The SNO Report: Don’t do what Donny Don’t does

At SNO, we’re so proud of the student news sites our customers design and operate. The custom capabilities of the FLEX platform coupled with the creativity of journalism advisers and their staff produce amazing results. Seriously. So since we spend all day looking at great websites, and because the list of what-not-to-do’s is shorter than the list of what-to-do’s, we thought we’d share a few ideas on some design elements to avoid. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk tons about the what-to-do’s when we open submissions for the SNO Distinguished Sites program in a few weeks!)

Consider these pro-tips before adding these elements to your site:

A weather widget

We get it. People love weather. We love weather. But your visitors aren’t coming to your site to check weather, and this widget will only take up valuable space that could be used for news content.

Confetti animation

Confetti is fun on New Year’s or at a wedding, but those are very short periods of time and then we put the confetti away. Think of your website in the same way––confetti can be fun for a short celebration, but not as a permanent design element on your site.

Countdown Widgets

Notice the plural on widgets. We’re not saying don’t use them at all; counting is fun! Especially counting down. But be judicious in the frequency and volume of countdown widgets–– they can absolutely be overdone. Remember your audience comes to your site for school news, so guard all available space jealously.


In this context, I’m referring to the overuse of uncurated photos. It can be very tempting to upload 30 pictures of cute couples smiling at the Homecoming dance, but bulk photos can easily become the visual equivalent of white noise. Similarly, photo galleries of all recently added photos can lose meaning quickly. Instead, choose your featured images carefully and be picky, your readers will thank you.

Site visit counter

Consider how useful this information will be to your readers. Given the behind-the-scenes analytics that come packaged with your SNO site, this widget is almost always unnecessary.

There, that wasn’t so bad now, was it? Again, we’ll talk more about how to design a great website (we’ve got TONS of ideas about that!) when we open theDistinguished Sites program very soon. Until then, happy news-ing!