As we have already explained on other occasions, usability is related to the ease with which the user operates a technological tool, an application or a website. Therefore, when developers make mistakes, in fact, they tend to be usability failures. We have already discussed the basic principles of usability and the main errors when creating mobile applications. Now we’re going to focus on some of the most common mistakes when developing web pages and applications.
In general, web usability determines the ease with which a user can learn to operate a page or web application, its efficiency, tendency to display errors and satisfaction, or what is the same, user experience. Some key points regarding web usability are the presentation of the information and the different navigational options, which should be displayed in a clear and concise way, unambiguous, and placing the important elements in the appropriate areas.
As you know, users of websites and/or web applications spend very little time on average in one place; it’s usually said that a user “scans” a web in just 30 seconds and decides whether to stay or to go to another site. We could safely say that nowadays users are less “tolerant”, in the sense that if an application or web hasn’t been developed in a clear and concise manner and the user can’t find what he’s looking for, it is very possible that you will lose that visitor and he will look for another website.
For example, you may have noticed that there are websites that have too much information in their home page, when in fact the secondary pages are those that should contain the most important content: the home page should be a summary of the entire site, and the rest of pages include the relevant content.
It seems logical, but all these usability aspects are not always taken into account by developers, and they are very important because they make the difference between you and your competition. Remember that all websites are just one click away from being abandoned by a user.
We know that developing a web page or application is not easy. We are aware that the person designing the web is not an “average user”, and his vision might be different from that of the developer.
However, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when creating a website. For instance, Jakob Nielsen, in his book Prioritizing Web Usability, gives some tips to apply when developing an application or website. In his opinion, we should put emphasis on:
– The search systems
– Navigation and information architecture
– Typography and readability
– Writing for the Internet
– Offer good product information
– The presentation of the elements of a page
– The balance between technology and the user’s needs
In this sense, for example, the web components must be simple and basic, so that all users are able to manage them with ease. The most important components are the links that change color and let us see if we have already visited a page, and the famous “Back” or “Return” button, which allows to undo an action and gives the user freedom to stop whatever he is doing.
We must also keep in mind that pop-ups can be annoying and “pollute” the work space, although they may provide us with new information. The use of pop-ups can be favorable, however, if it is to facilitate the display of a document or a video, for example. Another common problem is to create parts of the page that look like banners, with flashy links or buttons; the result is that the user tends to ignore such point of access.
All these examples, which translate into usability errors, make the website impassable, and therefore the visitor leaves quickly. This can be very costly for a business. Hence, when developing for the web we can’t forget to place special emphasis on search, information architecture, content, product information and workflow.
Although today in most projects it is thought that it is a waste of time, running tests with users is crucial to know possible errors and improvements that should be made.