[caption id="attachment_7769" align="alignleft" width="280" caption="If this was the computer you used to design your website, it's probably in need of an overhaul. (Photo courtesy of Blakespot on Flickr)"][/caption]
There are countless website design practices that have fallen out of favor. Utilizing one of these can make your site look downright dated -- from silly clip art to uber-bright colors to bad navigation. To help you decide whether it's time to overhaul your site, we came up with a checklist of some of the biggest signs your site is stuck in a bygone era.
1. It's too narrow: Remember the days when your computer monitor (and TV for that matter) were square, rather than the wider screens you see today? Well, as monitors have transformed, so have standards for your the width of your website. One way to make your customers think you're stuck in 1995 is to use 640 x 480 resolution for your site. Today, as screen resolution has advanced, most web users use browser windows maximized to 800 x 600, 1040 x 768 or 1280 x 1024. A good fall back size is 800 x 600, but you could also design your site using a flexible width -- which adapts the page to the size of the browser window being used.
2. You use a hit counter: Hey, 1998 called, it wants its hit counter back. Sure, it might be fun to let your site visitors that they're the 7,654 person to click on your site, but those old-school hit counters look dated and unprofessional; plus they're not always accurate. Instead, use tracking codes embedded on site pages to count clicks and establish a strategy for growing web traffic.
3. There are no social media links: These days, everyone is using some sort of social media. Heck your great grandma just "liked" a photo we posted on Facebook. It's time for you to join the rest of us and build a little brand recognition via the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest; then be sure to post links to your social media pages on your website so potential customers can learn about your company wherever they spend the most time on the web.
4. It takes forever to load: If any of your pages take more than four seconds to load, it's time for an overhaul. According to velvetblues.com, there are several things that can bog down your page: Too many images that are full-size and uncropped, a bad web host, use of server-intensive dynamic scripts, web pages that haven't been compressed, too much Flash, large file sizes, embedding media from other sites, and excessive spam.
5. Speaking of too much Flash: Show of hands: who immediately hits "back" on their browser when they come to a website that's loading a Flash presentation? We've all navigated to those dreaded sites that make you sit through a five-hour (OK, maybe it just feels like five hours) slideshow; one that can't be skipped before you can actually see what you came to the site for: the actual content. While the Flash gimmick might be pretty or cute or, well, Flashy, it wastes the users' valuable time and can actually make them leave the site. Web designers and programmers have many complaints about Flash -- including that it drains batteries. HTML5 is more effective, and it's proprietary.
6. You use splash pages: Site visitors don't need to sit through a presentation that tries to convince them to go to your site. If they've already clicked on a link to your site, then they're interested in your site's contents. Skip the splash page and let your home page be the welcome mat.
7. The background image is ugly: Steer clear of faux leather, puffy clouds or weird textures in the background -- unless you're intentionally trying to make your site look like it came of age the first time New Kids on the Block was popular.
8. The site doesn't work well on smartphones or tablets: Chances are, visitors to your site won't be looking at it on their desktop computer, but on a smartphone or tablet. Apple has sold 85 million iPhones since 2007 and 34 million iPads since 2010, according to the Washington Post. In March, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 53 percent of mobile phone users in the U.S. owned a smartphone. Because smartphones have screens with a much smaller resolution, standard-sized web pages are slow to load and difficult to read. There are several online tutorials and mobile site builders that can help make your website mobile friendly in a matter of minutes.
9. There's too much animation: Skip the flying toaster background or animated GIFs (you know the cutesy little clip-art-esque figures that move like the blue goat chomping on some clover at right). They look dated and draw attention away from what's really important on your site: the content. (Case in point, we're pretty sure you don't even remember what we just told you because you were so distracted by the goat. He's mesmerizing, isn't he?)
10. There are too many colors: Unless you're a business that specializes in rainbow-colored pajamas and neckties, go easy on garish color displays on your website. While there's no rule for how many colors to use, it's better to err on the side of too few rather than too many. If you're unsure about what to do, stick to just three complementary colors and apply the 60-30-10 rule (pick one color to use on 60 percent of your site, the second on 30 percent and the third on 10 percent). If you want more color options, consider using shades and tints of your main colors, rather than bringing in new hues.
11. The text is unreadable: Your site won't be good for anything if nobody can read it. Don't use font sizes that are too small, and use complicated, hard-to-read fonts sparingly (think logos) if at all, remembering that readability is your priority. Also, when selecting colors, make sure there is enough contrast between your font and the background (light gray type on a white background might look nice, but it's hard to read). Whatever you do, forego glaring fluorescent backgrounds, which will strain your reader's eyes.
Learn more about website design on Business.com.