The Biggest Website Usability Mistakes

This article was originally written for ArrowQuick Solutions, a technology consultancy for small businesses.

Jakob Nielsen, one of the preeminent authorities on website usability, recently published an article called “Top 10 Information Architecture Mistakes” that discusses common mistakes made by web developers and webmasters.

At ArrowQuick, we talk about usability all the time with our clients. It’s a simple idea: make your site user-friendly so visitors will become customers.

Unfortunately, despite arguably being the biggest obstacle between a website and its visitors, poor usability is often paid the least attention. This leads to one of the most common mistakes we see, and problem number one in Nielsen’s list: No Structure for visitors browsing the site. Website content requires organization and focus.

Number two on his list is Search and Structure Not Integrated. A tight and seamless integration between normal navigation and internal search results helps users switch between the two as needed. It makes sense that Nielsen lists browsing (structure) and search as the first two mistakes. They are the two methods used to navigate a website, and together they form the base of information architecture.

But “good navigation” doesn’t mean “more navigation”. Let’s skip to #4 on his list: Extreme Polyhierarchy. You don’t want users to become frustrated or paralyzed by giving them too many options.

Number 7, Uncontrollable Navigation Elements, is a mistake we see a lot. Clients frequently request animated flyouts and similar rollovers. While this may sound like a fun or eye-catching experience, users routinely complain about these elements. They should only be used in moderation and when they serve the navigation. Even then, care must be taken to not make the experience frustrating.

Inconsistent Navigation is another common mistake. Navigation should be consistent and completely intuitive. Changing the navigation from page to page, even if it’s just the color, may cause users to pause. Every second a user has to think about how to use the site is another second when they are likely to leave.

Does your website have any of these problems? Usability can seem like a fine art at times, but when lead by experts and backed up by customer studies, it can make a website incredibly effective.

Leave a Reply