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Things that make me leave a web site
(a lesson in web site design principles)


Over my years as a web designer (and more importantly, a web surfer), I have developed a number of pet peeves when looking at web pages. These pet peeves have shaped my concept of what a professional web design looks like. To achieve that professional look and feel, it is as much about what you don't see as what you do. Take a look at the list below (followed by details on the offenses), and you might get an idea of the things I typically refuse to add to a web site (particularly a professional online business web site - which is the category I place the small farm web sites into). Bottom line: Don't expect to see these things on sites I have designed.


  1. Background music
  2. Mouse trail (tail)
  3. Slow loading page
  4. Flashy animation, animated gifs and JavaScript tricks
  5. Hard to read (dark background, light text)
  6. Poorly designed navigation
  7. Misaligned and poorly sized images
  8. Sites that look like advertisement (like infomercials)
  9. Popups (although not so much anymore, because my popup blockers work very well)
  10. Sites that do not scroll properly (locked background, frames or horizontal scrolling present).


  1. Background music: The bane of my internet surfing pleasure. Annoying, noise polluting and often acoustically poor midi files. When I get to a web page that has sound automatically playing in the background, I will often just hit my back button. Sometimes, I take the time to see if there is a way to turn off the sound on that particular site - and if not, I will leave every time. Knowing this (and I know I am not alone), why would you put something on a web page that people don't like. Additionally, background music is often attached to a somewhat large file (which delays your page display time). Please stop this practice - and help me fight it by not remaining on those sites.
  2. Mouse trail (tail): This little JavaScript annoyance is cute the first time you see it - but it really just annoying after that. It is a distraction from the content on your page, and some mouse tails prompt installation of a spyware program (notably Comet Cursor). In a professional web site, you want people to look at your content, leading down a path to purchase whatever you are selling. Why distract with an annoyance (particularly one that could be attached to malware).
  3. Slow loading page: I am proud of the fact that most of the web sites I design load in the top 1%, in terms of speed (as measured by This means that 99% of all web sites on the internet load slower. I do this because most of my clients (and most of their customers) are on dial-up. Personally, I am on a lightning fast fiber optic DSL network. Still, I run across sites that are slow to display on my computer (so I can imagine what dial up speed must look like). Most of the time, the slowness is attributed to the fact that people don't know how to optimize images. Web programs will let you "scale" an image to 200 pixels wide (yet retain the 2 MB file size) - so although the image looks small, it takes a long time to download. More typically, people will have a number of images that are 200 kilobytes (which could easily be optimized down to 20-30 kilobytes without any noticeable difference). I have become somewhat of an expert at this task. Another thing that slows down a web page is very poor code (which the browser must interpret). All of these are signs of amateur web sites.
  4. Flashy animation, animated gifs and JavaScript tricks: This sort of combines some of the above areas. In addition to causing a page to load slower, many of these are eyesores. They often distract the viewer from the real content on the page, which is a fundamental flaw in the design. HTML allows for some "neat" and "cute" things. Many amateurs want to put all of those things on their site, but ultimately, they are distracting, and add to the cognitive load of the viewer.
  5. Hard to read (dark background, light text): This is a major violation in the amateur site arena. For some reason, people are fascinated with putting inappropriate colors and background images in their web pages. I have been to a number of pages that are nearly impossible to read because they have black text on a dark wood grain background image (or some other pattern that does not lend itself to readability). It is well documented that the best colors for reading are black text on white background. Most of my sites incorporate this (or a cream/buff background like on this site). I lose interest fairly quickly if I have to work hard to read the text on a site (because of the color schemes or background images).
  6. Poorly designed navigation: This is typical of a site that was designed one page at a time (not using a template or having a global strategy for the site). Modern web design principles dictate that web sites ought to have easy to understand navigation, that is consistent throughout the site. Why make a user hunt around for the navigation? Why inject some sort of mystery into what pages are on your site? Why take the chance that a user has a difficult time navigating back to a certain page that has useful information? Developing a navigation plan takes some time at the beginning of the development, but is very useful from both a user point of view and a search engine point of view. So, when you see a site that has a different look on every page (and has different navigation buttons and locations on every page), just know that the site has not been optimized for user satisfaction (and was probably designed by an amateur).
  7. Misaligned and poorly sized images: In some ways, this also has to do with download time, but in others it is about planning a web site. At its origin, HTML was not designed to display content in the manner we use it for now. Consequently, page layout is one of the most complex of the basic tasks of creating a web page. Often times, pages look as if the images were thumbtacked at random to the page - with no order at all. If you see a site that does not look like the images are aligned properly, or has a lot of gap space between images and text, it is probably an amateur site. I take great care in determining pixel widths and heights on the web sites I design, so that they are very clean in terms of the "linear" feel (in essence, they look like a ruler was used as opposed to the bulletin board look).
  8. Sites that look like advertisement (like infomercials). This has a lot to do with flashy animation - and not so much to do with the small farm business. I am active in a couple of web forums about search engine optimization and submission, which seems to attract a number of "get rich quick" schemers. 90% of their web sites are flashy advertisements, that really lack substance.
  9. Popups (although not so much anymore, because my popup blockers work very well): As stated parenthetically, I used to leave a site that had popups, but now I have 3 sets of defense for popups. Internet Explorer has a popup blocker, and I also run the Google and Alexa toolbars (which both have their own popup blockers), so it is hard for a popup to get through.
  10. Sites that do not scroll properly (locked background, frames or horizontal scrolling present). This is just inexperience and amateur design. I have a very wide screen resolution, so it is not a problem I expect to see, but it does come up. I still design all of my sites for screen resolutions of 800 X 600. I realize that 75% or more web surfers have 1024 X 768 or higher now, but I still don't want to alienate the 25% with the lower resolution. A lot of my sites have a "liquid" display (they stretch out to accommodate the different display sizes).


If there are things that you don't like about web sites (particularly in the small farm market), send me an email and let me know - maybe I will add it to my list.

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