Design Mistakes That Affect Website Usability


A designer may think that he has created a brilliant design, but there could be some mistakes that affect the design usability and overall artistic appeal of the website. This article gives insight on common design mistakes.

Complex Search Box: A search box is the last resort for users to find information when navigation appears ineffective. It is a defensive mechanism to desperately look for the desired information when all other search mechanisms have become ineffective. Search engines that are designed to be factual and operate as per the exact words or phrases that are provided in the search box may be a disappointment. Search boxes do not account the general errors such as a typo, hyphens, or singular word errors fed in the box.

Search boxes should allow users to be in control of the searched content. A complex search box that is difficult to locate and use makes the search function of the website non-usable for users. Basic elements of the search box include the design of the input field and the submit button. Its length and improper placement are crucial design elements that can make the page design bad. Not making the input box and the submit button stand out from the rest of the page makes it unrecognizable for users on the first go. Adding complexity by providing advanced search options as the default search adds to confusion.(1)

Improper Legibility: A web page that has poorly chosen font types and styles affects readability of the text and makes reading difficult. The use of Sans Serif font is a generally accepted practice for web reading. However, some websites go for a bizarre font type to appear more captivating. The result may be a poor design that makes reading difficult and frustrates the user. Color is an important design element that grasps attention and improves readability. Improper font color choice, background image contrast with respect to text size and color, and pdf files for reading purposes disturbs readability. PDF files should be set aside as a download option and not for online reading as it reading and navigating information presented in pdf files becomes difficult to read.

CSS style sheets disable the web browsers ability to modify the size of font size and fix a particular font size for the web page. This might affect the legibility for aged users. Users should be allowed to modify the page’s font size as per their convenience and eye-sight for enhancing usability for aged users or users having poor eye-sight.(2)

Poor Comprehensibility: The writing style also affects legibility greatly. The purpose of information provided on the web page is to enable the readers to gain knowledge in an effortless and comprehensible manner. Presenting information is beneficial, but if it is presented in a non-comprehensible, plain, and boring manner, it will not capture the user’s attention. Information devoid of short paragraphs, highlighted key words, headings, sub-headings, with only flowery language meant for promotion upsets any reader, and even reduces credibility of the page.

Navigation within the Website:Users should be provided with uninterrupted navigation so they can locate the content with ease. Navigation should be more intuitive and less cognitive in nature.

Consistency is another important navigational element as users expect to see a consistent layout, information linkage, and other design elements across all the linked pages on a website. Breaking the chain of thematic consistency across pages disrupts the navigational tempo.

For navigation, the design should use concise text, plain and understandable visual elements, and clearly visible links. Links are directive pathways for users. They should change color on being clicked. This helps users understand their current position and tells them during the course of navigation which content they have visited and which they haven’t. If previously visited content links do not change color, the visitor might re-visit them and increase user frustration. Broken and dead links should be worked out and removed from a web page because they increase confusion and waste valuable time.(3)

Improper use of UI Elements: Creativity is welcome but trying to be deliberately creative might disrupt the harmony of the page and tamper the consistency of the design. Non-consistent themes cause confusion and even annoy the visitor. This can cause them to leave the website. Website designers should use standard user interface (UI) templates for every page which is properly linked to the homepage, always keeping the aesthetic appeal of the page in mind. Screen resolution should be optimized for all screen types and browsers. It is essential to follow the widely used design conventions as users do not expect or accept some non-conformity in the design, which makes a site appear entirely different from others.

Too many graphics/images not only make the load time slow, but can also distract the users. Some designers forget that images are not to only add flashiness, but serve the purpose of guidance for the website.

As per the Jakob’s Law of web user experience, users browse other websites and create an expectation level; any serious deviation from that level (by not conforming to a web design standard as per the other website), can make the target site non-usable. (4)

Questions and Queries: The user’s questions and queries should be registered and answered if they fail in finding the desired content or do not achieve the goal they intended to. Critical information should not be hidden from the users. For example, an e-commerce website should not fail to provide price listings of products. Similarly, hiding the scope of usage for a product – whether it is meant for 100/1000/10,000 users – fosters uncertainty and annoys the user. Providing complicated registration forms, which require a lot of mandatory information, may also upset the user.

(1) Fekete, Gy├Ârgy. “Designing The Holy Search Box: Examples And Best Practices.” 04 December 2008. Smashing Magazine. 16 March 2015

(2, 4) Neilsen, Jakob. “Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design.” 01 January 201. Neilsen Norman Group Website. 16 March 2015

(3)Owoh, Brujo. “11 Common Web Design Mistakes.” Hongkiat Website. 16 March 2015


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