Top missed website usability issues




Usability is a measurement on how easy a website or user interface is to use. This term is also used to refer to how to improve the overall ease-of-use when designing an interface.
The core components of usability are:

  • Learnability: Can users accomplish basic tasks on their very first visit? Is it intuitive?
  • Efficiency: Once the user has learned the system can they do the tasks quickly?
  • Memorability: How easy is the system to use after not using it for a period of time?
  • Errors: How many issues did the user run into, how severe were they, and how easily can they recover from them?
  • Satisfaction: Is it fun and easy to use?
  • Utility: Does it do what the user needs?

General Website Tips

Use a descriptive tagline of what your website does

Have you ever been frustrated by a website after searching high and low and still cannot find out what they do? Consider starting a practice of having a one line descriptive slogan of what the business does on the homepage or every page. Not some lame marketing jargon but plain easy to understand English of what the site is for; if your parents could read it and get it you should be all set.

Using the Window <TITLE>

The number one factor to how your page is indexed in search engines is the description used in the pages title. Start getting away from the old “Company Name > About” style and move to “KEYWORD PHRASES RELEVANT TO THIS PAGE | Company Name” and excluded the company name if you feel it is not necessary.

Search Box Tips

  • You do not need to add the text “Search” in front of a textbox if there is a button that reads “Search” to the right that the user is supposed to click on. People have caught on, this is now intuitive behavior and it’s ok to remove that redundancy.
  • General rule of thumb, make your search box 27 characters wide.
  • Definitely include search on your site if it has over 100 pages

Having a Home link on the homepage

If you are on the homepage you don’t need to have the Home button in the navigation. If you have a consistent navigation on all pages that includes the Home page that at least make sure that the navigation element is highlighted differently when they are on that page.

Name and Logo

Include the name of your site and the logo on every page; link the logo to the homepage.

Links go to new pages, Buttons perform actions

As a general rule of thumb text links should take you to a new page when you click on them and buttons should submit some type of information or take you to the next step in a process.

Using PDF’s on your website

As a general rule of thumb you should try to avoid using PDF’s on your website when possible. They break the natural flow of website browsing. Often users will click on a link and not know it was a PDF link, it then opens up and they have to wait for it to download and for acrobat to start running within the browser and then often times they close it immediately and end up closing their entire web browser. Plus a PDF is just a mass of content that is very difficult to navigate through. Use PDFs if you are distributing large documents that the user needs to print, or documents that must be formatted in a very specific way.

Avoiding Banner Blindness

Studies show that users now understand what banners and advertisements look like on websites and often look right past them. This means it is very important to ensure your content and images do not look like banners. Avoid creating images the size that banners usually are, avoid blinking or animated images, and definitely avoid using traditional pop-ups when at all possible. Text only ads are now proving to be the most successful banner ads because users are still reading them.

Don’t open new browser windows

When you think about building websites you must always be thinking what is intuitive and what is consistent. You don’t want to break many of the normal browsing norms because you want users to feel at home on your site and have little to learn. If you program your site to start opening windows up in a new browsers as users clicks you open up a world of issues. The first and most important is that the back button does not work on the new window; and this button is extremely popular and critical when navigating the web. The second is that different web browsers handle new windows differently. In one it may be a new window or perhaps a new tab, and if it’s a new tab and then moves the user to that page they have to scan their tabs to get back to where they were. Remember, the user always has the option to make the decision themselves if they want the link to open up in a new window by right clicking or CTRL clicking on a link on your site.

Restrictive Form Behavior

Rethink your website forms. Remember that each field that the user has to fill out is some burden to them, so if you don’t need or use the salutation don’t ask for it, and ask yourself that question for each form field. When asking for phone numbers don’t split it into three separate boxes when one will do. Don’t require the user to type the phone number in a specific format or their credit card in a specific format if it doesn’t really matter. Is that field REALLY required or do you just feel it would be nice to have? Think about your forms a bit more, make them easier for your users, not just easier for you.

Splash Screens and all Flash Sites

Don’t do it, they give the impression that the website is more concerned with its own image then that of the users actual needs and their time.

Think about your Typography

You can achieve more with choosing the right fonts, sizes, colors and placement then you can achieve with large graphics and bloated designs.

Website Supplements

Email Newsletters

Your viewer is engaged in your information while they are on your website, but once they are done you have lost that connection. They might not ever come back. Enticing users to sign up for an email newsletter can help you maintain a long relationship with them, providing them with timely, useful updates and always keeping you in the forefront of their mind.

Website Content

Author Biographies

The web can be an anonymous playground. To increase credibility when running a blog website include biographies about each of the bloggers. This increases their credibility and the likely hood that readers will take anything they have to say to heart.

Author Photos

Face and image recognition is far more powerful then remembering words and names. Including a photo of the author can create a longer lasting, personal impression and also helps with your articles credibility.

Article Headlines

An articles headline must be extremely descriptive. The user should be able to know what they are going to be reading and getting by the headline alone. The first time a user visits your site it might not be through your homepage, it maybe directly to an article. They may not have any idea what the sites content is normally about, you only have seconds to grab them with your headline. Headlines become ever more important when considering RSS and blog syndication. If a user sees only your headline through their RSS reader then that is all you have to entice them with. Make it count.

High Quality Photography

If you are using stock photos do not use low quality personal photos or clipart. There are many services including where you can buy high quality photos for a couple of dollars. Cheezy and poor quality photos are an instant turnoff. Remember that photos are not just for decoration, think how these photos are actually improving the users experience. Having happy faces won’t help you at all unless it is directly relating to how someone uses your product or how it can affect your visitor.

Making your Link Count

Use descriptive language when making links on your page. Users do not want to follow a path of unknown links or waste their time clicking on something if they are not sure it will lead them to what they need. Having descriptive language can be something like this “Michael Scott recently published an article on the Scranton branches performance.” Rather than “Michael Scott recently published an article on the Scranton branches performance, you can see it here.”
I do feel that the occasional Click Here to Download is perfectly acceptable. I think users still do fairly well with action text.

Use Color to Distinguish Visited and Unvisited Links

What links you can click on are naturally blue and underlined. After you click on a link and visit the page the links will be purple and underlined the next time you see them. That is the default behavior of the browser, but web designers often change these colors and conventions to better suit their design preferences or the brand of the website. If you must change your website link colors at least make sure you retain some difference in colors between your visited and non-visited links.

Cross Link your Articles

Often when a user is writing an article it maybe a lightly cover topics that the author has previously developed. When this is the case it is beneficial to link to that content naturally within the articles language. For example, if you are writing about investment options for a college graduate and you are writing a brief overview about Roth IRAs, you should link the text Roth IRAs to a previous article where the user could read more about the meat and potatoes if they wish.

Timeline and Categories

Web content is often driven by date, but that is rarely a good way to browse content on a website. Make sure to create categories to put your content in so your readers can find content that meets their needs easily. 10 to 20 categories should do and you should be very selective when categorizing your content. Putting it in too many categories could quickly defeat the purpose.

Publishing Frequency

If you want to create a loyal readership for your website or blog you must publish on a regular schedule. Monthly might work for your audience but weekly or daily is preferred. Whichever you choose you will need to stick to a schedule otherwise it may be difficult for you to keep a consistent set of readers, and even harder to get that audience to grow.

Finding your niche

There are blogs and websites that tailor to all demographics and interests. As the web continues to grow and blogs become more and more prevalent it will continue to get more important to find your niche. If you want to emerge as a new blogging all star it would behoove of you to start blogging on a very specific, very specialized topic.

Knowing your audience

Your content must have an audience in mind. When you are writing it you will be creating it for a specific person looking for help or information on a specific topic. Also consider who might be reading this down the road, friends, family, future bosses.

Write for low literacy

Tailor your content and writing style to the lowest level you can, instead of trying to think of a more intelligent word to use, think of an easier one.

Owning your website

I feel bad for the people who have build successful blogs using or or .vox or any other free blogging system. Why you ask? Because even if you have 1,000,000 readers a day they really own everything you have built up. What if your blogging host gets bought out or switches directions? What if they are not keeping up with the latest and greatest blogging tools and you want to switch platforms? You will have a very hard time getting your readership to your new site. Invest the $9 a year and buy your own .com, .net or other domain name and make sure you build your website empire on that.

Commerce Tips

Informative Product Pages

Assume the user is an extreme novice. You can keep the jargon talk for the experts if you wish, but please make sure that the new guy can figure it out as well. For example you can say that the monitor “is a WSXGA+” … or you can say “that it is a WSXGA+ that supports up to a 1680x1050 screen resolution allowing you to see more on your screen than usual”

High Quality Photography

Taking pictures of your products? Ensure that they are professional quality photos; poor photos can turn users off very quickly. If you create thumbnails that the users can rollover and click on for larger photos. Make sure the photo is significantly larger. It kills me when you are on a site like and you click for a larger photo and the new photo that pops up is barely any better.

Product Comparisons

Sell many products that are similar to each other? Varying in features and price? Then include a way for users to easily compare them with each other. When a person has too many choices they will be paralyzed with the decision making process. They will be too afraid of making the wrong decision. Having information that clearly defines the differences can quickly increase your sales.

Support Ease of Future Orders

If you just bought a brand new laptop from Dell imagine getting an email 2 weeks later with links to easily checkout with a new briefcase, or docking station. Or if it is an office supplies store or online grocer save what the user bought last time so they can quickly do a re-order of similar products.

Catering to older generations

The 55+ age market is still the fastest growing segment of new internet users. As this continues to grow make sure that your website can be easily browsed by them and caters to their needs. Make your fonts bigger, and make them resizable. Create an atmosphere that promotes trust and this audience will be a very loyal customer base.

Gift Giving Support

Allow users to donate and give contributions on your website if it makes sense. Or, allow users to create accounts and build wishlists that they can email to friends and family so they know what they want for birthdays and Christmas gifts.

Loyalty Programs

Consider building loyalty programs for your current customer base to get encourage repeat business. Free shipping, discounted pricing and exclusive first right to new product offerings are great starters!


Much of these ideas and theories came from writing by Jakob Nielson & Don Norman




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