As a web designer you should always have usability at the forefront of your mind at all times. Obviously you will want to design websites that look great, however you will also want to ensure ease of use for your visitors, and ensure that the website is appealing and inviting.
No matter how great a product or service is a poorly designed site can drive away visitors and sales. Certain elements are basically internet suicide if implemented without extremely good reasons. Obviously there are always exceptions to the rule.
Now when I talk of ‘good design’ and usability I am not talking about pretty looking web pages (that goes without saying) – I do include accessibility however. This is an extremely important topic, the more accessible the site, the more visitors you can receive and in turn potential customers.
Any professional web designer will be able to point out that there are many factors which go to making a good site design. Interface, layout and graphics are just one element. This is the visual factor which for obvious reasons many individuals and designers concentrate on. However there are other elements beyond the GUI and indeed the content. These are issues relating accessibility and usability.
What I have highlighted here are 5 of the most common Usability Mistakes made online. If you are currently implementing any of the following then you should urgently consider a website overhaul.
If your website was developed in the past 12 months and incorporate any of the following elements without a very good reason then you should probably have your web developer taken outside and shot!
1) ACTIVE X
I will say this only once, “Do NOT use ActiveX”. Your site visitors will not install the component they will be too freaked-out by the security warnings.
Richard Lowe Jr says t best n his blog when he says “I don’t know about you, but when I get that little box stating a site wants to install an ActiveX control, my first impulse is to hit the NO box, quickly followed by the BACK key. This may seem a bit paranoid, but I use my computer all day long and I depend upon it for business and pleasure. Why would I want to put it at any risk for some silly little ActiveX control? The web is a huge place and there are plenty of other sites to look at”
2) BACKGROUND MUSIC
If you are not a music composer, singer, band or somehow work with Sound & Music then avoid background music at all costs. It is irritating at best, horrible loops of low quality sounds, or voice overs that start without being prompted.
This is a relatively new phenomenon, sites now have Virtual Guides an image of a cheesy looking consultant or pretty looking PA type that stands in the corner of your screen and talks over your site.
By all means experiment with these Virtual Website Guides, but do not have them auto-play. I have more than once simply closed a internet tab when it starts making noise and I am in the middle of a phonecall or worse still a Skype call.
If I really want to visit your site then I will turn the speakers off. Save everyone the trouble and ask before playing audio.
3) EXTRA LARGE/SMALL TEXT SIZE
As I have already stated there is far more to good web design then great graphics and slick branding, whilst it is important accessibility is fundamental in good site design.
Therefore it is logical that people should be able to read your content, if you have spent time, investing resources in writing well written content then it makes sense for it be clear and legible.
Using extra small font sizes is the equivalent of poor sloppy handwriting. No matter how good a novel you are probably unlikely to read the manuscript in poor handwritten format.
Your visitors need to be able to read your content without straining their eyes. If your sales copy is illegible you won’t be selling anything!
I hope you can see why these are three simple mistakes to avoid, I hope you will take the message on board and help make the web a more usable place. It is after all in everyones best interest.
About The Author: Andrew Bonar, TopExpert.com
With over 12 years experience working with and marketing internet technologies, Andrew launched his first website ‘Happenings’ in 1994, when there were less than 100,000 websites online. Andrew’s early interest in the internet lead to becoming co-founder of the UK’s first Independent ISP, Cheapnet/Pobox and by 1999 he had launched one of Europe’s first payment gateways, eBanx.