6 Usability Issues Found in Most Web Designs (And How to Fix Them)
A “good” design is not labelled as such just because of excellent visuals or aesthetics — but rather provides a welcoming experience for visitors through optimal usability. Any experienced web designer or User Experience (UX) Designer understands this importance.
Convenience, for instance, is a major factor of design that is often overlooked. You don’t want your visitors or customers jumping through hoops just to complete a simple action or activity. The checkout process on some retail sites, for example, can take ages, which is devastating to the user experience. Interacting with shoddy navigation can have the same impact. Slow loading or broken sites will encourage people just to leave, most likely never to return.
So, when you’re developing a new design or layout, it’s important to consider usability before, during, and after the site goes live. Here are six of the most common problems that occur, and many of them appear in a lot of current designs.
1. Not factoring in resolution or browser size
Have you ever tried to click on or interact with a minuscule button or hyperlink? It is ridiculously annoying, especially since it’s something that can be easily fixed. And yet, it’s something you see in a wide variety of web designs.
Part of this is because of the swap to mobile-friendly platforms. What’s visible on a desktop may not be on a mobile device because it has smaller screen real estate. Hyperlinks, buttons, navigation, images — they must all be modified to fit the resolution and screen size of the user’s device.
Responsive design can help remedy this problem, but you could also just increase the size of interactive elements so they are more pleasing, and usable.
2. In the world of the infinite scroll, pagination sucks
Sometimes, yes, pagination is necessary, especially when you’re dealing with a vast collection of content and web pages. A retailer like Amazon, for instance, can’t get around pagination for product listings because they have so many products in their inventory.
It’s important to make that distinction between something you’re forced to do, and something you aren’t. Pagination is absolutely something you don’t always have to do. Gallery-based pages that include items separated by pagination are awful.
There are a variety of design tools to allow for infinite scrolling, or at the least extended scrolling, on a page. This is especially important on mobile, which is the primary browsing platform for all users these days.
3. Information overload is bad
The best designs can provide content and information using as little space as possible. The length or spacing is going to be different from industry to industry, but the idea is the same. Again, mobile takes the cake here because most mobile users will be browsing while doing other activities, like commuting or taking a break. You need to provide users with ways to get in, get the information, and get out quick. This can be serviced directly through the design.
Limit the amount of information and content that is thrown at the audience. If the front page is meant to introduce a brand and provide a quick blurb, showcase that and that alone. Sometimes extraneous content is a must, yes, but you want to avoid bogging down the entire experience. Featured image and product carousels, blockquotes and testimonials and even video content all have a time and a place. Find the best way to incorporate content so it doesn’t interfere with the design itself.
This includes more than just text-based content. Videos and images — especially when they’re animated — can bog down performance and ruin the experience, too. Some companies get around potential performance issues by deploying multiple servers and handling the loading server-side, which works — especially for mobile apps and proprietary software — but it’s not always ideal for everyone.
Remember, as a developer or UX Designer, you won’t be creating the content — that’s up to the brand in question. You will, however, influence how and where that content is displayed.
4. Failing to provide omni-channel experiences
From mobile to desktop, Chrome to Firefox and a Mac to a Windows PC, people jump between platforms, and they use just as many applications and services to browse the web. It’s confusing and overwhelming at times, but you must ensure the experience is the same no matter what platform or channel users are visiting from.
A site should look the same in Safari as it does in Chrome. It should function the same on mobile as it does on a desktop. The unified experience is attributed to the brand, so a poor experience — even on one channel — is going to reflect poorly on the business. It is your job as a developer or designer to make sure things run smoothly across the board.
In some cases, this may mean making design or function changes so the experience remains seamless.
5. Bloated forms take too long
Forms are a necessary evil for gathering data, but they should be concise. Trim the fat and only request the most important information from users or visitors. This cuts down on the time it will take them to complete the form. It encourages more people to participate and also helps the brand or admin organise incoming information much better.
If all you need is an email address, there’s no reason to collect the person’s physical address, phone number, comments or age. Furthermore, the worst thing you can do from a design standpoint is to incorporate a form as a type of wall. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to avoid this if the brand or admin requests it, but otherwise, you should never do it.
6. Pop-ups are annoying
Pop-up windows are incredibly jarring and detract from the overall experience, even in their simplest form. Not to mention, they demand instant feedback, which is something most users are not willing to deal with.
Reconsider using pop-ups. If there’s information you have to relay urgently, then find a way to incorporate it on the landing page or within the design itself.
Bonus: No contact information
Whether you’re talking about user engagement, open communication or general customer support, an audience will need a way to reach out to brand or its reps. That’s why the contact page is such a pivotal element of design.
Not only should the contact information for the affected company be visible, but there should also be a clear-cut way to reach out, whether that’s via email, live chat or phone. This is something you should never exclude from a modern design.
Honouring “good” design is easier than you think
As you can see from most of the tips presented, creating a “good” design is a lot less complicated than you might think. The ultimate driver should be the user experience or general usability. If something is frustrating, inconvenient or just plain uninteresting — or if it bogs down performance — then you should eliminate it.
As expected, pop-ups are terrible, pagination is not convenient, bloated forms can be a huge buzzkill and resolution or display problems will turn people away. Luckily, you can avoid most of these issues with a little understanding and ingenuity.
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This article was written by
UX and Content Strategist and Graphic Designer
Lexie Lu is a UX content strategist and graphic designer. Lexie is a contributor to Marketo, Website Magazine and Envato. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dog, watching HGTV and baking. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.