Some usability issues to be aware of

When I started to design I only designed for print. After I finished my study at the Academy I got one web site to design. A complex one. It was hard work because there were so many things I had to think of for the first time. And after some time I learned more and more about developing and making usable and useful web site. And I am still learning. But there is one sentence that describes the user “Don’t make me think“.

Here are some tips that could help. I collected them from different sources.

1. Clickable areas
They should be big and visible and they should look different from the rest of the content. Large clickable area makes it easier to hover the mouse cursor over the link. We can make it bigger by using bigger font size or by increasing the padding around the link.

2. Pagination
Pagination is used to split the content onto several pages. It is common on websites that have long lists of items; like products in a store or pictures in a gallery. It makes the page faster to download and process.

But in some cases splitting the content isn’t a good solution. Like blog articles. More pages increase page views and this boosts their viewing statistics and allows them to charge more for each ad. But in that case, the article is more difficult to be read. There is one more problem, the SEO (Search engine optimization). If the content is split into more pages, each page holds less keywords about its topic. This may negatively affect the ranking of the article in search engine results.

3. Content on the page
It is not only good design that makes a usable page, copy is also very important. Design leads the visitor through the page, but s/he needs to read text to process information.
We normally jump from one piece of content to another, from one webpage to the next. We don’t read from the top to the bottom, but from whatever pops out at us first and then move to the next thing that captures our interest.

The copy should be structured in a certain way.

  • Few points of focus. It can be achieved by using stronger colors and larger fonts or using images, such as icons next to the text.
  • Headings should be informative. User should get the information quickly.
  • Texts should be short and understandable. They should give only the essentials, because people won’t read long paragraphs.

4. Contacts
If you want to build loyal customers you have to show to your customers that you care. So it has to be easy to get in touch with them, but some websites don’t even have an email address or contact form on them. Last month I flew with Turkish Airlines and I wanted to complain about the meal on the plane. It took me 10 minutes to find the e-mail. My opinion about the company wasn’t any better because of that.

5. Registration
Some pages require registration to read the content and some you can browse without to log in. Registration can be seen as a barrier and it can decrease user participation. If a user knows the page content it will be more likely that s/he will sign in.
But people need to invest time and afford to register and they need to remember the username and password they used. The sign-up form should be as short as possible, user name or email address and password will be enough. Don’t ask for more information than needed.

6. Log-in links
Make them visible. User should find log-in link without problem.

7. Pop-ups for content presentation
To present the main content using pop-up isn’t the best idea because most of web browsers use popup-blocker to prevent pop-ups, ad blocks and further site content recognized as advertisement.

8. Invisible links
Visitors have to know where on site they are, what is the next step and was the last step.

9. Visual noise
Visual noise is one of the most typical problems large web-sites designers have to cope with. Too much information, which looks too similar in a small space won’t help, it will only confuse the user.



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