One of the golden rules of website design is to always think about the website user. You want visitors to your site to have a good “user experience”. Sometimes even large companies loose sight of this concept.

I had a horrible user experience at ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) website recently. For those of you unfamiliar with the television show it pairs professional ballroom dancers with celebrities. (This season the cast includes Priscilla Presley, Kristi Yamaguchi and Steve Guttenberg.) The professional dancers teach the celebrities to ballroom dance. Every week a team is voted off the show.

Viewers participate in the voting process. As a visitor to the DWTS site I want to cast my votes. While I’m there I wouldn’t mind getting some backstage scoop, but my primary mission to to save my favorite dancers by casting my votes.

However casting votes is not an easy thing to do at the DWTS website.

  • The website is painfully slow to load because of the numerous video features and video ads. It is painfully slow.
  • I’m not sure what’s going on with the website navigation. Running the cursor over the menu choices causes almost a “stickiness”. It’s like the cursor is dragging its feet and doesn’t want to move. (OK, I know a cursor doesn’t have feet. But DWTS is a dancing show and under the circumstances it seems like a good description.)
  • Visitors to the site can cast multiple votes. Why you ask? Because each vote takes the user to a new page where ABC can show more ads. Showing ads seems to be the driving force behind this website. You register to vote and are taken to page one. You cast your vote and are taken to page two. Then you must return to page one again to cast another vote.Last week, in the frenzy to ensure that the users were exposed to as many ads as possible, someone missed a JavaScript error. JavaScript is a type of code that’s used in most websites. A JavaScript error is an error message that shows up when there’s a problem with the code. This particular JavaScript error was trying to tell the folks at ABC that once people had voted they wouldn’t be able move back to page one to cast another vote. Sadly no one thought to check for JavaScript errors.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against website advertising. I have literary websites and I show ads on them. That advertising revenue helps to pay for the expenses of the website. However I try to keep a good balance between the user experience and revenue generation.

Always keep the website user or visitor in mind when working on your website. You want them to be happy and you want them to visit your site again.

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