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What to avoid when it comes to web usability. The 7 Sins

What to avoid when it comes to web usability. The 7 Sins

A user-friendly website is essential to keep people interested in what you have to say and ultimately keeps them coming back. Neil Walker, Chief Technical Officer at Just Search, looks at what usability nightmares marketers should avoid when designing a website to enhance their brand.

More than 83 per cent of internet users are likely to leave a website if they feel there are too many clicks to find what they are looking for.

Recent studies have shown that the typical user will take four seconds to decide if they will stay at a site or move on. With this in mind, marketers need to avoid making assumptions about user behaviour and the way that websites are used.

Marketing efforts are wasted if a site is not user-friendly and does not provide a good user experience, so it is imperative they offer content and information for visitors to make informed decisions. If a visitor cannot get from A to B quickly and easily, then they will give up and potentially, go to a competitor.

Mistake no.1 - Inconsistent and confusing site navigation

Effective site navigation is important from the outset of a visitor’s journey so relevant links should be included to take visitors directly to related landing pages from search engines. Marketers need to remember that search is closely linked with the way their site works.

Once on a site, visitors do not want to waste time clicking around to find what they want and will leave if they cannot locate the necessary navigation buttons.

Do not rely on visitors to use forward and back arrows to navigate their way around as many people prefer to click directly through to the next page so clear signposting is essential for users to find what they are looking for. The key is to have a strong structure that is simple, effective and consistent throughout.

Mistake no.2 - Difficult to scan content

The quality of content on all pages is important. Too much block text can be boring and intimidating and will put a user off. Equally, a page with very little content is pointless and does not give the user any reason to continue browsing.

Content needs to be the right size, with the right spacing to be readable and provide enough information to understand the company message and services in a quick read. The use of multimedia can make a page interesting, such as using video, images and audio to replace traditional text.

Download times for images and music can often put people off, so ensure these are used appropriately and not as a way of simply filling up a page.

Mistake no.3 - Misidentified and unidentified links

Avoid underlining words or phrases that are not links. Clicking on an underlined word that results in no action can be frustrating for users and will dissuade them from using a site. Identifiable links will let visitors know where they are on site and will help direct them on where to go to next, for example displaying links a different colour to the body of the text.

Users will have varying levels of web skills so links and calls to action need to be visible and identified boldly and clearly. 

Mistake no.4 - Too much industry jargon

People need to be able to understand what is being said on a site, in particular on the homepage. Too much technical jargon will confuse readers and discourage them from browsing the rest of the site.

Anyone can access a website, so the words used need to be understood by everyone, not just the target audience. Ask someone outside the business to proof read the site. If they do not understand it then it is likely the target audience will not either.

The clearer the language that is used, the better – choose words carefully. Using examples and case studies are effective ways of helping people to understand complex issues.

Mistake no.5 - Hidden or absent contact information

Hidden or absent contact information can have a negative impact on users as it makes them lack trust in a site. People can be suspicious of companies that do not provide contact details, particularly phone numbers and email addresses.

Including contact information and making it easy to submit feedback gives users confidence and reassures them that there is a human element behind the website and business.

Mistake no. 6 - Not allowing user browser control

Web users do not appreciate preferences that are forced upon them and do not like it when their screens are bombarded with new windows that they have not opened. Giving users choice and empowering them with control of their browser will overcome this.

Mistake no.7 – Content that looks like advertising

Visitors tend not to pay attention to advertising. It is important for content not to look like an advertisement and needs to clearly identified as legitimate web design. To avoid running the risk of being ignored and putting visitors off, steer away from using banners and pop-ups.

Avoiding these mistakes and by creating a user-friendly site, businesses will retain interest while directing them to a call to action (either an enquiry or purchase). Combined with relevant content, user experience helps marketing efforts in brand building.

Online and offline activities need to reflect each other. If offline marketing activities drive traffic to a site promising quality and reliability then the website needs to deliver on this, giving users a true brand experience. This will help build the company name and a loyal user base.

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