10 User Interface / User Experience Mistakes

With all the lists out there about the “Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design” I figured a compiled list of the mistakes that most affect the user experience and interactions would be a handy thing to have around when giving a site the “once over.”

So, let’s jump right in, shall we?

1. Lack of a search feature

A recent observation of the advertising habits in Japan revealed that many companies are opting to display the search bar as a means for promoting their site instead of using actual URLs.

More and more people are relying on search engine functionality to find things in the ever-increasing collection of information on the Internet today. Neglecting to include a search feature would be a huge mistake and might ultimately end up costing you repeat visitors.

With services like Google’s CSE and Yahoo’s Search Builder creating your own custom search engine becomes a piece of cake. Everyone should have one. No really. Everyone.

2. Excessive Download Times

With more and more people using high-speed broadband connections you wouldn’t think this is an issue anymore, right? Wrong. It’s been calculated that approximately 55% of Americans now have broadband access, which is up from 47% last year, but that still means there’s a good portion of the population still using dial-up connections.

If users have to wait for long periods of time for information to load then their experience will suffer as a result. Keeping your pages to a respectable size can save you money in bandwidth costs as well, should your website succumb to a large influx of traffic all of a sudden.

3. Outdated Information

Have you ever been to a website that contained outdated information about the subject you were researching? It’s a drag isn’t it? Information on a website should be perused occasionally to make sure it’s still relevant to the audience. Otherwise, they may feel that the website doesn’t get updated frequently enough to want to check back.

4. Using Complex URLs

From a user experience standpoint it’s a good idea to keep your URLs short and sweet. This makes it easier for users to quickly type in a URLs they remember of say in an advertisement without having to remember a complex series of parameters.

Which one seems easier to remember?

  • www.furnitureoutlet.com/outdoor/furniture/collections
  • www.furnitureoutlet.com/jump.jsp?itemID=3559&itemType=CATEGORY&path=1,2,3558,3559

Search engines also weight these URLs higher for relevance because they actually contain keywords and not just a long string of server variables.

5. Long Scrolling Pages

Though not as much of an issue anymore, people really prefer not to have to scroll through a seemingly endless page to find some relevant content. Try to keep the most important information up at the top of the page (“above the fold” preferably).

6. Non-intuitive 404 Error Pages

An error page is a fact of life when running a website. People are going to mistype something or your website could be experiencing some issues. It’s always nice to include a customized 404 error page that contains some information a human can understand (and not just the default browser’s interpretation of the problem).

Things to consider when designing your 404 pages:

  • Explain to the user what happened and the possible causes and offer solutions
  • Avoid using technical terms, because most users will have no idea what they mean
  • Provide some helpful links that might help them get back on track, including a link back to the homepage
  • Include a search feature to help facilitate continued browsing
  • Brand error pages to keep a consistency with the rest of the website
  • Include a link to “Report a broken link”
  • Try a bit of humor to help lighten the users attitude toward the situation

Examples of good 404 error pages:

7. Inaccessible Navigation

If users have to search around to find out how to go from page to page chances are — they won’t — so it’s a good idea to try and keep your navigation consistent and accessible at all (or most) times.

8. Scrolling Text. Marquees, and Repetitive Animations (That Never Stop)

It’s every Web Designer’s nightmare to see scrolling text, marquees and annoying animated images on a website. With plenty of other ways to attract attention to information, that don’t cause seizures and temporary blindness, it’s best to leave these techniques in the past where they belong.

9. Unscannable Text

Breaking up information into sections that can be easily scanned will help users find the information they’re looking for quicker. The quicker they find information the happier they’ll be. People remember sites that are easy to read and scan through.

10. Using Frames

Back in 1996 Jakob Nielsen said it best:

“Splitting a page into frames is very confusing for users since frames break the fundamental user model of the web page. All of a sudden, you cannot bookmark the current page and return to it (the bookmark points to another version of the frameset), URLs stop working, and printouts become difficult. Even worse, the predictability of user actions goes out the door: who knows what information will appear where when you click on a link?”Jakob Nielsen

Just avoid them, because there really isn’t a compelling reason for using them anyway.

Conclusion

When creating a website it’s best to think about how your users are going to interact with the elements on the pages. Putting things on the page without regard for what that does to the experience can, and probably will, hurt the overall effectiveness of the website. There have been numerous advancements in the technology on the web today, and many of the old forms of website creation are not viable anymore and should be avoided at all costs.

Taking the time to avoid these things will greatly increase the chances of a successful website, and users will thank you with repeat traffic.

From the Journal

Jun 22nd
Alan Turing slate statue at Bletchley Park museum

Thank You Alan Turing

June 23rd will mark the 100th anniversary of the life of famous English mathematician Alan Turing.

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The Book Club

Cover of Designing for Emotion

Designing for Emotion

by Aarron Walter

Make your users fall in love with your site via the precepts packed into this brief, charming book by MailChimp user experience design lead Aarron Walter. From classic psychology to case studies, highbrow concepts to common sense, Designing for Emotion demonstrates accessible strategies and memorable methods to help you make a human connection through design.—Goodreads.com

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