The latest issue of CiB features Jakob Nielsen’s article, “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005.”
Nielsen asked his newsletter readers to send in the most irritating usability problems they encountered in websites and found them to be compatible with his own list.
1. Illegible fonts
This covers small font sizes, frozen font sizes and low contrast between text and background. Nielsen recommends using resizable text to allow users to control font size.
2. Non-standard links that confuse and delay users
Nielsen provides guidelines for links:
- Use colored underlined text for links and don’t underline non-link text.
- Use color to differentiate visited and unvisited links.
- Use descriptive text for links, including key words, explaining what users will find there.
- Do not open pages in new windows, except for PDF files and similar cases.
- Check for dead links and bugs.
3. Annoying purposeless Flash
Nielsen cautions against using Flash to jazz up a page or for navigation. He instead recommends rewriting boring text and using better photos.
4. Content not written for the web
Nielsen describes good web writing as:
- To the point rather than full of hype
- Answering users’ questions
- Using common language rather than made-up terms
- Free of typographical errors and corrupted data
5. Bad search
Nielsen recommends investing in better software to provide navigation and search that help users find what they want.
6. Browser incompatibility
Nielsen admonishes web masters not to turn away customers who prefer a different platform and advises cross-platform compatibility since more and more people are using minority browsers.
7. Cumbersome forms with unnecessary questions and options
Nielsen provides guidelines for forms:
- To make forms short and simple, do not include unnecessary questions.
- Do not make fields mandatory unless they truly are.
- Avoid using unusual field labels.
- Set keyboard focus to the first field when the form is displayed.
- Allow flexible input of phone numbers, credit card numbers, and the like.
- Follow guidelines for internationalization.
- Use streamlined registration, checkout, and other workflow.
8. No contact information or other company information provided
Nielsen advises providing a physical company mailing address to add credibility. He also recommends “About Us” pages and store finders and locators.
9. Frozen layouts with fixed page widths and/or heights
Nielsen emphasizes that users be allowed to resize windows through liquid layouts. This will eliminate problems with big or small monitors and in printing pages.
10. Non-existent or inadequate photo enlargement
Nielsen points out that users often need a close-up view of a product to aid their decision-making. Not only should sites provide zoom features, but they should also offer a range of close-ups to meet various needs.
Business communicators should check their websites against this checklist.