Stop! Before You Make Any Of These 5 Website Usability Mistakes

Stop Sign

I was reading Lisa’s post on site usability mistakes that bug her, and it reminded me to finish my own second list of annoyances on the web pages that bug me a lot. My first list can be found here.

I’ll start off by spotting two usability mistakes on Lisa’s blog (That’s how shameless I am!).

1. Flash based navigation

Lisa seems to be against the use of Flash – and so am I – but it struck me as strange that she was using a flash-based navigation menu on her own blog. I’d like to know why is that so Lisa?

I really love Flash (oh.. yeah you heard me right) I love Flash games, rich media served to me through Flash, and product tours and tutorials composed and served to me in Flash.

But I despise Flash-based content and navigation, because these are the areas where HTML does its job best. Flash is an overload and a bandwidth hog that simply does not need to be shoved down our throats.

2. Oh so long pages

I really liked Lisa’s post and went on to check out some of the other stuff on her blog. To my dismay, the home page of her blog was just wayyyy too long. I waited for a while for it to finish loading, but to no avail. It kept loading and loading, to the point that my scroll bar was reduced to pee size. I wanted to subscribe to her blog, but decided against it, for the page just won’t finish loading. Yes, I am on a slow connection, but that’s what the usability is all about. You have to take into account all kinds of readers and build your pages to be least annoying.

Long pages that are full of text also overwhelm users with a lot of information, and will most likely scare the potential readers away than make them want to read it all.

OK, now I’ll get off her back and list some other usability mistakes I’ve noticed on many websites/weblogs.

3. No footer!

Before someone else says it, yes, I didn’t even have a footer until yesterday and now I am bashing others for not using footers? Of course, now that I have decided that a footer is necessary for my blog, I have earned the right to list it off as a usability mistake. Everyone learns from their mistakes, and I have learned too.

A footer with credits, copyright information or anything else that is supposed to mark the end of your pages is really important. This information has to go somewhere else too, so why not make use of the footer and save other space for something more useful?

Some of my readers complained that they kept waiting for the footer to appear when they first loaded up the page, and thought that the page was still loading even though it had finished loading.. whoops!

4. Hidden links

Many pages have links within content that are almost indistinguishable from the regular text. I can discover a link only by accidentally hovering over the link anchor text.

Links are supposed to help us move around the pages on your blog, or find out more about the external sources you have linked to. If you want the links to remain hidden, why bother scattering them in the content in the first place?

Even though your links may be the same color as your regular text, you can make them stand out by setting their text-decoration to underline in your stylesheet. It can at least leave a hint for the users that something unusual is going in that part of the content.

5. Sign-up Pop-ups

Guess what makes me form a negative opinion about a service that I haven’t even used? It’s the sign-up pop-up the service owner starts pushing in my face as soon as I enter his website.

This is what landing pages are for. You first introduce the user to a product/service, highlight its salient features, and then encourage him to move onto the sign-up page or location. A blatant pop-up isn’t going to convert me into a subscriber or a customer. If anything, it’s going to make me turn around and never look back at your page again.

This is it. Combine these with other top 10 mistakes I listed earlier and you have got some basic understanding of how a user/reader thinks about your website, and how you can avoid driving him away even before you have presented your best content.

What are your usability pet peeves?

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