Usability Has Changed in The Last 5 Years

Of course, we can no longer assume that a website visitor is sat at a desk in front of a computer. 

But the prevalence of mobile usage also increases the probability of multi-tasking and time constraints. 

The user might be checking their phone during a commercial break on TV. Or whilst making a coffee. Or brushing their teeth. Or talking to their mum.  

The Upshot? 

We have less of their attention and for a shorter period of time. 

Perhaps we have only 50% of their attention, and for a slot of about 60 seconds.  We can aim to make websites easy to use in 2 ways. 

  1. Physically - easy to read, decent contrast, large text, clear headings and big clickable areas
  2. Mentally - the structure and purpose of our site must be grasped from just a quick scan of the page

    Bear this in mind as we list our 7 top usability mistakes for 2019. 

    1. Hard to Find Information

    If a user is looking for a specific piece of information it should be easy to find.  

    To this end, the naming of website pages and sections should be clear, distinct and simple.  

    If your website has a search feature, the quality of it's results are important.  NN Group reported poor search results as major weakness for many websites back in 2016, and this is still the case.  

    If you are a regular internet user, you will understand that how frustrating it can be when you struggle to find what you're looking for. 

    Poor filtering on e-commerce is also frequent - e.g. when the "Restrict to Brand" filter doesn't contain the brand you're looking for, or when every filtering box ticked triggers a reload of the entire page.

    2. Too Much or Too Little Information

    It can take thought to present just the right amount of information in a way that is clear and succinct. 

    Nobody like to face a wall of dense text, so if there is a lot of information to present, take care to split it up into clear and digestible sections. 

    It can be equally frustrating when there is not enough information. For example when a food item doesn't list ingredients, or when a product page contains a single small pixelated photograph (E-Bay sellers we're looking at you). 

    When selling products, use good quality, clear photographs that show plenty of detail.

    3. Clickable Areas That Are Too Small

    Links are designed to be clicked, so it's common sense that we make them easy to click.  

    Hand movements with a computer mouse aren't very precise. And as mentioned above, it's more likely that they're browsing the site on a tiny iPhone.... whilst doing something else!

    Make sure the clickable area for your links is generous enough for the most ham-fisted users.

    If your link is text, try and make the area around it responsive to a click (add "padding" in web design terminology). Like this: 

    Text to click

    4. Content That is Difficult to Scan

    Good design will guide your visitors around the website, focus their attention on the things that are most important and help them make sense of the information in chunks. 

    People tend not to read a web-page from top to bottom. Rather they start reading whatever pops out at them first, and then move to the next thing that grabs their attention. A bit like a pinball. 

    Your pages can have a few focal points. You can use higher contrast colours, larger fonts, icons and images to help with this.  The heading of each focal point should make it clear what this section is about. 

    Any other text should be short and easy to comprehend. Lengthy rambling paragraphs are your enemy. Short, snappy sentences and bullet points are your friend.  We recommend cutting down your text until you can't get any leaner, then keep cutting.  

    5. Requiring Registration for Everything

    Many sites want you to register in order to maximise their user base (and hence the number of people they can spam send communications to). 

    For this very reason users are becoming more reluctant to register.

    This can be a tricky issue.  Some blogs require registration in order to make comments on articles.  And yes, doing this does increase the quality of comments and reduce the amount of spam posted. But it also leads to a comment desert, where most articles have exactly 0 comments. 

    Removing a login barrier for key small functions massively increases user participation. And once they have started participating they are much more likely to register because they're already involved. 

    6. Annoying Popups

    I cannot believe I am still writing this in 2019. 

    Popups have always been annoying. Perhaps they have evolved slightly in the last 10 years. They used to pop up and piss me off straight away, but now they wait until I am half way through the page before popping up pissing me off. 

    No I don't want to enter my email to receive regular spam updates to my inbox. 

    7. Slow Loading Pages

    "Bounce" is the term for when users ditch your site and click the back button to try something else. 

    If your web pages aren't loaded within 3 seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 90%. 

    Patience has always been in short supply for the average internet user.  But with the additional constraints and frustrations of mobile usage this trend is only increasing. 

    “That's a wrap!“

    My name is Martin and I've been your host for this article.

    I am by no means a strong writer, but I hope you found it of value.

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