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Avoid common usability issues

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 by Servage

If you intend to deliver good user experiences, you need to take care of some tiny usability mistakes. As these errors add up, they may contribute to a highly annoying user experience, particularly in the user’s encounter with the interface design. In this article, we will pay attention to the common, small mistakes that are made during our web designing process.

Usability on Blank Slate

Many times our web application begins with a blank slate, particularly for data driven or data oriented websites or web applications where we are always waiting for some inputs from users (i.e. posts, comments, links, hours, sidebar info, etc). During the design phase, we generally encounter screens full of some data; so, we forget that when a new visitor enters that page, they won’t have anything to see on the screen, except a blank slate.

In such cases, first timers may have questions regarding what this page is about, and what exactly has to be done on their end. If you don’t put any clues on this page, your user will abandon it immediately. Therefore, your first duty is to insert some text on the screen that may guide or tell users about the purpose of page. You can place some blurbs or tutorials to help your users. If nothing is possible, you can insert some sample screenshots of the page with full data, to set your expectations.

Usability on Button Labels

Buttons are highly used interface elements which fall into various categories. Most of the time, we label buttons properly to get desired actions from visitors in our interface design. Generally speaking, we do the right thing, but sometimes mistakes are made in not clarifying the desired action through a clear label. An ambiguous label may confuse the visitor about the action to take. An unclear button can have various meanings. For example, the label not indicating exactly what action results in pushing this button, whether it leads to a new page or window. In another instance, it may catch the user off guard in taking an action that results in some undesirable or surprising consequence; especially if that action leads to user’s loss of submitted data.

In some instances, we can’t place all instructions on one label nor can we provide all expected actions on one button. Therefore, it is better to place more than one button beside our main button, with proper labeling, so the user has a clue about what she has to do with which button.

Feedback on Waiting

If you, in real life, are with a friend on the go and at some point she tells you to wait until she comes back, you may wish to ask her about how long she’ll be gone and why she is disappearing. Yet, if your friend departs suddenly without any indication, you may get frustrated and annoyed. In fact, you might think to go ahead on your route or even return home. The same scenario can happen on the website, when a visitor takes some intended action and the screen goes black without any further indication from your site about what’s going on. In order to keep your visitor around, you must provide some instructions in text or visual clues, or risk testing the patience of your users.

If your web page is loading something, show a busy cursor or progress bar that informs users about the amount of time to accomplish downloading. If your web page is processing data, tell your visitors to wait, indicating the time frame, if possible, that you’ll be back to normal operations. Today we have many JavaScript and jQuery techniques to see animations or visual clues, and to keep users waiting around without getting bored. This is particularly appropriate for kids or toddlers who may leave our page suddenly if there is no indication of what site processes are there for their user experience.

References & More Reading

5 Usability Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make

The Blank Slate


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