Nowadays, all retailers should have a website. This much we know to be true. But as with so many things in life, web design trends come and go. In fact, some websites exhibit strange styles choices that were never in fashion to begin with.

Back in the mid-90s, most websites were pretty horrible to look at. Either that, or they were plain and boring. Today, there are some gorgeous ecommerce web designs out there. But there still exists a wide range of flashing, brightly colored, overcrowded and poor quality websites in the digital ethos, just waiting for some poor hapless soul to stumble across them.

From these shining, Flash-animated, vaguely terrifying examples, we can learn what not to do when it comes to making our own ecommerce websites, and what to avoid when browsing new websites for sale ourselves ? investing in badly designed site may cost you a pretty penny… Don?t do it people!

Right folks, what do we like about this website?

It?s hard to know where to start with this one…

At first glance, it?s like someone cut up a catalogue and made a collage from their favorite listings. At second glance ? yes, it?s the same. That?s exactly what it looks like.

Here are just a few of the many things wrong with it:

  • It?s overcrowded (that?s an understatement)
  • There?s no informational hierarchy ? we don?t know where to begin
  • The graphics are small and poor quality

As you arrive on this one-of-a-kind car rental website, the second thing you?ll notice, after the explosion of color and animation that hits your eyes, is the intensely off-putting music that starts playing automatically.

Here are a few things that aren?t working:

  • First off, it?s an assault to the senses
  • There?s far too much going on ? sounds, colors, animation, brains?
  • Despite this compelling graphic, I don?t know if I do trust Ling

Now, the first thing you?ll need to do when you arrive at is chosen whether you want to view it in HTML or Flash. Choose well.

Just who is Penny Juice? Great question. As you can see, people have a lot to say about Penny Juice. Finally, a 100% juice that kids will drink! Available in bright yellow, pink, green, blue, purple and orange.

Penny Juice teaches us that:

  • There is such a thing as too much color
  • The best place for your menu is not in tiny writing at the bottom of the screen
  • Adobe Flash is dying

Another Flash-based dominion of terror! Patimex, a Polish charcoal company, has a very special mascot ? a grinning devil barbecuing a sausage. What you can?t see from the image is that the mascot also bounces around the screen and sings. You cannot take your eyes off him.

Here?s what we can take away:

  • Audio autoplay is a singularly off-putting feature in a website
  • Devils don?t make cute mascots ? consider what your graphics say about your brand
  • Adobe Flash is dying

Wait, Suzanne Collins as in the author of The Hunger Games trilogy? Yes. This is her website. It?s not what you were expecting, is it?

The website is bare, and the first call to action we see takes us to another website: one with little on it except a request to download Adobe Flash Player. For a dynamic author of futuristic teen books, it?s surprising that this website looks and acts the way it does.

What?s wrong with this website?

  • It?s full of dead links
  • It?s designed for 200% zoom, so it looks strange and sparse on a desktop
  • It?s dated and unexciting ? downloadable documents galore

Ok, so compared to the others, this one doesn?t look too bad. But it?s not good either.

There?s a scrolling carousel of 32 promotional images that hit you right in the face ? like this one of a very ?stock image? employee. It?s dated and bland ? where the others have over-compensated to give their websites ?character?, this one has done the opposite.

What we can learn:

  • There will always be a better menu heading than ?Things We Do For You?
  • Some explanatory text on the homepage that explains what you?re about is helpful
  • If you have to use stock images, there are better stock images out there

Low Price

Welcome to the black hole that is Low Price Skates. Clearly, there?s something missing from the top section here. Who knows what that could be? More skates pics, one must presume.

Low Prices Skates offers free shipping from $99.99 ? what a great deal! Presumably, it means when you spend $99.99 ? but regardless, it?s not very clear.

We have a lot of images crowded onto the homepage, with tiny text descriptions that even a person with impeccable eyesight would struggle to read from a reasonable distance. The copy also reads like it?s been written for SEO, not users, as you?ll see from this paragraph on quad speed skates:

That?s a lot of keyword stuffing, right there.

So, what can we learn?

  • For one thing, make sure your website displays properly
  • Keep all text at a reasonable, legible size ? 16px should be the minimum
  • Optimizing for SEO requires more than including the same keyword over and over

Yvettes Bridal Formal

Gosh! What a lot of things there are to look at here.

We have a tuxedo model ? the same picture twice? ? intermingled in a collage-like style with what appears to be a footbridge. We have no way of knowing how the footbridge is involved.

The menu and copy we see on this page look like it was created in Microsoft Paint. There?s little to distinguish content from links. And the color palette is absolute madness.

We?ve not even looked at the gowns and veils page yet! Here it is:

It?s quite something. Yvette is obviously passionate about what she does. She seems to do many things.

This website teaches us that:

  • Too many choices make taking the next step paralyzing
  • Updates are important ? it?s not been PROM 2010!!! for quite some time?
  • LESS IS MORE !!!!!!!!!!!! **

Now, most of these websites are quite old ? but they?re still out there on the web. Even today, there are plenty of newer e-commerce websites making simple design and usability mistakes that will affect users? impressions of the brand ? and its ability to make sales. So if you?re thinking of creating a website for your online business, say no to bad web design!?

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, Victoria Ecommerce, she shares tips on e-commerce and how writers can hone their craft. She is passionate about using her experience to help e-commerce companies increase their brand reach.

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