Website Blunders of Even Top Designers!
1. Bad Search
Overly literal search engines reduce usability in that they're unable to handle
typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the query terms. Such search
engines are particularly difficult for elderly users, but they hurt everybody.
A related problem is when search engines prioritize results purely on the basis
of how many query terms they contain, rather than on each document's importance.
Much better if your search engine calls out "best bets" at the top of the list -
- especially for important queries, such as the names of your products.
Search is the user's lifeline when navigation fails. Even though advanced search
can sometimes help, simple search usually works best, and search should be
presented as a simple box, since that's what users are looking for.
2. PDF Files for Online Reading
Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their
flow. Even simple things like printing or saving documents are difficult because
standard browser commands don't work. Layouts are often optimized for a sheet of
paper, which rarely matches the size of the user's browser window. Bye-bye
smooth scrolling. Hello tiny fonts.
Worst of all, PDF is an undifferentiated blob of content that's hard to navigate.
PDF is great for printing and for distributing manuals and other big documents
that need to be printed. Reserve it for this purpose and convert any information
that needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages.
3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
A good grasp of past navigation helps you understand your current location,
since it's the culmination of your journey. Knowing your past and present
locations in turn makes it easier to decide where to go next. Links are a key
factor in this navigation process.
Users can exclude links that proved fruitless in their earlier visits.
Conversely, they might revisit links they found helpful in the past. Most
important, knowing which pages they've already visited frees users from
unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.
These benefits only accrue under one important assumption: that users can tell
the difference between visited and unvisited links because the site shows them
in different colors. When visited links don't change color, users exhibit more
navigational disorientation in usability testing and unintentionally revisit the
same pages repeatedly.
4. Non-Scannable Text
A wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring.
Painful to read. Write for online, not print. To draw users into the text and
support scannability, use well-documented tricks:
- bulleted lists
- highlighted keywords
- short paragraphs
- the inverted pyramid
- a simple writing style, and
- de-fluffed language devoid of marketese.
5. Fixed Font Size
CSS style sheets unfortunately give websites the power to disable a Web
browser's "change font size" button and specify a fixed font size. About 95
percent of the time, this fixed size is tiny, reducing readability significantly
for most people over the age of 40.