Don’t get distracted by cutesy names or try to get fancy.

Remember to keep in mind that you should have a mobile friendly navigation. If your navigation is too long (too many items) will your user be able to click on all of your links from a hamburger menu? These are all things that you must take into consideration when building a website.

Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered drop-down menus. If your visitors don't know how to navigate, they will leave your site. You want your website design to be as user friendly as possible

If your visitor lands on a blog post, could they find your services on your website easily? If they land on your homepage, could they find where you’re updating content? If they land on a sales page and reach the thank you page, could they learn more about you?

Don’t let your navigation become an afterthought. Plan it out from the start and make it as clear as possible.

Have a clear indication of where the user is

When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, you will want to make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. If they are on a blog post, they should know they are in the blogging area of your website.

If they are on a shopping cart page, do they know they are about to checkout? It sounds silly, but it’s one of those things that could get overlooked in the design.

Making it clear can be as simple as changing the background of the page on your menu or by including breadcrumbs near the top of the page.

That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don't confuse your visitors because confusion means "abandon ship" and leave.

People don’t like to feel confused. The clearer and straightforward you are, the better.

Avoid using audio on your site

We’ve all been there. You open up a website and forget that your speakers are on. Instantly some random music blasts on full volume as you sheepishly hang your head in shame because you know all of your coworkers know you’re on a sports page instead of working.

Audio used to be a “cool” thing to have on websites, but now it’s a giant no-no along with auto-playing videos.

If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site, reading your content, you will want to make sure they're not annoyed by some audio looping on and on your website.

If you insist on adding audio, make sure they have some control over it. Make it clear how the user can lower or mute the volume before you start to play.

What if you need sound for a video? Closed captions can go a long way for someone who doesn’t want to listen to audio. Office workers everywhere will thank you for it!

To wrap it up...

There are certain things in website design that can hurt your small business that can be completely avoided. These tips are a start and will help you move from “abandon ship” to “I want to get updates from this website because it’s so useful!”

Websites are at their essence, marketing tools. You want to make sure your tools are as sharp as possible to get the job done. Having a high quality professional web design can only increase your visibility.

If you're unsure of how to fix these things, consider hiring a web design service. There are a wide range of services out there so you're sure to find someone who will fit your vision and your budget.

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About the Author Jennifer Anastasi

I’m Jennifer Anastasi, an Engineer turned Brand Strategist. I empower other service-based businesses to find that clear brand and online presence using my background in tech mixed with creativity (I'm a lifelong creative after all). Unlike courses or group programs, I focus on each business as a unique entity and break down complex and intimidating concepts into easy-to-understand ideas for custom results.

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