Seven Easily-Overlooked Web Site Elements That Kill Your Site’s Usability

By Drew Hendricks

Businesses spend a great deal of money and effort to drive visitors to their Web sites. But, all that work is wasted if customers get frustrated once they get to those sites. Realizing the negative effect poor usability has on their campaigns, businesses are increasingly investing in user experience experts, who test out their sites and offer valuable feedback afterward.

Having objective outsiders review your site and report back to you is a great way to see your site through the eyes of users. However, you don’t have a fresh pair of eyes to see these common complaints about Web site user experiences.

Missing Search Box

No matter how hard you work to make everything easy to find on your page, there will be customers who can’t find the information they’re seeking. This becomes increasingly more important as your Web site grows. A simple search box at the top of the page can lead a customer to a page he wouldn’t have otherwise seen, possibly resulting in a conversion. If your Web site doesn’t have an add-on that provides a search box, Google’s free custom search box should be all you need.

Complicated Navigation

Designers can often get so caught up in making a design that pops, they forget navigability. But, general users care more about simply finding the information they need quickly. If the site is for a customer-facing business like a restaurant or entertainment venue, customers want information like hours of operation, ticket prices, and directions. If they have to sift through fancy graphics and confusing menus to get to that information, they’ll likely leave in frustration.

Small Clickable Areas

Web designers don’t want to disrupt the look of a page with large, brightly-colored links and buttons. Small, clickable text has become the prevailing trend because it blends well with any design. However, this change just happens to coincide with a time when users are navigating Web sites from small smartphone screens more frequently than ever. Those attractive small links can become almost impossible to click on a touchscreen.

Illegible Fonts

Readability has improved dramatically over the years, but mobile design is driving an increasing need to minimize the text on a page. Large blocks of text with numerous paragraphs are vanishing in favor of short, succinct text that gets to the point. However, it’s still important to make sure you don’t exchange attractiveness for readability. Keep in mind that some of your site’s visitors may be visually impaired, making it difficult for them to read small or ornate fonts.

Auto-Play Videos

Videos are a popular way to convey your message, but what are the chances that your guests are visiting your site from home, with the volume unmuted? People are viewing your site while in the doctor’s office waiting room, on public transportation, and at work. If the volume is up, you’ll scare them away at worst and have them scrambling for the volume button at best. Auto-play videos also can cause browser instability and slow down load times.

Obnoxious Advertising

Ad revenue helps pay the bills. But, if your ad practices disrupt the user experience, you likely won’t see many repeat visitors. Forced pre-roll video advertising is marginally acceptable on YouTube, where customers are watching videos anyway, but when they pop up on Web sites, customers are just looking for the “Skip” button. It’s the same with pop-up boxes asking for email addresses and paywalls. If customers are X-ing out of everything you’re throwing in front of them, all you’re doing is creating obstacles between them and the content they want to read.

Lack of Pricing Information

Customers come to your site looking for information. If you sell a product or service, part of that information is how much they’ll be expected to pay. If you have the words “contact us for a free quote” on your site, be aware that you may be losing customers to those competitors who do provide pricing information.

Web site design is constantly evolving as businesses, marketers, and design firms learn more about how customers interact with their sites. Analytics can provide insight as to which sections of your site are/aren’t working. Note when customers leave your site, what keywords they enter in a search, and where they’re clicking. If you tweak your site in response to analytics, you’ll increase your usability and bring in more sales.

About the Author

Drew A. Hendricks is a tech, social media, and environmental addict. He’s written for many major publications, such as, Forbes, and Entrepreneur.

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