Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How to annoy me with your website

I often get asked to look at the website of an artist. I really like looking at artist websites - many of them show beautiful work. However, I looked at one today and it really annoyed me. Several of the points I'm going to make about website irritations actually apply to a few more websites so it would be invidious to single him out by name...........

So what didn't I like? Here's a list!
  • Home page - Do you all know the one about how people size you up within 5 seconds of seeing you? Well your website's Home Page is the equivalent of that. This guy just had his name and that was it. Nothing else. No 'click here to enter site'. I sat and looked at it and thought the site hadn't loaded properly. Why is he wasting my time making me look at his name? In the end I decided he just wanted me to do just that - look at his name. "Sad" I thought and clicked it and lo and behold the site opened! "Sad" is not the sort of response you should be trying to achieve.
  • Small images - This is an artist who works in oils and appears to be doing a lot of really interesting things with texture and brushwork. "Appears" because his current work is very large and his website images are very small - which means you cannot see aspects of his work which are characteristic of him. His images like they might be interesting. I know a lot of people are really quite nervous about having their art ripped off but here's how I look at it:
    • if you want to display your art on your website then display it properly, otherwise what's the point - you may was well stick to galleries;
    • if you display your art anywhere on the net (not just your website) then there's always a possibility that it'll get ripped off. The corollary of this is that your paintings may also get damaged or mislaid or lost when in a gallery or your own home - everything you do has a risk! The trick is in managing the risk.
    • reduce the chances of rip-off merchants being able to do anything with your images by only posting images with a low dpi (72dpi or less). Images that are 300 dpi (ie print quality) are more likely to generate problems.
    • make sure you have a copyright notice on your site for those who are ignorant about such things
    • remember that when several prominent artists had their images snaffled by some Chinese websites (there's no copyright law in China), there were also several other artists who were a little upset that their art has not been seen as worth 'snaffling'!
  • poor navigation - no 'Next' button - The website appeared to be designed for people with A1 eyesight and the dexterity of people who can always thread a needle with a tiny eye first time. There was no preview page with small thumbnails which enlarged when clicked. Instead it presented images one at a time - so if you want to see all the images you have to click through to the end. To move to the next one you had to press a number rather than a next button - and all the numbers of the images are in a teeny tiny font and they're all really close together. Obviously there was no perceived need to make it easy for people to move to the next image - by having a 'NEXT' icon. My reaction - this type of website design feature alone will make me close down a website and move on - it's just so inconsiderate.
  • Exhibitions - tiny type again. No margin at the top of the page which just looks really weird. Still listing as current exhibitions which occurred 3 months ago.
  • His CV was missing - he has a section on the website for his CV. This is what it says
    Not Found
    The requested URL /cv.html was not found on this server. Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
Bottom line for this artist - his art may be good but I'm not about to find out as I'm not going to be looking at it anytime soon. I closed the site down within a minute. And only opened it up again to write this post.

And here's some of my other pet hates:
  • websites which load slowly every time you try them. Change the host! Make sure that your site doesn't have a lot of redundant code.
  • over-engineered sites - these are the ones which include every website designer toy going. Bottom line - they distract from the art and only serve as a marketing tool for the website designer (for people who like toys)
  • websites which make you scroll sideways - these just get closed down straight away. That said, if you're still on an 800x600 screen I have to tell you 90% of the people who look at my site are on something bigger which is why I widened my Blogger template
  • too much on the page - 'busy' pages with lots of different styles and colours give me a real headache - and make me get out of there as soon as possible. I especially hate those which try to introduce all the icons from those that they wish to link with on what would otherwise be a carefully crafted page.
  • curly wurly fonts - I'm reading a website not your handwritten journal and nothing will persuade me that there is a place for curly wurly fonts on a website.
  • websites which fail to pass the "trunk test" - My friend Louise taught me all about the trunk test and maybe I can persuade her to elaborate as she tells it so much better than me. Bottom line - can you get back to your website's home page from every single one of your website pages - and have you tried?
We all struggle with website design (I know I do - which is why I use a webware company which offers templates) - or paying the extraordinary fees I have heard charged for website design. We're also all capable of making mistakes or identifying scope to improve our websites (including me - mine's definitely due for an overhaul). But I can't be the only person who gets very irritated when reviewing some artists' websites by certain aspects of their design and presentation.

What do you get irritated by? Let me know your 'pet peeves' by commenting below and then we can all avoid them in our next website redesign!

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  1. My pet website peeves are:

    Music (I've usually got something playing already, thank you);

    Clicking on a link that then opens in a new window (if I want it to do that, I'll do it myself);

    Sites designed so you can't deep link to a specific URL, only to a top page or section.

  2. Pet website peeves? Badly designed, old-fashioned fonts. Fonts that are too small. Remember that our population is aging rapidly, and more and more of us use reading glasses. Make the font bigger, people!

    Consistency in design between the pages on a site, so that once you've mastered the navigation scheme on one page, you've mastered it on all pages.

  3. Since I try to educate young artists in the business of art, and it is a business, one of my pet peeves is that if they want to actually sell work they need to have an easy way to sell their work online.

    Esoteric is nice, if that's all you want to do (i.e. you don't want to sell anything) but if you are looking for a long term career you need to design a site that will help to that end.

  4. I am in the process of building my web-site ... myself I might add, no template. I'm loving it.

    I am wondering what you think about having a link to my blog on it. I'm not thrilled with the word blog if I use it should I call is something else?

    I enjoy reading your blog so much....

  5. Oh.... what is a pet peeve for me is when I have to look and look and still can not find out what your medium is that you are working in. Sometimes it's just not easy to tell if it's oil, pencil, watercolor.... or possibly photography.

  6. Oh I absolutely agree about music, or any noise for that matter.

    The other thing that amazes me is that some artists who appear to be fairly competent with regard to their art, nevertheless have absolutely no taste with regard to type or design and display their work in the most horribly designed web sites.

    Finally a very common one and I know it's a personal peeve, but I hate reversed out text when it's large chunks of text, so I very rarely bother to read the text on blogs with a black background. Photography often looks good displayed on a black background, but don't expect me to read anything beyond a title if the text is white reversed out of black.

  7. Wow - some excellent suggestions here, most of which are things I forgot!

    I think I'll do a resume of the comments as a blog post when everybody has finished commenting.

    Keep posting even if you agree with what's been written as I think I'm going to do this in order of the most hated!

  8. Great discussion. Its funny some of the things mentioned by you and others here are things I like...

  9. Nancy - yes, certainly have a link to your blog on your website. Some people even think it's better if your blog is linked to your website's domain - drives up the hits.

    I resisted using "blog" for ages and ages - but it's what everybody says and in the end I went with the general flow on this one. But it could be nicer.............

  10. Now Nicole - it's got to be the music hasn't it? You just always have to remind me how much younger you are than me.......... ;)

  11. Marion - like you I don't like a new window opening for each website page, but I do like images to open in a new window. Too often I find myself on a website and I click on an image, admire it, close it - and I've lost the website!

  12. Websites with links that open up in the same new window. I don't really care if a new window opens or not, but if it does and I click on Gallery and then About I want them to be in two separate new windows, not About loading on top of Gallery.

    Flash intro pages without an easy text way out. Anything on the front page that requires a plug-in my computer might want to load up.

    And yes, music and reversed text annoy me too. I tend to mute the computer so I don't have to deal with the former.

  13. Ah yes music is one way to see my hasty retreat from a site! The other is a flash start page or one with nothing on it but some tiny name or image so I have to sit there wondering how the &*#% I get into the site.

    Another annoyance for me are those pages that morph into the next page. They sort of 'dissolve'. They always freak me out a bit.

    Finally, a page that won't let you get out of it. You press 'back' and it won't go back - ever - so you have to go back to your search page or another site you know the name of it get away from the horrible glue-like site.

    Ok, rant over, I can sleep now.

  14. I hate splash pages. Cut to the chase.

    I hate not being able to link directly to a page within a site (just to the top level). I know how to get around this, but why should I have to?

    I hate black backgrounds. I will tolerate them when the print is white, but blue on black? I'm gone. Same thing for busy backgrounds. No. Text on plain background only, please, and preferably a nice white background with black text. Then I can read it.

    Sites with no way to get from one image to the next (without going back to the thumbnails page). Give me a "next" button!

    Teenyweeny fonts.

    Poor photography. Give me a nice sharp photo, or don't bother! Detail shots in addition to whole-piece shots are nice.

    Specify piece dimensions.

    Tell the price. Don't say "email me for price."

  15. Wow - what a lot of comments!

    I've now got this on my list of blog posts 'to do' to come back to and try and summarise what irks people the most.

    Thanks again for all your comments

  16. Nope not the music - I can't stand that either... I like small print! Nothing worse to me, than a page with huge print! I do understand the issues with the small type though!


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