I am curious as to what everyone here thinks the worst design/development mistakes are. We got into a discussion here in my office about web site usability and it seems that opinions are varied. Anyone what to share their web site beefs? Then maybe we'll get into discussing solutions!!
It's kind of funny when you talk about usability standards. The "official" resource of website usability is supposed to be at www.useit.com and that site itself is supposedly the ideal site in usability terms. In fact, on that site right now is a list of the top 10 usability blunders for 2005. After reading that article, it becomes apparent that developers often take for granted some of the new technology out there in that most people can't take advantage of that new technology.
When reading that list I would have figured it appropriate for 2003 or earlier and that some of those complaints should be out-dated by now. The usability people are very very slow to react to new technology because of the time delay in getting the masses updated so that they can use it.
Now I would argue that any website that incorporates all of the latest techniques that can only be used by the latest and greatest browsers are probably going to be more usable for the people that can use them than those sites that try to account for the older browsers and therefore limit the advanced techniques used within them. At some point, we have to say to the end user that they need to update their pc so they can reap the benefits that the latest technology has to offer. That is why I prefer developing projects where I can control or dictate to the end user what browser (and version) they must use in order to enhance their usability experience.
Check out Jakob Neilson's site above and have a look for yourself.
answered on 10 Oct 2005, 04:36 PM
Indeed, usability is an issue that often stirs opinions and sets controversy - partly because heuristics is innately open to subjectivity and perhaps partly because many people are still not really aware of what usability is. I have gone through looong lists of dos and donts for usable web-sites, some of them darn good at describing common mistakes of us developers and IT professionals. What I would usually find in a top-10-mistakes countdown, however, is for me only half of the usability concern. Those are always specific, addressable issues like broken links, search-engine friendliness, reasonable use of graphics and color, concise web-style writing, fonts use, and page layout - all elements of what I call the "structural" usability concern. Long uncovered by usability experts, such heuristics serve predictably well in improving the user experience of any web-site. I believe, however, that their effect has an upper limit, set by factors beyond the immediate area of "structural" usability. At least for me, simply making a site search-engine friendly, with fluid layout and user-controlled font-size will not make it the most usable site, because usability is defined differently for each site - changing with site audiences and site purposes. With all of its compliance to usability standards, I doubt the layout of Useit.com would serve our visitors better than our current version. What I believe is really important in terms of usability, is to weave usability not just in the structural elements of a site, but in its conceptual design as well. What I call conceptual usability involves a genuine concern for users incorporated in every decision for the information architecture, layout, and most importantly - feel of the web-site. This concern needs, of course, to be backed up with both a solid understanding of one's users and a solid experience with web technologies and standards.
My point is that a list of usability todos can only improve to a certain level a web-site that has not been conceived with usability in mind. This said, for me one of the biggest usability don'ts is to content oneself with simply observing common usability standards - those will do little good if the web-site as a whole is not structured and laid out with concern for the users. I guess this is a part of the challenge of our profession, to know both people and technology, so we can create a meeting place that adds value.