Monday, November 29, 2010

Fat Free Web Design

Fat Free Web Design: "

Fat Free Web Design

Everybody loves to have a little more. We want a little more money, a little more free time or maybe a little more chocolate on our ice cream. Living a life of excess is a great way to flaunt your achievements and to show everyone just how much awesome you are.

But this big-pimpin’ philosophy does not translate well in web design. Extravagant websites become a sloppy usability nightmare. Chunky websites that have too many things going are clogging up the arteries of the web. It’s time for some exercise.

For web designers, coming across an awesome WordPress or jQuery plugin can be a lot like opening up an awesome gift on Christmas morning. But once that initial burst of joy wears off, we realize that we may not need this junk at all; it’s just a burden and another thing we need to deal with.

Skiny Beginnings

Of course, the web has not always had the luxury of such excess feature bloat. In its early days, the web was no place for unnecessary applications and fat feature sets; and even if you wanted them, there was no technology available to implement them with. Back then, designers had to show a healthy respect for page size and consideration for a user’s connection speed (56k modems + 1MB animated GIF = forget about it). Even image compression was not as advanced, and that encouraged even more caution in the number of images displayed on a page. These restrictions were not always a bad thing; if a designer is forced to limit the number of images they place on a page, they are naturally limited to choosing only images and page elements that are relevant and necessary.

As IT advanced and networked infrastructures got bigger, web pages got fatter. Images, audio and video are commonplace in websites. Bandwidth is hardly a concern anymore, at least when we’re not dealing with mobile designs.

In addition, the web has become substantially more interactive and dynamic, which increases the number of opportunities for richer and more interactive features a website can have. The entry level for using and implementing these whiz-bang features have been lowered with tools such as jQuery, MooTools and WordPress that cut down the required skills someone has to have in order to create awesome stuff.

All of this functionality and multimedia is a dream come true for designers; but too much of anything, just like junk food, is a bad thing.

More and more, we see websites getting liberal with their implementations of plugins; websites that get slower and slower because of too much junk that no one needs; websites that become a burden to use because there’s just too much fat.

Getting Health Conscious

The capabilities of the web have, without a doubt, shifted significantly. The Web Designer mindset needs to make equally significant shifts. It is imperative that we move from an outlook of wants, to one of needs. We can no longer afford to want that real-time Twitter feed, that large header graphic, or that (oh, please stop this already) Flash menu. Sure, many of these site features can enhance the user experience, but just as likely, there are web designers who are packing on pounds of weight on their web pages with irrelevant junk.

Of course, web designers are not the only ones to blame, or even the ones that are truly responsible for fat and bloated web designs. Clients can go crazy when they learn about all of the things their site is capable of. They can be just as guilty of being caught up in the fun of it all and wanting features to be implemented when there is no justification for doing so.

Getting Health Conscious

As a web designer, it is your job to be the health coach. Be sure that things you’re made to create have a purpose.

We need to start thinking about information overload and a healthy site focus. Functionality must marry happily with purpose, and if a site feature does not have a clear purpose that matches closely with that of the overall site, then it shouldn’t be there.

Expanding Mediums

Web-based, internet-enabled interfaces surround our lives, whether we are ready for them or not. Internet connectivity is growing at a faster and faster rate. The web is in more pockets and at the end of more fingertips than ever, and the sites we design are right there along with it all.

So, now, our worries are shifting from download speeds and bandwidth restrictions, to screen sizes and more diverse resolutions. This demand for flexible and responsive designs has revealed the gluttony in the design community.

Our Dirty Secret

In a desperate attempt to deploy a site onto small-sized screens like mobile devices and netbooks, designers often find themselves stripping out page elements such as images and interactive features. Stock photography, Twitter feeds and other social networking tools, Flash objects, and other supporting multimedia rarely find their way onto a mobile website.

So, then, if we can remove these things to deliver a better user experience on small screens to the user browsing our site outside of the desktop or laptop, why are they needed for the desktop/laptop version?

Finding out that you have unneeded junk — excess fat — in your web design after you need to strip it down to fit a new medium is the wrong way to go. It’s time for web designers to move away from all of the wants and focus on the needs of a website.

Stock Photography and Useless Visuals is Excess Blubber

One of the most common culprits of bloated web designs is stock photography. Generic smiling faces or shaking hands sure look great taking up space when you have thousands of pixels to work with, but when the space gets tight, they are the first thing to go.

Stock Photography and Useless Visuals is Excess BlubberAre these types of images useful or just +22.1KB worth of excess fat on a web page?

Jakob Nielsen is well known for conducting website usability testing using eye-tracking studies. In a recent study, he discovered that irrelevant stock images placed on a web page received almost no visual attention from users. The study concluded that unless your photo is authentic and relevant (such as in author bios, for example), it is just taking up space.

In the same study, Nielsen discovered that relevant photos, such as those featured in author biographies, had almost the inverse effect of stock photos; they drew attention.

The same could be said for every visual element you place on a site. If it does not support your brand or carry with it a relevant message, you have no business putting it up on your site. It is time to stop adding stuff just because we can; it’s time to start dieting.

One-Stop Shop

Really, the web has never been about one-stop shop websites; websites that are everything for everyone. We can build a website or application that allows a user to complete all his online tasks in one place — an app that can be a graphic design tool as well as an invoicing tool. Six Revisions could publish articles on web design and web development alongside sports news and film reviews, if the site wanted to. The ability to be the end-all, be-all website is there.

The good thing is that we don’t need this type of one-stop-shop solution, and we likely never will. The core mechanic at the soul of the web is the hyperlink. The link is without a doubt the most powerful feature on the web and will almost certainly always stay that way. Links open the world to us and allow us to instantly jump anywhere we need to go. It is this simple and basic HTML element that allows us to connect with each other in a singular, albeit fragmented and massive, space. Who would ever need a one-size-fits-all website with the power of hyperlinks?

Instead of trying to bring the rest of the web to your users, allow them to reach out to it. Links allow web designers to stay on task, to drive home the purpose of any given site.

An Exercise Regimen

It’s time to adopt an exercise program for our web designs. Like any good exercise, it all starts with hard work. Convincing clients to limit the functionality of their site in order to better represent their message can be tricky. Fortunately, we have data, evidence and experience to back us up, and references such as the one that Nielsen did with photos to help us make our case. In most instances, our clients will be happy to accept that your expertise in the subject can help them accomplish their goals in a more effective manner.

Are you guilty of adding unnecessary elements to your websites? What types of content or features do you find yourself stripping out when you’re in a crunch for space?


Tools to Predict and Monitor Competitor Traffic

Tools to Predict and Monitor Competitor Traffic: "

Posted by Sam Crocker

Today we're going to break down a number of different tools and resources for getting insights into competitors traffic data. We have looked at a handful of tools here and will break them down one by one as to their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the validity and usefulness of the data provided. Ultimately we just wanted to share with you some other information sources out there that you can add to SEOmoz's list of tools that are great for competitor analysis (my personal favourites being the Linkscape Visualization and Comparison tool as well as the Competitive Link Research tool).

However, I have had a number of clients asking me for a better view of overall market size and what kind of traffic their competitors are getting. Despite the fact that this has, unfortunately, at times meant crushing a few dreams about who a genuine/realistic competitor is or should be (i.e. NOT mashable if you are a new site) it can be tricky to find meaningful predictive data even when you know who your competitors are.

The Failed Experiment

Initially I wanted this to be an experiment testing out a number of services and running them against Analytics data to compare like for like and find which sites provided the most accurate information. I compiled Analytics data from 25 websites with hopes of comparing the real numbers (from Analytics) against the predictions of the other tools to try to find which was the most reliable across a number of sites from different sectors with a range of monthly traffic from ~1,000 monthly visitors to over 48,000,000 monthly visitors.

The idea was to report on data across a number of these platforms for average monthly visits, total yearly visits, geographical visits and so forth. Unfortunately, there were many fewer tools that provided this data than I initially anticipated and it quickly became clear that we weren't going to be able to compare apples to apples and there is no substitute for internal data... but through the combination of some of the below tools you can get a good idea of what sort of traffic your competitors sites are getting.

So, the experiment was a bit of a failure, but I learned more than my fair share about the tools so let's have a look at which tools are available and which tasks/comparisons they can be used for. I'm hanging on to all the data I collected and at a future date (if I ever hear back from some of the data sources) I will post a follow-up/re-do of the experiment.

The Tool Belt

It is worth pointing out that a number of these sites suggest they can provide better data if you claim the site(s) in question. I cannot testify to the accuracy of this because we have not looked into this (and could not feasibly claim the data for all 25 sites), also, all comments are based upon the free version of the tools as we did not have paid access to any of the tools.


Alexa is good for comparing different sites traffic and for monitoring general traffic trends. It can be quite useful for comparing one site to a competitor site (up to 5 sites at a time).
The index is massive and contains some data about all of the 25 sites we tested.

Not so great for the smaller sites. As you can see below, you won't get any of the traffic charts for sites ranked outside of the top 100,000 (which means if you Alexa thinks you are getting any fewer than 10,000 visits per month you're unlikely to glean any great information.

Accuracy is a serious concern. This does taint the usefullness of the tool in general.

The numbers reported are not helpful for predicting traffic on their own.


We want to keep this all anonymous but let's just say one site that we know gets 10-20,000 visits per month had an Alexa rank that was more than 5 times better than a site that we know gets 75,000+ visitors per month. And this was not just a one-off event.

I would have to seriously quetsion the reliability of this tool. It didn't seem to be too bad at predicting the trends for a single site but the charts are extremely difficult to make any real use of. The information on bounce rate seems fairly accurate (give or take a few percent) but the trends for bounce rate seemed much less accurate (e.g. the ups and downs did not seem to correspond with similar peaks and valleys in Analytics).

Perhaps most interestingly it seems to be skewed in favour of sites within the search marketing space. Sites in the search marketing space that we looked at regulary outranked sites receiving more than 10 times as much traffic on a monthly basis.

How to best use Alexa?
The tool is interesting for comparing similar sites or sites within an industry. I would like to recommend the tool but based upon my experience and this particular data set I would have to say I would be very cautious about using this to make any meaningful suggestions or estimates on traffic data. It is a great concept for a site but does not seem to have been particularly accurate.

The most accurate data seemed to be the data from the visitors by country (the order was fairly accurate and the percentages we looked at were not to far off). To the extent that this data would be useful to have for your competitors this would be one good use of Alexa data.

The insights for audience demographics could also potentially be extremely valuable, though accuracy will always be a question.

Free. Options for site audits for $199


Useful interface.
Speak the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc).
Ability to compare multiple sites
Data is easy to understand and well presented.

Somewhat limited number of sites - many sites that it classifies as "low sample sites"
Cost of "Pro" option

Again, accuracy is a serious concern here. The data was off in some cases by as much as 2,000% for monthly visits. The accuracy seemed to be a bit better for the peaks in traffic and some of the general trends we looked at, but was certainly not reliable enough for us to suggest reporting competitor traffic based upon this information.

How to best use Compete?
It should come as no surprise that Compete is best used for comparing competitors. The scale of the data is way off but some of the trends seemed to be fairly reliable. I wouldn't advise reporting any numbers from this data (as they do not seem close/reliable at all - often off by a factor of 2 or more), however the trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors. The demographic information (again, not being able to comment on the accuracy) would also be quite interesting but would require registering your site.

I can't very well recommend the PRO services as I was not able to gain access and was unwilling to pay the cost just for the blog post. I would be extremely interesting in looking further into some of the referral data and the keywords data but this is not available as part of the standard free toolset.

Cost: Free. The PRO membership is $499 per month.


Unfortunately we struggled with ComScore. We were unable to get a login or sneak a peak at any of the data. Thus, obviously we cannot comment on the validity of the data, only some of the offerings.




Best use of ComScore:
ComScore offers a number of reports and insights into markets including reports on Local market size, as well as information about valuable/important keywords in an industry. It would be very interesting to find out where this data was coming from and how good it was, but we were not able to achieve this in time to publish this information.

Cost: N/A
Costs were not listed on the site, but rather suggest contacting ComScore directly.

Google Ad Planner

Sites also visited data is good
Keywords searched for can be quite valuable
Audience interests data interesting

Lack of data for small sites

The accuracy was really mixed. For many of the sites AdPlanner provided much better data than some of the others, however, they were still off by miles for some sites - off by as much as 1000%. Again, the data on this in general tended to be better than many of the others, but given the occassional "big miss" I would not be comfortable using this data to make traffic predictions for a client.

How to best use Google Ad Planner:
The data about other sites visited as well as keywords searched for (with affinity) could be extremely valuable. As well as some of the other metrics reported on and audience interests. However, the traffic data is not particularly meangingful and is not to be relied upon.

Pro-tip: The data tends to be better when site owners have granted permission to analytics to publish data, I know we all love open and friendly, but this isn't the sort of thing you neccessarily want to make easier for your competitors to find.

Cost: Free.

Google Insights

Trends around Keyphrases and keyphrase groups
Regional information
Trusted source

Difficult to read the data
No hard and fast numbers about traffic
Hard to compare entire sites to one another

You can bet that the accuracy of this data is going to be pretty good given that the data provider has access to more data than anyone else on the internet. However, the fact that the numbers are normalised and more designed for keyphrases and search terms and trends than for traffic data means that the search volume will correspond perfectly with the traffic to a site.

How to best use Google Insights:
Google Insights could be quite helpful for finding the most valuable pockets of keyphrases and keyphrase groups. This could be particularly valuable when looking at a competitor site and trying to figure out which of their keyphrases are driving the most traffic. Further to that point, it could help you see which of the keyphrases within a keyphrase group might be the most valuable.

Cost: Free.

Google Trends for Websites

Good for illustrating magnitudes of difference between sites
Allows comparison of multiple websites
Includes regional information

Not good for comparing sites fairly similar in size
Does not have information for smaller sites when logged in
Accuracy imperfect
No numbers*

The data seems to be more accurate when only trying to compare traffic from search, it does not seem to do as well in picking the winning recipient of overall traffic. Given that these trends are Google Trends this is reasonable and still paints a fair landscape for an SEO's needs.

When comparing websites with drastically different traffic numbers the rough visual estimation appears to correspond quite well with the observed analytics data as well.

It's a shame there are no actual numbers for the data, but that would just be too easy.

How to best use Google Trends for Websites?
Trends is great for broad information gathering. It gives some insite into similar searches when comparing sites, and in general it is unlikely that you will find better comparative data out there without direct access to your competitor's analytics account. However, Trends does not provide numbers and thus can only be used to venture a guess at what sorts of numbers competitors are pulling in.

When two sites are relatively similar in size Google Trends does not always pick the winner in terms of monthly traffic correctly. For example, one of the sites we tested received around 7.5m monthly visits whilst another received around 8m and Google ranked the 7.5m website higher. However, it is worth noting that the 7.5m visitor site received considerably more volume from search than did the 8m visitor site so from an SEO standpoint this data is probably quite accurate.

Edit 22/11/2010 at 13:47 GMT:

Thank you very much to Jest for pointing out that this information was originally written and summarised when logged out of Google. When visiting the site logged in it does provide data (i.e. numbers/ranges). This information makes the tool considerably more valuable. I must point out that I have not had time to run this across the entire data set, though it is worth pointing out that even with the information the data looks to be off on a few of the sites I have checked. It is not as far off as the data for the same sites using AdPlanner, but still considerably far off (e.g. reporting 140k visits for a site that receives ~320k unique visits daily).


Unfortunately we were not able to get data from HitWise in time. The HitWise team was very helpful, responsive and agreeable and we will share this data once we have gotten our hands on it. However, we had not received the data back on the websites in the study in time for publication.




Best use of HitWise:
HitWise, similarly to comScore works on a reporting basis insofar as you speak to them about the types of market reports you would like or you can create custom reports. Whilst we obviously cannot comment on the accuracy of the data the services offered look to be better tailored to an SEOs needs than do the reports offered by comScore. However, generally speaking HitWise will not work with agencies which will be a bit of a bummer for some of you.

Cost: Free-$695+ per report
The range in cost seems to be fairly large. Whether the data warrants the pricing structure cannot really be judged without looking at the data, though they do make some data freely available through their website.


Traffic Numbers that are easy to follow
Design and display of information
Demographic information (when available)
Media Planner Tool

Lacks data for small-medium trafficked sites
Inability to compare sites

Definitely the biggest shortcoming of the Quantcast data is accuracy. As with some of the other sources the traffic data is estimated and is nowhere near accurate on the sites for which Quantcast had any data. Data was off by as much as 10 times the actual analytics data for some of the sites. Again, I cannot say that I would recommend sharing any of the data with a client as an accurate predictor of a competitor's traffic.

Best Use of Quantcast:
Although the data is not particularly reliable for the traffic data some of the other tools the site has to offer seem quite interesting and worth further investigation. The demographics information is also particularly interesting because it provides a reference as to how the data compare against the internet average. This sort of data could be particularly valuable for analysing a market by compiling data across multiple sites.

Cost: Free.


Data Includes sites of all sizes
List of Keyphrases and rankings for thos terms
Most accurate numbered data of all tools looked at

Data imperfect
Pay to get full data lists
Data only for Google traffic

The data was not perfectly accurate, though generally speaking SEMrush did not miss the mark for any of the sites we tested the same way a number of the other tools did. This is, obviously not to say that this data is infallible or that there won't be some issues with some sites, but the data was surprisingly accurate. As with some of the Google data the information reported is just the Google SE traffic, but this is our main area of focus and was quite accurate when drilling down into that specific area of traffic within analytics.

Best Use of SEMrush:
Although imperfect, this tool came the closest to providing accurate data that I would at least with a word of warning, be willing to share with a client about potential expectations or about where there competitors may be traffic wise. Most importantly, the add-on options and ability to see the keyword lists and how the competitor ranks for these terms is extraordinarily appealing to me.

Cost: Free-$499 per month


I hope that the findings from all this research will be valuable to you. At the end of the day it is an incomplete study and I look forward to following up on it when I have another big chunk of time and if/when I get access to comScore, HitWise, Compete PRO and SEMrush Pro. For the time being I would rely most heavily on SEMrush for predicting traffic and estimating how well a competitor is doing, but all of these tools add something to the ever growing toolbelt even if it may be for a purpose other than that which I was hoping they would achieve for me - we all know I love to misuse tools and I'm sure I will come up with some creative ways to use these insights.

Thanks a lot and look forward to any feedback you might have in the comments below or feel free to contact me on Twitter.

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How Google's New Local SERP Affected Your Ranking

How Google's New Local SERP Affected Your Ranking: "

Posted by number1george

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

As you probably noticed, last week Google did a pretty big makeover of its local search results page, incorporating the local results directly within the organic results. In some cases it appeared that the old “7-Pack” was just given larger real estate on the SERP. In others, it just looked like the websites were just given links to their Places page. And sometimes, it just looked like an entirely new SERP, different than both the original organic rankings and the lettered, local results. But what was the real effect this change had on local search results?

How I Got My Data

Visually, the new local search results page includes information from the both website and the business's Places page. The title and description are taken from the website but select information from the Places page is also included as well as a direct link to the Places page in Maps. Here we see an example of a search for "tanning salon seattle wa" and how the combined results are displayed.

An example of a new local SERP in Google

To find out the effects of combining the results, I grabbed the rankings of 50 somewhat random websites we’ve been tracking. As an initial criteria, I tried to use sites we’d been tracking for at least 2 months. I also eliminated sites with substantial fluctuations in their rankings within the prior few weeks since there would be no way to attribute those changes to any particular factor. Lastly, though I originally intended to use a completely random sampling, I eventually skipped over several sites that had no change since several of these were in non-competitive areas where they pretty much dominated all other websites for their searches.

After I had my sample, I did some quick research, comparing the organic rankings of several websites prior to the change to their rankings after the change. I then performed the same search in Google Maps in order to determine how their Places pages were ranking individually.

Example of Google Maps SERP

With a few exceptions, the top 7 ranked results in Maps are what were displayed in the old 7-pack for the same search. These listings were ranked independently of the organic results beneath them. By comparing their former organic ranking to their current organic ranking, I was able to see if a change could be correlated to their Places page's ranking in Maps.

So, Was There Any Change?

Of the 50 websites examined, 30 of them had an improvement in the new, “combined” results while 6 of them dropped. In most cases, this shift in their ranking could definitely be attributed to the performance of their local listings.

The Good

First, let’s look at the ones that improved. I did eliminate 4 outliers but, for the most part, you can see a direct correlation between the sites’ improved ranking and their local ranking in Maps. Obviously, I can’t publish any actual websites or keyword searches, but the searches all used a typical local query consisting of “business/service city st”.

Local searches with a positive change

Generally, it can be said that sites performing well in both organic and local perform even better in the new consolidated SERP. In several cases you can directly see how a well-performing Google Places listing now pulls up your organic ranking.

In some instances, the combined performance of a business with both a decently ranking website and Places page was enough to push it up a rank or two in the new results. In others, it appears that a well-optimized Places page was able to significantly improve a decently performing website and increase its ranking by several spots. Basically, your local listing’s performance appears to be a significant ranking factor in the new organic results.

The Bad

Since a business’s local listing has the ability to positively affect its website’s performance organic results, let’s look at the ones that dropped in ranking to determine if there is a negative factor associated with the new SERP.

Example of searches with a negative change

First, the fact that the sample size I was able to obtain was so small already implies that a poorly performing business listing doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on a website’s performance. Looking at the original rankings, you can also see that 3 of these sites weren’t doing that great to begin with. In fact, it would probably be fair to assume that their drop was due to an already negative trend. But what about the websites that were doing well but dropped after the update?

Digging deeper into these, I soon discovered that this wasn’t really a direct result of the poorly performing business listings dragging the websites down, but rather that, due to the local results being buried so deep in Maps, Google didn’t associate a business’s Places page with their website. As a result, other websites that did have strong Places pages were ranking higher. So, while having a poorly ranked local listing didn’t penalize the website, it was a whole category of optimization that the website was lacking. Almost like having a great inbound linking strategy but no content structure.

Other Observations

While going through dozens of various local searches, there were a few things that stood out:

  • Directory listings appear to be showing up more frequently in local results, in some cases taking up the top 3 spots in results.
  • The 7-Pack, or rather one-line business listings similar to the old 7-Pack, aren’t gone entirely. Lettered results still tend to show up when Google isn’t entirely sure you’re trying to do a local search. Typically, this happens in searches for smaller cities or regions.
  • When using rank-checking tools, the one-lined, lettered listings won’t be counted - just like before. The larger results being discussed here, however, are treated just as normal organic results prior to the change, completely disregarding the letter and local information assigned to it.
  • Lastly, while I encountered plenty of websites on the first page without a Places page, I encountered very few Places page ranking on the first page without a website. Prior to the change, it was not uncommon to regularly see local listings with no associated website ranking in the 7-pack. Now it appears that, without a website, it is nearly impossible to be in the first page of Google’s general SERP for most searches.

What Does This Mean?

So what can we learn from all this? Basically, it’s just what Google said all along - everything is important. Your best bet is to have both a terrifically optimized website and an optimized, claimed Places page to associate with it.

Not only does Google seem to use a Places page as an organic ranking factor, but having one also gives you nearly twice the real estate devoted to your business in the results. Instead of just having a few words in your title tag and meta description to sell your business, you now have your address, phone number, reviews, lists of other websites that mention you, and even a picture to draw attention to your website.

Bottom line: all those old debates about whether it was better to have the top-ranking website in organic or have your business at the top of the 7-pack are over. Even if this isn’t the final layout, it’s clear that Google intends to make both count.

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Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

“Form follows function” is a widely accepted — albeit controversial — principle that most designers in a variety of disciplines have adopted since its inception at the turn of the 20th century. On the web, we commonly refer to function as usability which is the ease of use and navigation of a website in order to achieve user’s goals.
In this showcase we present websites that sacrifice usability for beauty and present issues related to clutter, loading, navigation, archiving or visibility. Unfortunately, although the sites featured in this showcase are visually appealing, they are quite difficult to use. By studying such examples, we can learn what mistakes we can avoid in our designs and how not to strive for strong aesthetic appearances on the account of usability.
You may be interested in the showcase of Bizarre Websites On Which You Can Kill Time With Style as well.

Visual Clutter

Where do I look? Where do I click? What do I do? Visual clutter is one of the most serious issues a designer can present to an audience. Not only is the user unlikely to achieve the desired goals (because it’s hidden in the clutter), chances are they’ll just leave out of frustration before they do anything.
Creative With aK
Navigation overload! Not only are we unsure of where to look, we’re unsure of what’s clickable! Having to scan around the design with the mouse is not helpful for usability. And that’s if, and only if, you get past the load screen with no load progress bar. In addition to that, it takes a while until one has figured out that the welcome screen has to be closed to enable the actual in-site navigation. The inexistant scroll finally lets potentially interesting content disappear under the frame of the browser window.
Creativewithak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Marc Ecko
Marc Ecko is an extremely successful businessman with countless ventures and he definitely wants us to know it. The problem is, he’s got so much business we don’t know where to start, provided you get used to the almost erratic horizontal scrolling feature! Getting the information you are looking for will take quite some time.
Markecko in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Content Of
Even after reading the “About” page and randomly clicking links, we’re still not sure what this page actually is about. Our best guess is a portfolio, but due to link clutter and no solid explanation of what the navigation does, we’re left confused.
Content-of in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
There Studio
Half of the circles that look clickable aren’t; the other half jumble into a new rotation if you drag and drop them. Granted, the movement makes sense for the philosophy of the company, and there isn’t too much clutter, but it took us a minute to figure it all out and that’s 58 seconds too long. If you feel the need for more bubbles, click and drag on the empty space to add more to the confusion.
There-studio in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Loading Issues

As bounce rates increase, and time-on-sites decreases web-wide, it is becoming increasingly important to grab people’s attention immediately. By the time all of your effects load, chances are your user is back on Google or Facebook looking for the next cool site. Loading times, skip buttons, missing instructions on navigation and many other issues are all subject of considerations here.
Coke Light
One of the worst things you can do as a Flash designer is force an introduction on your audience. A long intro and no skip button means this site is likely to be abandoned by most of its visitors before they get in. Add an unclear “Call to Action” and no visual navigation indicators and most people will never encounter the beauty this site has to offer. Long transitions back to the home screen waste time the visitior could have spent successfully “travelling the world”, searching for the numerous balloons hidden within the map.
Gringo in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Design Sul
We’ve never seen so many load issues on one site. Multiple load times for different elements, re-loads once you’re in to the site core, and no clear indication that loading is finished make for an extremely confusing and difficult to use website. Actually, discovering how to reach the content takes some time, what it all has to do with milk cartons is a different question.
Designsul in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Nicola Walbeck
A big loading wait-time at the beginning of the site is excruciating, but sometimes manageable once you enter a beautiful, usable website. Scratch that here, because once you get in, you’ll have to wait again and again for each individual image, forcing you to stare at blurred photographs. A better idea would be to use loading bars on the image to indicate that the image is loading. If you are on a broadband connection, then it’s fine, but if you are not, you start to get nervous very quickly. Add the fact that there’s no prominent back button and the experience could be a bit frustrating.
Nicolawalbeck in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Navigation Issues

For content/category heavy sites especially, navigation is extremely important. Imagine driving without a map, or the grocery store with no aisle indicators. Navigation tells us where to go and how, or — in these cases — tells us very little. You might consider taking a compass with you, these examples make getting lost easy.
After quite a long load, this site requires the user to click “enter”. Okay, we’re in. Unfortunately, although there is a quick-menu, it does not draw attention and the user is required to blindly scroll over images to see categories. Navigate with caution and carefully look out for navigation buttons!
Econtent in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Prism Girl
Unusable sites have actually developed conventions. When we don’t see clear category navigation on a beautiful site, we poke around with our mouse looking for the category links. This site is beautiful (and complex) enough to poke around for an hour, but you’ll probably never guess you have to click on the mouse trailing icon to enter. Other than impressive design work, this site does not have much to offer.
Prismgirl in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
On Toyota’s Mind
Slow load time leads to an unclear ‘Call to Action’, no visually clear navigation as well as a hard-to-find back action. Our question: What crossed Toyota’s mind when conceptualising this site?
Northkingdom in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
No button to skip intro. No visually clear navigation. Slow transitions. And here’s the kicker, a separate page to mute the music player. When visiting the site using a fast connection, the animations make the visit even less enjoyable.
Theologos in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Archiving/Category Issues

Your site loaded fine, it’s clear what you want people to do, you have a solid navigation, but once the user begins moving around, they can’t figure out your category structure. When you want meat, you go to the deli, not the dairy aisle. Some sites, unfortunately, get it wrong.
Self Titled
A hidden quick menu and unclear category organization make this site difficult to navigate. The actual information one gets when entering a category is rather scarce.
Selftitled in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Image slivers make-up the category composition on this site, giving us very little information as to where/what to click on. If you’re new to the site, you are likely to spend a while until you find what you were looking for.
Vanalen in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Grip Limited
The website does tell you to “click and drag” but finding this instruction amidst what looks like a typographic poster is something we suspect many people weren’t able to do. Realizing this might be a problem, Grip did create an “Open Menu” bar at the top of the page, but what are the chances you’re going to look there?
Grip-limited in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Kyle Tezak
Another example of an extremely talented visual artist who has great design work, but a small usability problem makes the user experience less enjoyable. There is no actual navigation on this page, just a floating header and illustrations of Kyle’s work. To find the designer’s contact information, you need to click on the “Information” link in the upper right corner. Using more traditional wording would improve usability: e.g. putting an e-mail right there or naming it “Contact information” or adding contact information at the bottom of the page would help. A nice example of how one little detail can improve site’s usability.
Tezak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Visibility/Scrolling Issues

A site may be uncluttered and have great navigation, but if the magnification is off, or scrolling is dysfunctional, no one is going to see it. Visibility issues can quickly turn to invisibility issues as users navigate away from your site.
Real Casual
This site is invisible until you start hunting with your mouse, at which point different areas of the screen appear. A long roll-over hunt is followed by long load times, during which fade effects additionally take your chance to get a good look at content.
Realcasual in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Lego Click
Scrolling is conventionally top to bottom or left to right, but this site starts at the bottom which is confusing. Add to that an inability to retrieve closed elements, and several other minor issues, and you get an extremely frustrating (but beautiful) website from Lego.
Legoclick in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Journey to Zero
This site is rather large, but you wouldn’t know it. It starts magnified with no suggestion to drag scroll, leaving the user wondering where all the content is. If you scroll too far on the other hand, you might end up in empty regions of the site, making it hard to get back to the content. Very beautiful website that is difficult to use.
Journeytozero in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Faub (currently offline)
Another beautiful site that starts magnified and does not let you decrease the magnification, or suggest dragging for navigation.
Faub in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Uniqlo presents what looks like a beautiful and usable online store. That is, until you’ve added 10 items to your cart only to find out there is no check-out. Turns out it’s not a store at all, just a wishlist! A truely frustrating experience for every consumer willing to spend!
Uniqlo in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
Bio Bak
Another drag navigation site that’s just too big for its own good. This is one of our favorite sites from a beauty/having fun perspective, but it does an awful job of presenting the design agency from a usability perspective. Using the mouse wheel by chance let us discover that the site has more to offer than what is visible on the first glace.
Biobak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites


Design for function and communication. If your website ends up beautiful in the process, you kill two birds. Design for beauty only if the primary function of your site is to convey beauty.
Be wary of visual clutter, especially in navigation and on landing pages. Designing with too much clutter can make an audience unsure of how to use your site. In the worst case users won’t be able to load your page in the first place. Web customers don’t like to wait. Ensure that your site has a fast, clear load that conveys an easy understanding of how long it will take and when it is finished. This minimizes your risk of losing visitors to other sites in the meanwhile, keeping them occupied with joyous anticipation.
Once users arrive, you want to direct them to certain pages on your site. Always make clear what and where your navigation is, and what each element of your navigation does. Don’t make users guess or poke around to find an answer. On big sites, with lots of content, archiving and categorization is especially important. Make sure people can effectively navigate your archives. Try to make your menus self-explanatory, saving the users time, letting them invest it in effective exploration of your site.
Visibility is a huge issue most people don’t consider. In addition to designing for minimum resolutions, make sure your audience can clearly see the content you want them to at all times. If you’re designing to sell, make sure you’re designing to sell. This is especially important as your goal is to promote purchases. The more difficult you make it to buy your product, the less likely you’ll make money.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What’s Making Your Site Go Slow? Could Be The Like Button

What’s Making Your Site Go Slow? Could Be The Like Button: "

Based on a number of reports, it has become pretty clear that the Like buttons and other Facebook social plugins have been slowing down many of the sites that use their product.

For months now it has been a well known fact among the developer community that Facebook’s plugins can frequently run into loading problems. While Facebook is well aware of the issue, and most definitely working on resolving it, that doesn’t stop the fact that the page load can be extremely slow. One large publisher, who wanted to remain unnamed, sent us the chart below which highlights the peak loading time for the like button sometimes.

Like Load Time Screenshot

While most sites aim to have their site completely loaded within a fraction of a second, it appears as though the load time can drag on dramatically, and in the case of the publisher that reached out to us, Facebook can drive the sites to take up to 6 seconds to load. Ultimately, any external widgets you use can slow down a site, however it’s well known that Facebook can be one of the primary forces behind that. Now we have some numbers to show that’s the case.

Have you had the like button slow down your site at all?

Disqus for ully's online marketing

Disqus for ully's online marketing