1. Thou shalt forgo happy talk and splash pages.

Happy talk is any text on your site that fills up space without actually saying anything. For example, “Welcome to our site! We’re so glad to have you.”

Splash pages are another archaic leftover from the early days of the web. These pages feature little more than a “click here to enter” button, and, like happy talk, they do little more than take up space.

Neither of these tells the visitor anything about what your company does. They just take up valuable home page real estate. Your site should be all about the problems you can help users solve. If something doesn’t do that, cut it out.

2. Thou shalt not overclutter.

It’s tempting to throw up everything you can onto your homepage. Pictures, videos, links, audio, text, your mother’s muffin recipe…

Be careful what you do, or else your site might end up looking like this:
Sites like this could give somebody a seizure.

Scary, huh? Your website exists to serve your customers. Don’t make it impossible for them to find what they need.

Remember this little maxim: Just because you can add it doesn’t mean you should.

3. Thou shalt label thy navigational tabs.

This is what Web Pages That Suck calls “Mystery Meat Navigation,” and it is not part of good, helpful web design. Who wants to waste time clicking around on little floating squares in the hopes that the next click will lead them to the page they want? It’s more likely that they’ll just get frustrated and go back to Google to search for something easier.

Unless your site is purely aesthetic (it’s art, or fashion, and you’re not trying to get people to buy anything), give people a road map so they know where to go. Again, don’t make it impossible for people to find what they need.

4. Thou shalt not intentionally obfuscate.

To quote Strunk and White, “Since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue.”

The same can be said for design. To keep your site usable, make sure that everything is clear and to-the-point: your copy, your design, and even your offers. Don’t make people guess at what you’re trying to tell them.

Use big buttons for calls-to-action. Keep technical jargon to a minimum. Let people know what you’d like them to do next, whether it’s read the blog or sign up for the newsletter or contact you.

5. Thou shalt not overstuff thy META tags.

We’ve already gone into the deprecation of the META keyword tag, but it’s still something we see people doing: stuffing keywords into their META description, keyword, and title tags.

First, the META keyword tag is utterly unhelpful with Google now, so even if you stuff it, it’s not going to do you any good. Second, the META description and title tags are what show up in search results. If you’re searching for information about widgets, which are you going to read: the result that says “widgets, widget building, widget history, widget manufacturing,” or the result that says “Everything You Need to Know About Widgets”?

6. Thou shalt not create a site entirely in Flash.

First, it’s difficult for search engines to read Flash (not impossible, as it used to be, but more difficult if you aren’t optimizing it the right way). Second, it has a load time of forever and a day (or at least thirty seconds, which is forever and a day on the web). Third, it lends itself to the aforementioned Mystery Meat Navigation.

Unless you have a darn good reason for it, keep your site in CSS and XHTML.

7. Thou shalt keep it simple, stupid.

In four to six seconds (depending on who you ask), somebody should be able to look at your website and figure out the name of your company, what you do, and how they can buy from you. By keeping your site simple and easy to navigate, your visitors can browse around and find what they’re looking for without any unwelcome surprises.

Like what you see here? Sign up for our newsletter in the sidebar, or get our RSS feed to have blog content delivered to you fresh with every update.