Top 10 Usability Mistakes

- December 22, 2006

Usability of your website is very crucial to its success and often sites make mistakes which have a negative impact on the website. I have comprised a list of top mistakes made today when it comes to usability.

1. Poor categorization and labeling of information
Issues with site structure and the naming system of the main categories are among the most damaging problems for a website. Too often websites reflect the internal structure and labels used by the organization, rather than those of their customers. This can cause the customer to become confused and frustrated, ultimately leaving the site.

2. Poor navigation
Even if a site is well organized and information is in clearly labeled categories, the design of the navigation elements can undo all the good work. Developing a navigation which is easy to use and clearly showcases its sections is key.

3. Cluttered page layout
Many pages are difficult for users to scan because the design is cluttered. Information isn’t aligned and there is too much unused space. The most important information on a page isn’t clear at a glance. Few pages make effective use of section headlines and sub headlines, so that it is obvious how the information on a page is structured.

4. Inconsistencies with web design conventions
People spend most of their time at other sites. That’s why it’s crucial that your site follows standard design conventions and behaves as visitors would expect. Inconsistencies will make your site harder to use and less intuitive.

5. Lack of content
It is amazing how little thought goes into understanding who website users are and why they are using a site. Understanding who your users are and providing them with rich content will help to improve your conversion rates.

6. Too much content
While too little content can be a problem, we more often hear complaints about too much content. Users balk at the idea of reading long pages of text online. Research has shown that people read up to 25% slower from a computer screen as opposed to paper. Having too much content on any given page will cause the prospect to feel overwhelmed and ultimately not read the copy provided on the page.

7. Poor use of links
People move around on the web by clicking on things. That’s why it’s got to be obvious what a user can and can’t click. Too many sites today have buttons which don’t seem like something which is clickable. The only way you find this link is by mistakenly move your cursor over it.

8. Scrolling for crucial information
Having users scroll down to find crucial information can spell big trouble for your website. You always want the user to be able to see your Call To Action when they first load the page.

9. Overusing bold and upper case copy
Using bold and upper case text has a way of standing out to the user. However, over-use of this can have a negative impact and should be avoided. I am sure you have heard the saying “Too much of a good thing is bad”? Well this is no different.

10. Browser and Resolution Incompatibility
Compatibility issues between browsers and resolutions can be a real issue and if not dealt with correctly. What looks correct in one browser and resolution may not look the same in another. W3Schools reports that as of July 2006 that 58% of users have a resolution of 1024×768 and 49% use internet explorer 6.0.

Screen resolutions for the month of July 2006

2006 Higher 1024×768 800×600 640×480 Unknown
July 19% 58% 17% 0% 6

Browser Statistics for the month of November

2006 IE7 IE6 IE5 FireFox Mozilla Netscape
November 7.1% 49.9% 2.9% 29.9% 2.5% 0.

Designing for multiple browsers and screen resolutions is key for keeping users on your website. There are tools which enable you to test your website on multiple browsers and resolutions with ease. One known product out there currently is Browser Cam.

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