When it comes to web design, there’s good, there’s bad and there’s really, really bad. Unfortunately (and as with most things in life), it’s easy to settle for the sub-optimal when it comes to design. But here at CloudTactix, we recommend striving for excellence in design to keep folks on your site and help you convert leads. So for this Friday’s post I’ve consulted one our wonderful designers, Emily, to help me write this post. We discussed what makes design good and what can make it look like something straight out of the 1990s web school (in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a link to the original, untouched-since-1996 Space Jam website).

You’ll find examples of both good and bad designs, complete with Emily’s remarks.

1. The site’s design should enhance navigability.

Good: theidealists.com

good navigation design

“This is an example of really good navigation. It has four of the really important things up top and then in the sub-nav, they basically have two of the main reason people are going to come to the site, About Us and Recent Projects. They have the video right underneath it to explain what they’re all about and how it works. Once you scroll down past what you can see [above the fold], the nav pops up on the top to keep those right on hand, as well as the log-in and the join, which they also want you to keep in mind the whole time you’re on the site.”

Bad: mikeroweworks.com

bad navigation design

“The navigation is horrible. For example, if you scroll over the water, it says, “Join the Mike Rowe Works community. Be a part of the discussion.” If I wanted to do that, I would have absolutely no idea that I needed to put my cursor over the water.”

2. Design a mobile version of your site, or optimize it for mobile devices

Good: espn.com mobile

good mobile design

ESPN is actually a really long page for mobile, but it doesn’t really have much of a nav because it doesn’t need one. When you scroll down, it has pretty much anything someone who is trying to access ESPN on their phone would need. It has all of the top stories of the day on the page, it has fantasy info, it has up-to-date scores. And you can also use it to search for a specific team or sport. It’s really clean.

Bad: toppers.com (You’ll have to be using a mobile browser to see what she’s talking about.)

bad mobile design

“Toppers’ web page doesn’t even fill the full screen (on mobile devices). When it loads, it fits the whole web page in two thirds of my mobile screen and I have to zoom in to type things. It could be really simple. It could just have listed four blocks: Find A Store, Order, About Us, Menu.’

3. Avoid clutter

Good: oliverspencer.co.uk

no design clutter

“The layout is really simple. It’s a retail store, but instead of cluttering (their products) all onto the home page, they chop it up into sections shown by images. So you can either look for the words you want or for an image instead of digging your eyes through a bunch of clutter.”

Bad: toysrus.com

cluttered design

“There is way too much color, which I think they did because it’s a kid’s site. But kids aren’t necessarily the ones shopping on it. It’s really overpowering and extremely cluttered.”

What elements of design do you look for when hiring someone for design work?