Do you still use any of these on your website? By Tavis J. Hampton
The Web changes at a remarkable rate, and most websites are usually slow to adopt new standards and innovative design techniques. The reason is simple. Creating a new website often costs money and always takes time, both of which are in short supply these days.
Nevertheless, websites originally created in 1999 should not still look like they did back then. At some point, it is time to move on, even if the new design is a simple template developed by someone else. There are plenty of poor design techniques, some of them more recent than others, but the following are seven that should have died a long time ago.
If you are relatively new to the web, you might not even recognize this one. Fortunately, only a very few sites still use it. An image map is a clever way to make portions of an image clickable within a browser. Rather than slicing an image into clickable pieces, an image map plots points on the image and references them to hyperlinks.
Under ideal conditions, an image map can be useful for things like actual maps of locations. The problem is that many web designers started using them as the sole means of navigation on a site. That lead to accessibility problems and slow page loading for large images.
One of the worst ideas anyone ever came up with, was a menu that required the Java plugin before it would even load. Imagine going to a website and being told that you cannot even navigate it without going to Java.com and downloading a plugin. Fortunately, this practice seems to have withered a bit, but there are many legacy sites still around that use it.
Unlike image maps and Java menus, Flash-only sites are still thriving. Movie studios are notorious for using nothing but Flash. If you disable Flash, do not have the right version, or use a device that does not support it (such as the iPad or iPhone), you get a blank page or a message telling you to install it.
Please do not ever think your site is so important that people must go to another site, agree to a license, download a plugin, restart their browser, and then go back to your site to view your content. You will lose customers, and it will be no one’s fault but your own. Furthermore, Flash creates accessibility problems for people with visual impairment and other exceptional needs. If you must use Flash, offer an alternative as well. If you need help, web hosts like dedicated web hosting provider 34SP.com offer free installation of content management systems that use pre-designed templates.
This one was always a bit silly, but some people still insist on it. A marquee is an element on a web page that has scrolling or bouncing text. It is annoying, looks like the sign in the front yard of a middle school, and really adds no value to your site.
Originally, the marquee was something developed for Microsoft Internet Explorer only, but other browsers support it only for legacy purposes. In other words, it is not W3C standards compliant, and should be avoided. If you must have moving text for whatever twisted reason, there are safer ways to achieve it.
As if scrolling text were not awful enough, some people feel the need to make their text blink. Do you really want your website held responsible for giving someone a seizure? It seems some web designers still do, and they very rarely stop at just one. No, each corner of the page must blink because that is the only way to get people to click on useless content.
The blink element is a non-standard HTML element that was invented for Netscape Navigator, but let me be clear; any method of making text blink is abominable. Why would you want your website to look like an infomercial?
Granted, there are some situations where a pop-up window might serve a valid purpose, but some sites still insist on using them for advertisements. Pop-ups are not cool, and no one will invite you to their barbeques when they find out it was your website that spawned 30 pop-ups all over their computer screen, two of which made their children cover their eyes.
There are now more elegant ways to raise a distinct element of a web page, such as modal windows, but even those should not be used for ads. Most web browsers now block traditional pop-ups by default, so that should be a sign to you that ads should be limited to specific locations on a page, not flying in front of it or literally popping out of it.
When designing a new site, be sensible. If you really do not know better techniques than the ones above, it is time to take a refresher course. For those old sites that still use them, it is time to stop neglecting your creations and upgrade.