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There are all kinds of websites that list their own collection of the top mistakes in web design.  Those lists can be quite subjective as most designers and developers have their own methods of doing things based on what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past.

Over the course of the next 4 articles however, we’ll be listing some of the most universally accepted problems that often plague many a doomed website, including navigation, content, structure and design mistakes.  We begin this week with the circulatory system of your website, navigation.

1. Don’t Hide Things

Don’t treat your website navigation like the hidden entrance to King Tut’s tomb.  Links are the only way for people to get around your site and to interact with it – so make sure they are visible and don’t require an expedition of 50 British explorers to unearth the ancient mystery of the almighty home button.

2. Use Text Navigation

Text links ensure reliability and speed.  Text not only loads quicker than images, but it is also a key factor in search engine indexing.  Also, even in the today’s world of high speed internet that’s quicker than Roseanne on a glazed ham, there are still some people out there who browse the web with images turned off.

But how will they enjoy lolcats?

3. Double and Triple Check Navigation Links

This should be among the very first exercises during your usability testing phase.  There should never be any broken links on your website.  Every time a user gets a 404 or “page not found” error from a main link on your website, a puppy gets bludgeoned with a sack full of grapefruits.

4. Don’t Screw Around with the Browser Window

The last thing people want to see when visiting your site is 14 pop-ups to meet transgender singles in their area.  Additionally, when navigating the content of your website, try not to open a new window every time they go to a new page.  New browser windows or tabs should be reserved for linking to an external source.  There’s also no need to automatically re-size the browser window with funky JavaScript functions.  For one, most people will just full screen the browser again anyway, but also those JavaScript links don’t always work either.

Greetings, friend! Instead of using all the awesomeness of your brand spankin’ new 17-inch monitor today, I’m just going to go ahead and re-size this bad boy to the size of a Game Boy for your viewing pleasure.

5. Avoid Horizontal Scrolling

Unless you’re trying to display a 95-megapixel image of Neptune straight from the Kepler telescope, there shouldn’t be any reason to implement the browser’s dreaded horizontal scroll bar.  It just isn’t user friendly.  There’s no horizontal scrolling-wheel on most mice which requires the user to physically drag the scroll bar across the window.  Having to perform this task is akin to the desire of sticking your tongue into the blades of an Apache helicopter.

These first 5 tips are a good start in ensuring that your website functions the way it should and allows your users to navigate your website without launching a whaling harpoon through the screen.  In part 2, we’ll look at what to avoid when placing content on your site.

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