Bad Design: The 10 Commandments you can never EVER break if you want people to love you.

Bad Design: The 10 Commandments you can never EVER break if you want people to love you.

What the hell is wrong with business people?

Yes, I know that’s a really general statement. I’m getting to a point, but first, I need to rant a bit.

I have design on the brain. I am in the process of contemplating a redesign for Makeness, and in all my inspiration research, I have come across a LOT of really awful crap, and since my boyfriend is tired of listening to me rant about it while we’re trying to watch Sons of Anarchy reruns, I thought I should find a constructive way of discussing it with my lovely (and tasteful) readers.

I fucking hate bad design. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch. It litters the internet like stinky half-smoked cigarette butts. You can’t go a single day online without being assaulted by electric purple backgrounds and the over-use of fonts that used to be brilliant and are now regaled to bargain-basement small business schlock (read: Copperplate Gothic). I mean who decided that the only fonts the internet can read are Arial, Times, and Comic Sans (and a few other garbage varieties)? Seriously?! Yes, I know there are several new tech options that allow us to use others, but apparently, most graphic designers these days still live under their happy little Helvetica rocks and have not yet discovered these options.

Then you have this other bizarre phenomena. The internet is full of completely repugnant designs that convert at an alarmingly successful rate. Tons of total crap sites are WAY more successful than mine, or yours, or any number of sites that have agonized about every detail of their online presence in an effort to delight and inspire visitors.

So, what the hell is the point of being a design snob?

Why should you agree with me, if other sites make more money?

Because we are not fucking sheep.

I learned recently (from a crappy B movie), that sheep will follow each other anywhere. They are genetically pre-programmed to follow the sheep in front of them because they assume that there’s food ahead (those with opposable thumbs generally know what actually lies ahead for sheep).

Bad design proliferates because we follow the sheep in front of us. We seem to think that if it works for them, it will work for us, and now the internet is full of woolly garbage.

I decided when I started my business that I never wanted that sheepy stinkyness on me. I wanted Makeness to be something else. To me, real Greatness meant (means) that you stick to what works for YOU, not what converts better or what manipulates the masses more efficiently. I mean, pop-up signup forms are proven to get you to sign up, but the fact is they drive me fucking nuts, and I think most people agree with me on that. Do I want subscribers whose arms I have to twist to just to get them to come back? No.

I want passionate, free thinking, critical people, who know how to make a damn decision without me shouting in their face.

I bet, if you like what you read here, you can find the signup form all by yourself (it’s to your right, for the not-yet-fully-caffeinated).

Ok, back to why good design matters.

Good design is a reflection of effort. It tells me that you care about my experience, and you are using the resources you have to make my experience the best it can be. It means you are considerate and thoughtful of how I am perceiving you and the space you occupy. It means you understand that I have a million options online, an itchy mouse-click finger, ten other things I should be doing right now, and the fact that I could be procrastinating on Facebook right now. I bet Lady Gaga has a bitchin’ fan page.

Bad design on a website with good content is like going to a five star restaurant with really uncomfortable chairs, elevator music, and fluorescent lighting. You better have the best food ever made since the dawn of time to justify how bad I look under fluorescent lights. And even then, I am still going to tweet about how much the ambiance sucks before I bother to tell anyone about the food.

Yes. I am a snob. Why aren’t you?

You paid for your website. If I hate it and tell my 1500 followers that you’re smart, BUT they have to look past the chartreuse background that makes my eyes vibrate, how many of those people do you think will bother to stop by?

The big question is, do you want to be part of the sea of ugly crap, or do you want to stand out as being BOTH smart/witty/relevant/helpful/etc… AND beautiful/original/unique/interesting/engaging/etc…?

Oh yeah, I promised you a Top 10 list. Here you go…

The top 10 (web design) commandments you can never EVER break if you want people to love you:

1. Music. For the love of god, please stop playing music on your website (unless you are an actual musician). It pisses of my cat (and by that I mean wakes her from her desk-top slumber) and makes it really hard for me to ever, EVER want to come back to your site, no matter how snazzy the fonts are.

2. Electric Backgrounds. With all the various monitor sizes out there, you have no idea how much of that neon baby blue will be surrounding your happy little site in the middle of the screen. Unless you want your site to look like it’s lost in Teletubby land, stick with a mild background that doesn’t give me acid flashbacks.

3. Wavy Headers. Yes, I know this is small and nit-picky. But the fact is, it looks dated. It bores me. It says, “My graphic designer knows how to make a wavy line, isn’t that neat?”

4. Copycat Colors. Cease and desist any and all uses of the colors: Facebook blue and Twitter turquoise. Why? because they are over-used and completely stale.

5. Sparky. Yes, your dog/cat/parakeet is cute and you love them. But I’m not hiring them. Leave Sparky off of your ‘About’ page.

6. Light Text. In case you haven’t heard, it’s way hard on the eyes to read light writing on a dark background. Good design should never come at that cost of good function. If you want people to stay on your site and dive in head first, make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

7. Trendy-ness. Last year we all loved rounded corners. This year, we are obsessed with photo sliders and magazine-type layouts. Unless you want to completely redesign your site ever other year, create a space that meets you needs, your brand’s needs, and your customers’ needs. Don’t worry about the cutting edge… it’s usually overrated.

8. Listening to Friends. Your friends are not your customers, nor are they (usually) graphic designers. If you want input on new design, ask trusted clients or associates, and make it clear you want their REAL opinion.

9. Emotional Design. I’m glad you love your site. It’s good to love things. But, if everyone who visits hates it and you still stick with it because you love it so much, you aren’t doing yourself or your business any favors. Along the same lines, choosing a designer because of a personal relationship will never work out well. How do you tell a friend that their design isn’t what you wanted?

10. Quit Yelling at Me! If anything ANYWHERE on your site makes me feel like I’m being assaulted, I will not buy from you. That means: no flashing, blinking, highlighting, all caps in red, pop-ups, annoying noises, or redundant and/or manipulative language.

Do you know someone who’s breaking these rules? Forward this post to them, maybe they’ll get the hint.

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