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Top Ten Web Design Mistakes 2005

It's time for Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes. In 2005 Jakob has asked his readers about their opinion. Here's the result:

#1 Legibility problems due to small fonts and low contrast
#2 Non-standard links that violate common expectations
#3 Flash with no purpose beyond annoying people
#4 Content that is not written for the web
#5 Bad search
#6 Browser incompatibility
#7 Cumbersome forms
#8 No contact information or other company information
#9 Layouts with fixed width
#10 Photo enlargements that doesn't show the users the details they expect


  • The article Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005

Henrik Olsen - October 03, 2005

Permanent link Comments (3)

See also: Forms (11)  Text (13)  Search (21)  Flash (6)  Browsers (2) 



Trigger words makes users dig into a site

According to Jared Spool, users browse websites using a Move-Forward-Until-Found Rule:

"...a web page can do only one of two things: either it contains the content the user wants or it contains the links to get them to the content they want. If a page doesn't follow this rule, then the users stop clicking..."

Trigger words is what makes users dig in to a site - words that contain the essential elements that provide the motivation to continue with the site.

In a study where the test participants were first interviewed about what they hoped to find on a number of large websites, UIE found that when the participants were successful in finding their target content, the words that they used in the interview appeared 72% of the time on the site's front page. When they where unsuccessful, their words appeared only 6% of the time.

UIE also found that when the participants didn't find any trigger words, they were far more likely to use the site's search function.


  • The article The Right Trigger Words

Henrik Olsen - December 13, 2004

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See also: Navigation (44)  Text (13)  Research (87) 



Users' expectations on the location of common page elements

SURL has examined where users from four geographical areas worldwide expect common web page elements on e-commerce sites to be located. The results showed that users generally expected:
- Links to the front page to be located at the top-left of the page
- Ads to be located at the top of the page
- Internal links to be located at the left side of the page
- External links to be located at the left and right sides of the page
- Links to shopping carts and help to be located at the top-right of the page


  • The article Preliminary Examination of Global Expectations of Users' Mental Models for E-Commerce Web Layouts

Henrik Olsen - August 04, 2004

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See also: Web page design (23)  Navigation (44)  Research (87) 



Guidelines for link appearance

Jakob Nielsen's guidelines for links appearance:

- Links should be coloured and underlined, though exceptions can be made in menus
- Underlining is important for users with low vision and essential for colour-blind users, if you use red or green link colours
- Shades of blue provide the strongest signal for links, but other colours work almost as well!
- Use vivid and bright colours for unvisited links and "washed out" colours for visited links
- Colours for unvisited and visited links should be variants or shades of the same colour
- Use small fonts for nothing but non-important links, such as copyright info
- And, hey, don't underline text that's not a link and don't render text in link colours

Nielsen also dislikes visual effects, when the cursor hovers over a link, but I can't see how this could cause any usability problems.


  • The article Guidelines for Visualizing Links

Henrik Olsen - May 10, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (63) 



Common web design practices

At the site Web Design Practices by Heidi P. Adkisson you'll find statically research on common design practices currently in use on the Web, covering items such as global and local navigation, breadcrumbs, search and links.

The site can be useful as a guide for making design decisions, but as Adkisson says:

"The data presented are intended to inform design decisions, not dictate them. Common practice does not necessarily equate with best practice - and the relationship between consistency and usability on the Web is remains a lightly researched area."

The site is an outgrowth of Adkisson's Master's thesis.


  • The site Common Design Practices

Henrik Olsen - October 13, 2003

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See also: Search (21)  Web page design (23)  Navigation (44)  Research (87) 



The myth of 7 +/- 2

Periodically, we hear about the rule of 7 +/- 2 from inexperienced interaction designers: Users can't handle more than 7 bullets on a page, seven items in a form list, or more than seven links in a menu. According to James Kalback, this has no evidence in reality – on the contrary. The psychologist George Miller's conclusions apply to what we can memorize – not what we can perceive.

Current research strongly supports that broad structures perform better than deep structures. Users can more easily cope with broad structures, they have a greater chance of getting lost in deep hierarchical structures, and new visitors are able to get a better overview of sites offerings from a broader structure.


  • The Myth of Seven, Plus or Minus 2

Henrik Olsen - June 23, 2003

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See also: Research (87)  Information architecture (10)  Navigation (44) 



Should hypertext links be blue and purple?

Luc Carton discusses the ancient question about whether links should be blue and purple. Findings from study of 100 top American retail sites showed that only 27% of the sites still use the standard blue colour for links. Moreover, 61% of the sites do not use different colours according to whether the links have been visited or not, and only 13% of them use the colour purple for visited links. On account of this study, Carton concludes that the blue/purple standard no longer exists, and since the main characteristic of a link isn’t the colour, but the underlining of the text, colour doesn’t matter.


  • The article Should hypertext links be blue and purple?

Henrik Olsen - January 14, 2003

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See also: Research (87) 



Reduce Redundancy

According to Jakob Nielsen "User interface complexity increases when a single feature or hypertext link is presented in multiple ways. Users rarely understand duplicates as such, and often waste time repeating efforts or visiting the same page twice by mistake."


  • The article Reduce Redundancy: Decrease Duplicated Design Decisions

Henrik Olsen - June 11, 2002

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See also: Navigation (44)  Tips and guidelines (63) 



Where should you put common web elements?

Michael Bernard has conducted two studies, which sought to better understand users' expectations concerning the location of common objects on web sites and e-commerce sites.

Some of the findings show that people expect:
- Links back to the front page to be located top-left of a page
- Internal links to be placed along the left side and external links along the right
- Shopping cart, account and help to be located along the top-right side
- Login to be placed top-left


  • The article Developing Schemas for the Location of Common Web Objects
  • The article Examining User Expectations for the Location of Common E-Commerce Web Objects

Henrik Olsen - June 10, 2002

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See also: Search (21)  Navigation (44)  Web page design (23)  Shopping Charts (5)  Research (87) 



Where Should You Put the Links?

Michael Bernard & Spring Hull have made two interesting studies on where to place associated links to an online document.

Their findings show that in terms of search accuracy, time and efficiency, there is no significant difference between placing links at the top-left of a document, to the left at the same height as the related content, in the bottom or embedded in the document. However, 50% of the test participants preferred embedded links.

Bernard and Hull have also observed that repeating embedded links in the left side of a document at the same height as the associated content makes searching faster (though not significantly) and is ranked significantly higher by the users than a layout with just embedded links.

Bernard and Hull also examined users' perceptions of frames, and found that the participants ranked a layout with associated links placed in a left frame significantly higher than a non-framed layout.


  • The article Where Should You Put the Links? A Comparison of Four Locations
  • The article Where Should You Put the Links? Comparing Embedded and Framed/Non-Framed Links

Henrik Olsen - June 07, 2002

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See also: Research (87) 

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