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Three Design Mistakes That Destroy Website Usability

Posted on 5.29.2007

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Your website may have great content and an eye-pleasing design, but your users don’t seem to stay very long or visit many pages. What could be wrong? In many cases, the problem is usability – your visitors are abandoning your website out of frustration. There are many design mistakes that can destroy your website usability. Today we review three common problems that make your website difficult to use.
Poor Link Text
As far as usability is concerned, link text is very important. We all know that links should be blue and underlined – after all, this how the majority of websites are designed and it’s what users expect. But how much thought do you put in your actual link text?
The text you use in your link is very important, and should be very descriptive of what will come if clicked.  When designing and planning your link text try to think from a user’s perspective. What are they looking for? What do they need? Your goal should be to give them a clear path to the information they need. 
How many clicks does it take for your customers to find what they are looking for, and do they ever find it?  Do you get a lot of hits to your site map? Check your user logs to find out, because this is a clear indication that your users are not finding what they want and are looking through cumbersome site maps for the right path.
Incorrect Width Resolution
Here is a problem that became apparent as Web designers began using graphics on their pages, and it is still prevalent today. The problem arises when your website’s width resolution is greater than 800 pixels. The majority of Web users have their monitor resolution set at 800X600 so if your site is wider than 800, your user will not see the full page without using their horizontal scroll bar. 
Users are not accustomed to scrolling horizontally and will, in most instances, not even realize there is more information off to the right. The simplest solution to this problem is to keep your Web pages fewer than 800 pixels wide.
Slow-Loading Websites 
Usability studies prove that fast-loading websites are extremely important to Internet users. If your website takes longer than 10 seconds to load then you are probably losing visitors as they grow impatient and hit the back button. If the majority of your users are on a dial-up connection, you should keep your Web pages small – as it takes about 10 seconds to load 70KB.
There are several things you can do to keep your pages loading fast. First, don’t use more graphics than you need. You shouldn’t add graphics because you like the way they look – graphics should only be used to improve your website and not clutter it.
Second, compress and/or resize all graphics you put on your website. There are many free photo resize programs available that you can use to compress your images. You can also resize an image which thereby reduces the total KB size of the image.
Third, take a look at your HTML code and clean it up. Do you have any unnecessary tags? If you use a WYSIWYG editor, chances are you have some extra code that is slowing your page load times. By cleaning your HTML code and removing unnecessary tags you could decrease your load time, thereby making a faster loading page for your visitors.
So, even though you may have a great website with exceptional content, if you don’t design your site with usability in mind you may loose visitors before they even get a chance to find your great content. In this Internet age, Web users are growing more impatient and hitting the back button more frequently. In reality, you have only seconds to capture a visitor, so why not give them what they are looking for before someone else does?

About the Author:
Jason Smith is the webmaster of
For more tips on website design and reviews, please visit his site.

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