Web design usability mistakes
What makes a good website? Is it attractive design? Lots of relevant content? Mobile-friendliness? It's all of the above — but only if it's underpinned with excellent usability.
Entire web platforms and technologies have come and gone in the last 25 years, but web design usability mistakes remain the same.
A recent Nielsen Norman Group study of websites ranging from small business to entertainment to nonprofits to global organizations identifies the top 10 most common and damaging web design mistakes that hurt your users and your business — and they’re mostly the same mistakes the group found in their first study of this kind in 1996.
The nightmare kitchen
Imagine being tasked with preparing soup in a kitchen you’ve never seen before, and you can’t find a wooden spoon where you’d normally expect it, say in a top drawer or in a jar on the counter. You’re frustrated because unbeknownst to you, the kitchen’s CEO (who never actually uses the kitchen) wanted the wooden spoons in a bottom drawer with the wooden trivets and the wooden bowls because they thought the wooden things should go together. But that’s not how most people understand kitchens, and you may never find that wooden spoon because the arrangement of the tools you need to complete your task doesn’t match your mental model of “kitchen.”
Many websites are like this nightmare kitchen, with cutlery stored inside the pots (they’re all made of metal, after all) napkins in with the ramekins (they rhyme) and the thyme stuffed behind the clock (… get it?). As the article says, “A little usability work such as card sorting, tree testing, or usability testing can go a long way in creating a site structure that makes sense to users.”
All you need to do is ask
A website is an organization’s primary storytelling tool, and a company’s online presence is often the first point of contact for its audiences. Here at Gard, we take usability seriously. We conduct user research and testing to help us avoid web design usability mistakes. Users have a wealth of insight about what they need from websites, and simply asking them (via surveys, focus groups, online testing and so on) yields big rewards and makes for a much more user-friendly product.
Technology evolves and fashions change, but best practices endure. Involving real users to help understand a site’s structure is as important now as it was in 1996.