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Common Usability Mistakes To Avoid in Web Design

There is more to a website’s success than fancy web design. Usability is equally important, as even the best designs can fail to impress if the website is not usable enough for its intended audience.

There is more to a website’s success than fancy web design. Usability is equally important, as even the best designs can fail to impress if the website in question is not usable enough for its intended audience.

Here’s some of the most common usability mistakes  to be aware of.

Confusing Navigation

As ridiculous as it might sound, the fact remains that most web sites nowadays tend to overlook navigation, or implement it just as a second thought. You can blame it on the advent of one-pager web sites, or the fact that parallax scrolling and other techniques have left us with more eye candy and less usability. The modern trend of being content-centric too has favored the growth of single-column layouts with the navigation items being either too discreet or totally hidden.

All of that can work for a small website, or a personal blog, or a portfolio website. However, when it comes to a large website, navigation is the backbone. Believe it or not, the three-click rule still holds true when it comes to navigation on the web — all of your content that actually matters should be accessible with no more than 3 clicks from the main page.

Most modern-day content management systems allow you to organize your content by means of categories, sub-categories, and tags. If you utilize this feature well, you can arrange your content in such a manner that your users will not have a hard time finding what they are looking for, irrespective of the size of your website. Proper breadcrumbs and sitemaps too can be helpful.

Poor Readability

With the introduction of web typefaces such as Adobe Typekit or Google Web Fonts, errors on this front are more a matter of readability rather than typography. Nowadays, telling someone not to use Comic Sans would be outdated advice, simply because hardly anyone uses that anymore. However, readability issues can still ruin all usability prospects of your design.

There are a lot many factors that readability depends on. For instance, proper kerning and arrangement of text is a primary consideration. Color of text, font size and spaces, as well as break-down of large chunks of text — everything comes into play.

Another important consideration that you should note is to place text where it actually matters: each niche of website has its own layout model, and you need to place your text accordingly. Thus, the heat map for a blog will differ from that of a forum, and an eCommerce website’s heatmap will vary from that of a magazine site, as shown below:

Non-responsive Web Design

This is the era of mobiles, and for all practical purposes, a good section of almost every website’s traffic nowadays comes from mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Naturally, it makes no sense to ignore the importance of mobile users, and your web design should be mobile-friendly in order to enhance its usability quotient.

A responsive design is your best bet, especially because it is easy to find good pre-built templates that are fully responsive and customization-friendly. If that is not something you would wish to opt for, an adaptive website too is well worth the money, albeit you will have to host two separate versions of your site: one for desktop users, the other for mobile users. The adaptive design approach generally works best if you have a very large website with a lot of content.

Ignoring Search Functionality

This is another major mistake that you need to avoid. Implementing a proper search functionality in any type of website has become important. Furthermore, if your website is a large one, the search bar becomes all the more useful.

As a result, placing your search bar at a place where your users can easily locate it is always a good idea. The sidebar has always acted as a tried and tested location for the search bar. Alternatively, you can also place the search bar in the header of your website, possibly next to the logo, or on the top-most bar, or even near the navigation labels. On the other hand, the footer is probably one of the lesser-preferred places where you should keep your search bar.

Ignoring Broken Links

Broken links and the resultant 404 errors are something that cannot be always avoided: every now and then, due to a human error or a change in URL, occasional 404 errors will arise. However, a “page cannot be found” error message is surely not the best response when it comes to enhancing the usability of your website and as such, you need to fix these errors as and when they arise.

The easiest solution, for WordPress users, will be the Broken Links Checker plugin. If you keep an eye on possible broken links and keep fixing them at regular intervals, your users will not be presented with 404 errors when they click on a link on your website, thereby enhancing the overall usability of your site.

When it comes to usability, perfection is impossible to achieve. However, by steering clear of the above-mentioned usability mistakes, you can ensure that you are not committing the most common errors in the field of usability. This will surely improve the overall functionality and conversion rate of your website.

Featured image: yuriz


About the Author Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan writes about web design and development, Content Management Systems, open source, and everything else in between. He blogs at Code Carbon, and you can find him on Facebook and Google+.