Most Exploited Web Design Elements

Remember back in the Myspace days when everyone had an overabundance of animated .gif files? For the most part, those particularly annoying days are long gone. However, new abused trends and elements in web design have popped up to take their place in the modern era. 

Internet trends rise and fall. What seemed like a cool and innovative idea months ago may become old hat quickly. The Internet public are a fickle bunch, and what begins to grate on their nerves changes quickly and often without warning. 

The most unfortunate thing about the use of most of these abused elements is that the company or web designer that uses them thinks that they are being innovative and cool. Unfortunately, when following the trends half of the rest of the Internet is following, it is neither, it just becomes hackneyed. 

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Are you a web developer or a computer user who is attempting to build your own website? Have you been studying web design and critiquing current web designs on the Internet? Are you looking for designs that are unique and really speak to your style and design aesthetic? 

If you’re a computer user who wants to create a website that is not only functional but really excels in the design department, then you have to make extra effort not to fall into a common trap. Many web developers and computer users who are designing their own websites and blogs copy the same bad design elements, including overusing image carousels, using glossy buttons, designing busy design headers, and stacking their sidebars with too much information.

If you’re really committed to producing a website that is clean, functional, and has excellent design, you will want to avoid these most exploited design elements as you move forward with your custom web design program. Knowing ahead of time what you should avoid in web design is half the battle. 

Image carousels 

Image carousels are one of the most exploited design elements. It is easy to fall into this trap because every website needs strong imagery. However, image carousels can be distracting because they flip through a gallery of images. Attention spans on the web are short, so having an image carousel on your main page may frustrate or distract your visitor. Instead, consider using one great, strong image on the main page. You will have many other secondary pages on which to showcase additional images. 

Stock Photos 

If you’ve ever been to a corporate website and thought to yourself, “I’ve seen this picture before somewhere,” then you have been the victim of stock photos. Company websites seem to love these, perhaps not realizing that the same photos of the frizzy haired lady with the glasses are showing up on other websites across the Internet. 

Unfortunately, it’s not just the small mom and pop company websites that make use stock photos. Larger corporations, in an effort to show (an utter lack of) innovation and creativity are often more guilty than smaller companies of making use of stock photos. 

Glossy Buttons 

Glossy buttons that flash, blink, are multi-colored, or that change colors as you move your mouse across them can be tacky and distracting. If you are looking for a professional, clean, effective design for your website buttons, then select one main, strong color for all of them. By making your buttons consistent, you are telling your user something about your business – that the user can count on your company for consistency and trustworthiness. 

Web Headers 

Every website needs a header. It is one of the first design elements that a user will see when she visits. However, too often, website headers are too busy. They often are filled with too many graphics, colors, and other design elements. Again, keep your design elements as simple as possible. Stick to three colors max for a web header. Incorporate no more than two different fonts, if your web header has writing in it. Finally, incorporate no more than one graphic or photograph into a header. 

By simplifying the design in your web header, you will produce a simpler, more professional graphic that will not distract or overwhelm the visitors to your site. Remember, the web header is one of the first elements a visitor will see when he visits your site, other than your main website image. 

Busy Sidebars 

Do not stack your sidebars with needless information. A sidebar can have several links to other internal website pages, but always try to limit those internal web links to about five. When a sidebar is filled with links to 10 or 20 links to other sites, you are just asking for your web user to not only be overwhelmed with the amount of information but to click on one of those links and go to another website. That means that she may not return to your website. It’s always a good idea to do whatever you can through the design process to keep your users on your website. If you do need to link to other websites, then use a blog to do this. This is what a blogroll is for on a blog. Keep your sidebar information as simple as possible. Give your users the necessary links to other spaces on your website, but try not to point your users away from your website. 

Flash Intros 

Flash introduction screens, if used properly, can be an effective tool. However, few websites use them properly and, because they have become so common, using one shows a real lack of creative innovation for the most park. 

Even worse than the Flash intro is the Flash intro without the ability to skip said introduction screen. In this case, the user is something of a prisoner, unable to move on with the website until the intro plays out or they give up in frustration and move on to another website. Either way, it is not a positive experience for the surfer. 

Media That Plays Automatically 

Fortunately, this is not as much of an issue as it was a few years ago, but it still pops up far too often. In the olden days, it was music, but in modern times it’s video. When a surfer pulls up a site, it begins blaring music or showing the video automatically. This is the internet equivalent of loudly yelling at someone while they’re doing something. It’s jarring, it’s annoying and it is completely and utterly distracting. 

Faux 3D Buttons 

Glossy buttons give the impression that they are “three dimensional,” thus making the button pop out at you. Unfortunately, like image carousels, they tend to dominate the page and distract the reader from the page’s true content. 

Too Many Like Buttons 

Whether it be a “like” button, a “tweet this” button or a “+1” button, there are definitely a limit to the number of these sorts of “share it” buttons that should be used. There are a plethora of sharing and social sites out there, and picking two or three buttons to include is fine. 

However, if a site has six or more sharing buttons, then that may very well fall into the category of “overkill.” In these cases, the lists of buttons may be longer than the article itself!

Rollover Ads 

Everyone got annoyed enough with popup ads on websites that browsers finally put in the ability to pop them. So, the obvious solution? Ads that if you so much as bring your mouse close to them, they pop open and take up most of the screen real estate, often with hard to find boxes to close the ad. Even worse, sometimes, this is combined with video that automatically begins to play when the rollover ad pops up. 

Overly hyping Social Media 

While few business owners would disagree that having a social media page for your business is a good idea, if you are paying the money for website hosting for your business’s website, it doesn’t make sense to treat the social media page as your main page. 

Mentioning that a social media page exists once or twice is fine, but if the majority of your real content is on the social media page the business should perhaps reconsider whether it needs a non-Facebook page at all. Instead, companies should consider using their social media pages to direct fans to their main home page. 

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If you’re in the middle of designing your own website or if you are a professional web designer working on a custom website for a client, then you have to pay attention to the top pitfalls facing all designers, whether they are novices or professionals. It’s easy to fall into the same poor design patterns when a designer is trying to meet modern expectations while also working on tight deadlines. Therefore, take a few minutes and recall the most exploited web design elements. 

Compare this list to the current design elements on your website. If you find that your design elements are matching the elements on our list, then it may be time to make a few changes. Sometimes you don’t need to start completely over with your web design. Sometimes you only need to tweak a particular element. 

For example, instead of an image carousel, why not feature one or two main images on your website. If your sidebar is weighed down with too much information, then place less information on it. Knowing where and how to place information on a website is key to an effective design. So take a step back, step away from the current design, and come back to it with fresh eyes. You will be on your way to avoiding those design pitfalls and producing a more creative, aesthetically-pleasing, and functional web design in the end.

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