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Each of us goes on various websites almost each day, either for entertainment or for various needs. In many cases, however, some of us face various obstacles and problems on websites, and these might render our experience unpleasant or difficult, due to usability-related aspects of the websites and their functionality.
In the following list, several of the most widely encountered usability issues are presented, with examples and explanations for their sources, and eventual ways of solving them:
- When we fill in a form, the mandatory fields have to be marked using an asterisk, or to prompt us using a pop-up message telling us that these fields are required for proceeding with the task. Unfortunately, inadequately marked forms are very frequently encountered on many websites, where omitting a field and clicking the ‚proceed’ button deletes all your filled-in fields and you have to start all-over again, which requires time and effort.
- Another usability problem is not mentioning how many and what types of characters are needed for a password when creating an account. Furthermore, when entering an inadequate password, the prompting messages can be unclear (e.g. inadequate password), instead of mentioning why the password is inacceptable and how it should be changed.
- Many websites fail to integrate keyboard shortcuts in their website platforms. For instance, when a website launches a pop-up, it would be good to allow the user to close that pop-up by simply hitting the ESC key. Sadly, incorporating such shortcuts is often overlooked in many web products, which means that both normal and disabled users have to change and adapt their browsing style, abandoning the keyboard behaviour they are used to.
- Chromatic inconsistency: when fonts, images, field sizes and buttons are in such a way that the user gets confused by the whole navigation process. For instance, if on many sites the „Save” button is coloured green, the user will get confused when entering in another site where the „Save” button is red, and will hesitate to click on it. This is because the user associates the colour red with the „Cancel” or „Delete” commands.
- Placing the header in the other area of a page. Although such a positioning of the logo and menu might seem acceptable from an aesthetic perspective, in terms of usability such a decision is to be avoided. Because most websites have the header on the upper area of the page, users expect this to be the standard on the Internet, and might be confused and wary when entering a website with the header on the bottom of the page. Ensuring a pattern among websites means that the users find it easier to navigate and fulfil their needs and desires, which is an important goal for the owners of those sites.
- More does not equal better. Having many visual elements on a website might tire the user, especially when these elements are not organised in a sensible manner. Cluttered, multi-coloured websites usually deter visitors and this can be explained by the user’s pre-frontal cortex, which does not pay attention to unnecessary information.
- Decision making is in many cases a difficult process, and this also applies to navigating the web. When faced with multiple options, which is often the case with shopping websites, the user might behave in manners that are explained by neuroscience: Cognitive control and value-based decision-making tasks appear to depend on different brain regions within the prefrontal cortex. Too many options for choosing an activity create ‘noise’ in the brain, that is mentally exhausting. This means that well filtered and organized options will allow users to make up their minds more quickly and enhance their experience with that website, ensuring their return.
These are just a few examples of how not to design and implement a website. Site owners have to avoid offering their visitors a low-quality browsing experience, so that they will return time and again to that same website. Usability is therefore very important for ensuring the needs of the user are dealt with accordingly. With good usability comes efficient task solving and a steady customer base, and this can make an enormous difference for website owners and for their companies on the long term.
Author: Andreea Popescu