Bad Usability Websites and 5 Critical Things that Go Wrong

Bad Usability Websites and 5 Critical Things that Go Wrong logo

Avoiding what can go wrong in a bad usability website is critical when 88% of online shoppers are unlikely to return to a bad usability website after having a bad experience. Further, according to Uxeria, of the online businesses that failed, 70% were because of bad user usability of their websites.

Usability is the ability to operate something the way it was intended easily and without much instruction or other help. Bad usability in elements or whole pages and sites lead to angry users who can’t find or do what they need, leading to them looking for other sites, companies, or methods that are usable and more pleasant to users.

The 5 main things that went wrong in a bad usability website are:

  • Visuals.
  • Layouts.
  • Lacking Calls to Actions.
  • Confusing Text, Jargon, and/or other Descriptions.
  • Missing Pages and/or Elements.

Usability/User Experience

What is User Experience

User experience is a field of design and functionality that focuses on how the user of an item interacts and experiences that item or element of the item. First, the item should be easy-to-use and work well with little to no errors. No one wants to use a broken website; thus users will avoid them. You don’t use what you don’t like. Next, the item should be designed so that users find it nice to look at and appealing to use. If a room looks pretty, people will want to go into them. The same is true of websites.

girl with laptop and four people looking over her shoulder

The elements of the site should be findable and accessible to consumers. Users should be able to locate the item easily and without help. If users can’t find a page or button, they definitely won’t read or use it. People with disabilities should be remembered for this: will this page read well for the deaf? Is this text readable to the colorblind? Don’t forget mobile users either! All of the above (and beyond) are consumers that need to be planned for.

Some things are never going to be ‘fun’, like renewing your driver’s license or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. That does not mean that the process of doing it has to make it harder or even more frustrating. If the user can get in, ‘do what needs to be done’, and get out in minutes, they will be ambivalent to the site/process rather than angry. If the consumer can be entertained or even find joy when using a product or service, then all the better for them and the site.

Benefits of Having a User Friendly Website

Benefits of a website having good usability include:

  • Adding ease to design and maintain pages and content.
  • Raising organic lead generation and sales.
  • Having helpful pages that users like to reference.
  • Making high-traffic places for well placed ads.

Things that Go Wrong in a Bad Usability Website

Visuals

Most people are visual learners so they like to have visual cues that indicate what to look at or where to go. Good usability in websites does this with colors, images, and logos. This includes cartoons, graphics, and photographs (yes, stock images too). 

Visuals can go wrong when they are too bright or distracting from what is important, or when they are important and are too small or blend into the background too much to be noticed. Images that are designed too abstract to understand what they are or are too niche for newcomers also lead to bad usability in a website.

The best colors for design of a website depend on what the website is for, who will be using it, and what the tone of the site and the owners want and like. More professional websites usually have neutral/cooler colors as their main colors with a primary or secondary color for accent to give a formal/subdued feeling. For a more casual and comfortable tone, websites usually have more warm and brighter colors to make their users more calm and relaxed. 

Layout

Whether we’re talking about the layout of a page or the entire site, a layout is the path a user travels to find what they are looking for (most of the time a user is on a site for a specific purpose rather than just curiously exploring). Find the items or actions that users most want to find or complete (possibly by using a red route matrix) and make sure that it is easy and clear for your users to find and complete them.

Bad layouts in a bad usability website can include:

  • Too many pages.
  • Non-intuitive navigation.
  • Having critical buttons in unexpected places to users.
  • Mislabeling or badly labeled pages.
  • Lacking menus or way too many choices in menus.
  • Too long pages and/or posts.
  • Having too many things in a group.

As a general rule, keep 3-5 similar elements and items together. To avoid bad usability, make sure that the way you organize/categorize elements is logical and easy to pick up on. This helps with the feeling of unison in the design and gives a sense of what to expect that helps users find things easily. Also, use proper information architecture organization to make details easier to find.

Lacking Calls to Actions

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to the written prompt that leads to an immediate response or sale a business/brand wants its audience to take. In marketing, calls to action phrases are used to generate leads (grabbing the attention of potential customers that are a part of your target audience who may be interested in your tool, product, or service), turn browsing visitors into paying clients, and guide customers through sales tunnels easily, quickly, and with good user experience.

Making calls to action is simple. Starting a call to action with an action verb, makes the clause a command, and thus a complete sentence: ‘you’ (the implied subject) do something (action verb). Keeping in mind that calls to action phrases should be around 2-6 words (minimal is better) long, finish calls to action phrases with a noun, adverb, or prepositional phrase. 

Lacking calls to action makes users confused since they expect them (usually on a big, clear button) to help guide them through to the product, service, or other thing that they are looking for. Users expect web designers to make common processes as simple and brainless on the user’s part as possible. Not having a call to action not only costs you sales; it will cost you clients and customers as well.

Confusing Text, Jargon, and other Descriptions

notebook with large red Punctuation mark

You have and use your own technical lingo whether you know it or not. Bad usability websites often have words and phrases that mean something special and specific to them, but they don’t define them or ease users into the lingo. Just because you know what you’re talking about doesn’t mean that your users, clients, partners, readers, customers, etc. understand you.

Good usability websites have their content written in plain language. Unless you are writing for veterans in the field that know exactly what you are talking about, don’t use jargon, slang, or lingo that the readers may not know. Having to look up words just irritates readers. If you must use them, define them clearly in a way that is easy to find and go back to when readers have continued reading the document.

Bad usability websites just put content in without editing or user testing. Don’t do this; have someone (preferably from your target audience) look over your page and give you feedback. Sometimes things may seem obvious and simple, but users find them confusing and difficult. The only way to know for sure is to conduct user experience research.

Missing Pages and Elements

A landing page and a homepage are similar but not the same thing. A landing page is always the first page a user sees when they go to a website and is focused on advertising to the site’s audience while a homepage informs the user what the site is for and helps them navigate the site. A homepage can be the landing page, but a homepage can also be a separate page from the landing page.

Bad usability websites sometimes miss one or both of these critical pages along with other pages. I do not trust any website that does not have a ‘contact us’ page of one kind or another. Any website missing that page feels like a scam or fake website to me (why do they never want to be contacted?!) Other critical pages and elements can include:

  • ‘About Us’ and/or ’Mission statement’ page (who even are you?)
  • ‘Product’ page (even if you’re using a different website for selling there should be a link to those pages on your own website)
  • Search bar and or search icon (some people only use these and ignore all other navigation or layouts)
  • An easy way to login if profiles are needed
  • A menu somewhere on most if not all pages and posts

Summary

Usability is the ability to operate something the way it was intended easily and without much instruction or other help. Bad usability in elements or whole pages and sites lead to angry users who can’t find or do what they need, leading to them looking for other sites, companies, or methods that are usable and more pleasant to users. The 5 main things that went wrong in a bad usability website are:

  • Visuals.
  • Layouts.
  • Lacking Calls to Actions.
  • Confusing Text, Jargon, and other Descriptions.
  • Missing Pages and other Elements.

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