The 10 Worst Findability Crimes Committed by Web Designers & Developers

Angry man in a grey suit is pointing a banana at us as it was a gun.*

Web designers & developers often focus on web standards, table-less layouts or CSS effects like styled lists or sidebars e.g.

All these things are perfectly OK unless they are executed at the expense of findability. Yet they often do.

Yes, findability is the orphan of the web design industry and thus often forgotten, overlooked or plainly ignored.

Those who do not heed findability in many cases without even pondering it manage to make a website useless.

Why? It probably won’t have many users. In case some do appear, they won’t find what they seek.

Here I collected the 10 worst findability crimes committed By web designers & developers you should avoid:

1. Cool HTML titles
For years web designers used “cool” HTML titles for their websites, the more special characters, the less descriptive keywords the better: —===###///Name///###===—

Imagine a book cover with only the author’s name but with no title.

Many web designers won’t disclose what they do or offer. Some obviously only offer portfolios. Many sell “work” or “projects”.

2. Mysterious links
Why tell anybody what you do when you can make them guess? “Profile”, “projects” is much more mysterious than just writing

  • “web design”
  • “graphic design”
  • “programming”.

Let them click to find out or bounce if they are not patient enough.

3. Fancy JavaScript menus
Since at least 1999, the more complicated JavaScript menus you used, the better, many of them are still not crawlable by search engines, also most people won’t click hidden menu items.

4. Hidden headlines
While HTML offers 6 headlines tags, h1-h6, web developers started using divs and spans for headlines.

They were artificially inflating them using “font-size: 600%” e.g. while the Google bot did not even know that it’s a headline.

5. Bizarre URL structure
Many high profile websites still use URL structures that are unstable, seemingly random and unreadable for both humans and robots. They probably never heard of the term URL design.

6. Obnoxious fonts and font sizes
A few years ago Flash pixel fonts were en vogue but so small that only hawk eyed youths could decipher them.

With the dawn of the web standards movement the opposite was the case. Since then it’s the bigger the better.

This way simple text becomes sometimes unreadable due to sheer size as people can’t scan it easily.

Last but not least ugly Verdana headlines still haunt me sometimes. Why not find a middle ground?

7. Duplicate titles
When every page has the same title how am I supposed to find out the differences? Google thinks so too. Every page needs it’s own unique title.

8. Multiple meta tags
Many websites still use at least a dozen meta tags while they get ignored by Google and people can’t see them anyway.

They just clutter the code. The meta description and meta robots tags are perfectly sufficient in most cases.

9. Multiple meta keywords
The meta keyword tag is a relic of the dark past of the pre-Google era, unfortunately webmasters still assume that you need dozens of keywords in there. You can skip the tag altogether.

10. Excessive Pagination
Do you think people click 3, 5, 10 pages just to see some images? Some do, but you lose a large part of your audience with each click. Also those who only scan the page will leave instantly.

Simply avoid these hideous crimes against findability to get along with the search engines and the online population.

Don’t make people think, be straightforward.

Web design and development is not an art form. You want people to buy your services, don’t you? So first they must find you and then find out about them.

All these issues seriously interfere with this objective. These CSS findability guidelines might be a good start.

* Creative Commons image by Ryan McGuire

Last updated: April 30th, 3018.