Web Design Errors: Technology Edition

Technology. It can be a wonderful thing. It makes the lights go on, my beer cold and my coffee hot. It also runs my website, my blog and my business. But there are rules to the tools, my friends. Make nice and play by this list. Part of my Web Design Error series.

Wrong Tool for the Job

You wouldn’t let a carpenter remodel your kitchen with a chainsaw, right? Why not examine the tools that go into the development of your web site? Choosing the wrong technology for the job is a prime killer of many websites. Don’t get locked into a coding language (PHP, Java, ASP, C#, etc) just because your designer does it well. Be sure that you do your due diligence and select the right tool for the job at hand or you may not get the product that you want.

Before you build a site ask yourself; ‘What web design tool am I using and why is that one the best choice?’

Bloated Code

Bandwidth has skyrocketed in the past few years. Still, that doesn’t mean that we can afford to be lazy when optimizing website response time. Carefully consider what code you are using and why. Do you really need all of those library calls? Can you consolidate any CSS? Does every page need to include each library? Can images be optimized at all?

David Mark, CEO of Cinsoft listed the following 4 killers when I asked about top technical web design errors. Does your site make any of these mistakes?

  • The use of huge, inefficient and incompetently written browser scripting libraries (e.g. jQuery, Prototype.)
  • Flash and the browser sniffing scripts that come with it.
  • Too many http connections, usually for marketing purposes
  • Script errors

Lack of Standards

While the stereotype of the maverick unshaven web designer clad in shorts, sandals, and cafepress t-shirts might still stick around in pop culture, when it’s time to code, standards must be our guide. Web standards help make your content available to all audiences and your website needs to follow them.

Technically the site needs to be sound and up to current web standards. It needs to be built to suit the target audience as well as be viewed in multiple browser/operating systems and internet connections. The site has got to be fast and reliable or users will lose trust. For starters, don’t get the best friend of your partners brother who taught himself how to use Dreamweaver. Well, you can but it depends on the results you want! – Patrick Porter, Jade Creative

Sketchy Semantics

By semantics, I mean the markup tags of HTML. Some browsers are more forgiving than others but excellence pays in this business – especially in terms of accessibility and SEO. Remember, Google, Yahoo, etc don’t read your site, they read the markup underneath. You want to be on top of your markup code game to maximize your web site’s exposure.

Step 1: Learn what each HTML Tag does and where it needs to go.

Bad use of markups – Use correct markups depending on your data (list, paragraph, heading), semantic naming of elements and use CSS to style them. Correct use of markups will take care most of the accessibility issues. – Jonathan Cheung

Step 2: Optimize that HTML for Search Engines.

Building SEO-unfriendly HTML. It is amazing how many web sites are built without the basics, which, when done right, will do 90% of the SEO work for you. For example, use semantic HTML (<h1>, <p>, <ul>, etc) and fill out the 'alt' and ‘title’ parameters on img and anchor tags. – John Reeve, Web Developer and owner at Pelago

He’s Not Flying; He’s Falling Gracefully

“If something goes wrong, help your visitor! Custom and helpful error messages with meaningful information are a huge asset and often forgotten about.” – Mike Donohoe.

Mike’s right, build a custom 404 page. Remember, 404 errors happen for several reasons – typos, server response issues, or even bored surfers that change your url stream just to see what happens. You’ll want to build a reliable catch-all to handle these scenarios.


Security is a real issue on the internet for all surfers. It dominates the concerns of shoppers. Take the time to incorporate the kind of technology that keeps both you and them safe. For example, I use Paypal and display their 3rd party seal of approval on my site. Customers can click on it and see that I’m verified. On e-commerce sites using HTTPS and appropriate encoding is essential. You may want to consider encrypting your backend databases.

Putting your customers at ease so they buy in confidence will pay big dividends.

Thoughts? Anything we missed? Add your contribution below.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Luis Pastrulo October 17, 2008 at 10:07 am

Great Article!!! Useful for any Web Designer


CWD October 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Glad you found it useful, Luis.


John October 20, 2008 at 6:43 pm

In regards to security, it is a good idea to validate any site against the OWASP Top Ten vulnerabilities:


CWD October 21, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Thanks, John. The 2007 list is very interesting reading. Great contribution and thanks for commenting!


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