5 Common Website Blunders Designed to Infuriate Your Customers

Last Updated Apr 25, 2011 2:52 PM EDT

Your Website is supposed to be a convenience for your customers, right? So why do so many companies insist on baking in ludicrous or tone-deaf elements that frustrate and alienate those very same customers?

You can see examples of bad Web design everywhere, and you don't have to be a Web designer to recognize them. The trick is being observant or savvy enough to point these glitches out to your Web designer so you don't foist these problems on your own customers. Keir Thomas at PC World recently rounded up his take on the 5 worst Web design blunders, and I think he's spot on:

1. Don't insist that customers get Adobe Reader. Don't get me wrong: It's okay to post PDF files to your Web site. But there are many, many programs capable of reading those documents, and virtually every one of them is better than Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader is so slow, bloated, and such a vector for malware, that you might as well throw buckets of pig blood at your visitors instead. As an alternative, consider using the Free Software Foundation Europe graphic for free PDF readers.

2. Avoid requiring plug-ins. By and large, the days of plug-ins are gone. These days, you can't be sure what kind of device your customers will arrive at your site with: PC? Mac? Smartphone? iPad? Saying that "your PC is missing the XYZ plug-in is sort of like saying "you need a buggy whip to start this car." It's frustrating to folks who can't run the plug-in on their iPhone, and it sounds a little out of touch with modern Web design. You can probably do what you need with HTML5 instead.

3. Don't tell people to upgrade their browser. What does that even mean? Does it apply if they're using Chrome or Firefox? You're making it sound like the customer has done something wrong, whereas in reality, there's a 97% chance that your site is the one that's problematic.

4. Don't automatically redirect customers to country-specific sites. If I fly to Paris for a conference and try to log into my bank, the last thing I want it to do is automatically redirect me to a French-language version of the site just because of my location. I haven't magically developed the ability to read French in the last few hours.

5. Don't force your mobile site on customers. Even better, don't do mobile sites at all; that's very 2002. These days, a better solution is to create a handful of apps for all the major mobile device platforms. That avoids the compromises you have to make when developing a mobile site, and it prevents glitches in which customers accidentally get forced to view a mobile page even if they're on a laptop or desktop.

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