: home
Digital Marketing: more stuff

12 deadly sins of website design

In one of my chapters of Online Marketing - a customer led approach I present the BBC's 12 deadly sins of web site design as an excellent guide to web development.

Sadly, it is no longer readily avaiable online - so I thought I would add it to this website. Note that it is from 2002.

As part of an ongoing assessment of how companies were performing on the web, the BBC's Training and Development section conducted a survey of 62 websites, benchmarking them against key criteria of what the authors consider to be good website design. Those criteria were based on 12 different and common faults as advised by the unit's manager of New Media Training, Jonathon Hall. The report didn't judge the sites, but simply considered whether or not they fall foul of the '12 sins'. The 12 tests that formulate the guide are:

  1. How many mouse clicks to a phone number when starting at the home page?

  2. Is there an opportunity to give feedback/pose questions and is this achieved using external email addresses or online forms?

  3. Is there animation on the site? If so, does this slow down progress within the site and prove to be gimmicky or is it useful?

  4. Does the site use fussy backgrounds that distract from the text.

  5. Are there typing errors or spelling mistakes held within the text of the site?

  6. Does the site contain broken or dead links?

  7. Are there misleading headings/links that don't wholly correspond to the pages they describe?

  8. Does the site contain 'orphan' pages (pages with no content e.g. returning a '404' message)?

  9. Does the homepage have a fast (under 5 seconds) or slow (over 5 seconds) download time?.

  10. Does the website display links on its home page which are one way?

  11. Does the site contain pop-up windows that appear without the request of the user?

  12. Does the website contain an internal search engine that will locate specific information within the site? If so, what is the quality of the search engine?

UPDATE: February 2019

These issues date back to the last century - when many of the folk reading this won't have even been born. However, despite everything that has happened in the digital environment since then, it comes as no surprise to me that they are all still as valid now as they were then.

Every web design should know these off-by-heart and any web design-related course should have these in its exam - and if anyone doesn't get them all right they should not be allowed to get anywhere near a commercial web site.

A final note is that none of these 12 is rocket science ... more like common sense. Well, they are common sense to anyone who recognises that a website should be designed for the user, not the designer or his/her employer.

How to cite this article:
Charlesworth, A. (2007). 12 deadly sins of website design. Retrieved [insert date] from

This page was first published in 2007 ... but it may have been updated or amended since then.
signature - Alan Charlesworth

Alan Charlesworth copyright notice

cookies message