7 Site Usability Mistakes That Bug Me
Hi, my name is Lisa and I have a problem. During the day I work for a pretty cool search engine optimization company, but you see, eventually I go home. And when I do, I turn into a regular searcher. I have needs and I’m looking to your Web site to help me fill them. Some of you are doing a great job (I heart you), but there’s a bunch of site owners who are letting me down.
For whatever reason, I’ve been doing a lot more searching lately than usual and I’m finding a lot of great stuff. I’ve been seeing an impressive number of sites that clearly understand what search engine optimization is and why being well-branded on the Web is important. But somehow, these same sites are still committing all sorts of usability and design faux pas. I’d like them to stop.
Here are some of the common usability mistakes that bug me and that you should absolutely avoid making on your site:
1. Your Site Content Isn’t Written For the Web
My lease is almost up on my apartment and I’m trying to find a new apartment complex that sucks just a little bit less than the one Swat, Jack-Jack and I are currently living in. I decided to consult the Web site for The Acorn, a local classifieds publication, for assistance. Here’s what their rental listings page offered me:
You see what they just did there? Instead of creating a usable Web-version of their content, they decided to just scan what they already had in print. Nice.
Are you kidding me? If you want to know why sites like Craigslist and Facebook are ruling marketplace listings, it’s because they know how to make their content usable. Scanning your content and placing it on your Web site, does not a Web presence make. The Acorn is losing out on potential new subscribers doing things the way they are. Either you’re going to have a Web site or your not. There’s no middle ground.
Dear Acorn, please fix this. Also, consider renaming. Thanks.
2. Confusing Navigation/ I Can’t Use It
Here is one of the apartment complexes I was considering:
Click through and try navigating through the site using Firefox. Tricky, eh? Sure, sometimes you get lucky and you can actually click on something, but most of the time, the home page (which, BTW, has the ugliest URL ever) renders completely unusable. Bad.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on all the empty white space they’re not taking advantage of.
3. You Talk To Me without Asking
There is one thing that will send me running from your Web site without fail: if I land on it and you immediately start talking to/singing at me without my permission, for no reason.
I didn’t think sites still did this, then I visited The Bangles Web site (shut up, they were playing at a local fair recently) and was forced to listen to their "Web site Greeting". In case you were curious (I wasn’t), their "greeting" is basically just a recording of the ladies talking over one another. As soon as I heard it, I was so totally gone. Don’t force users to interact with the media you have on your site. Audio and video features should always be opt in, not opt out.
4. Your Site Is Designed Entirely In Flash
I get it, you like Flash and making your Web site pretty. That’s great, but guess what, I don’t. And your users may not either. Some of them may not even be able to access it. That’s a great way to alienate a whole bunch of people.
It bothers me when most sites opt to do this, but it really bothered me that the Marines chose to. I’m on the Marines’ Web site because I want information; there’s even a good chance that I may be somewhat frantic when I get there. Make it easy for me to find out what I need to know. There’s a very good chance that I’m not going to want to see a movie or look at an endless line of staged pictures. Anticipate these needs.
Also, unless there’s an HTML-complement to it, your site map should not be designed in Flash. Marines, please change that.
5. You Use Tiny, Tiny Product Photos or None At All!
Searchers and shoppers are known for being visually oriented. If you’re a manufacturer or ecommerce site, you need to be including product photos on your site to help guide users. But just as important as having photos at all, is having usable photos. Don’t just stick users with the thumbnail. Give them some way of zooming in or clicking through to a larger secondary image.
Customers want to see what they’re getting before they agree to buy. I want to be able to zoom in and see actual apartment floor plans. I want to see the trim on that jacket. Bigger photos allow for more detail and allow users to trust that you’re going to give them what you’re promising.
Think about it: Would you buy a product without being able to see it first? I wouldn’t.
6. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
You’d think that in 2007 this would be pretty obvious, but surprise, it’s not. Good, user-friendly, accessible Web sites tell their users where they are, where they’ve been and where’s left to go. They don’t keep them in an endless cycle of "did I click on this yet?"
Realize that your users aren’t traversing your Web site in a straight line. They bounce around until they find what they’re looking for. They may not realize that they’ve clicked on the same link 5 times until they’ve clicked on it time number 6. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how frustrating it is. Make it easy for users to tell where they’ve been by differentiating the link color. It just makes everyone’s life easier.
7. You Immediately Break My Trust
I’m not going to lie, when I’m on your Web site, I’m judging you. Big time. If you make me register before I can even access your site, I’m going to assume you have something to hide and I’m going to leave.
If your site is filled with typos, I’m going to assume you’d take the same care with my order that you did with your copywriting. See ya!
If your Title tag reads "Welcome To My Site", you type in ALL CAPS, or you’re still rocking the frame, I’m going to
assume know that you’re stuck in the ’90s and decide not to do business with you.
Site usability and site design matter. Search engine optimization and good rankings are important, but they don’t mean a thing if you’re turning users off as soon as they click through to your site. Take the time to really examine your site and see where it needs work. Is the message you’re sending the one you intended to send out? Do users enjoy interacting with your site? Or are you bugging them?