There are many web designs that work to scare people away from their sites, rather than keep people coming back. These designs should be avoided if you don't want your site to be labeled the “Worst of the Web.”
Site Design Shouldn’t be Scary
If your site is scary, it should be because it’s about Halloween or horror movies. The design should help your readers get into the mood of your page without inflicting pain or annoyance. And by avoiding these common web horrors, you keep them returning to be scared by something you want them to be afraid of (How about fake blood or zombies?).
Blinking, Flashing, Rotating, or Spinning Images
Things that blink and flash attract attention. Our eyes are attracted to the movement, but just because they attract attention doesn't mean they are good design. Using animated GIF images can be done well to create a movie-like effect, or it can be done poorly like the image here. Click on the image to see what I mean.
There used to be an ad on my site (it may be still there) that induced migraines in myself and some readers. This is bad design. Your images should not inflict pain on your readers. Just because you can make it blink doesn’t mean you should make it blink.
Sites made with these types of images, especially as background images, can be so scary that I'm not going to include an example page. If you can't imagine what a page with that flashing rainbow background would look like, you should be glad!
Unless you’re a professional designer, you should avoid dark backgrounds with light text. Even when it’s done well, it can look pretentious, and it’s VERY difficult to do well. Plus, some browsers try to print the background color—resulting in angry customers when their new ink cartridge is used up printing one page.
All the problems with dark backgrounds listed above still apply when you use dark text, but dark text on a dark background adds a second annoying feature—illegibility. If there isn't a lot of contrast between your text and the background your readers won’t stick around long to try and figure it out. They will just leave.
This is very popular with new web page designers. They learn how to create and use tiled backgrounds, and so decide to tile a picture of their cat that is 40x60 pixels. Or they just pick a background tile that is plaid or otherwise illegible. Tiled background images add to the download time, and they almost never add recognizeable value from the customer’s perspective. The one exception is a wide tile (wider than your screen) to create a left-side gutter on the screen.
Centering everything may seem like a great way to design a page—it looks different from standard design and isn’t too hard to do. But centered designs are boring because they are so even. There is no clear place to look and so your readers’ eyes just skip across the design. Plus it’s hard to read.
Another tempting design technique for novices is to use emphasis too much. When everything stands out, nothing stand out. Use headlines, bold, and italics to highlight important features of the page, not to highlight everything.
Just like blinking images, blinking text should be avoided at all costs. In fact, some browsers don't support the
BLINK element and it's not part of the HTML specification. Blinking text is nearly impossible to read. And if you combine that with blinking backgrounds or blinking images, your page will be scarier than any haunted house.
Lists are important in web design, and so are links. But pages that are simply long lists of links without any explanatory text or images to break things up are boring. Compound this by making the clickable text just the URL and there is almost no reason for anyone to click on them. Plus, sites that have pages and pages like this look a lot like link farms which most search engines feel are spammy.
Unless you’re building a photo gallery or some other image-centered site, images should be used to decorate not dominate. This includes all those little icons that people put on their site to say that it’s “built with Joe’s Editor” and “runs best in IE version2million.” A rule of thumb: if you have more than 2 icons at the bottom of your page, you have too many. And believe me, no one is going to click on the 15th social media icon you add, you’re lucky if they click on the Facebook one.