The ten most egregious offenses against users. Web design disasters
And HTML horrors are legion, though many usability atrocities are less
Common than they used to be.
Since my first attempt in 1996, I have compiled many top-10 lists of the biggest
Mistakes in Web design. See links to all these lists at the bottom of this article.
This article presents the highlights: the very worst mistakes of Web design.
1. Bad Search
Overly literal search engines reduce
Usability in that they’re unable to
Handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and
Other variants of the query terms.
Such search engines are particularly
Difficult for elderly users, but they
A related problem is when search
Engines prioritize results purely on
The basis of how many query terms
They contain, rather than on each
Document’s importance. Much
If your search engine calls out “best
Bets” at the top of the list –
Especially for important queries,
Such as the names of your products.
Search is the user’s lifeline when
Navigation fails. Even though
Advanced search can sometimes
Help, simple search usually works best, and search should be presented as a
Simple box, since that’s what users are looking for.
2. PDF Files for Online Reading
Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their flow.
Even simple things like printing or saving documents are difficult because
Standard browser commands don’t work. Layouts are often optimized for a sheet
Of paper, which rarely matches the size of the user’s browser window. Bye-bye
Smooth scrolling. Hello tiny fonts.
Worst of all, PDF is an undifferentiated blob of content that’s hard to navigate.
PDF is great for printing and for distributing manuals and other big documents
That need to be printed. Reserve it for this purpose and convert any information
That needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages.
3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
A good grasp of past navigation helps you understand your current location,
Since it’s the culmination of your journey. Knowing your past and present
Locations in turn makes it easier to decide where to go next. Links are a key
Factor in this navigation process. Users can exclude links that proved fruitless in
Their earlier visits. Conversely, they might revisit links they found helpful in the
Most important, knowing which pages they’ve already visited frees users from
Unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.
These benefits only accrue under one important assumption: that users can tell
The difference between visited and unvisited links because the site shows them
In different colors. When visited links don’t change color, users exhibit more
Navigational disorientation in usability testing and unintentionally revisit the
Same pages repeatedly.
A wall of text is deadly for an
Interactive experience. Intimidating.
Boring. Painful to read.
Write for online, not print. To draw
Users into the text and support
Scannability, use well-documented
The inverted pyramid
A simple writing style, and
De-fluffed language devoid of
Eyetracking of reading patterns
5. Fixed Font Size
CSS style sheets unfortunately give websites the power to disable a Web