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Top-10 design mistakes in web applications

According to Jakob Nielsen, these are the 10 most common usability violations found in web applications:

1. Non-standard interface controls, such as home-grown scrollbars
2. Inconsistency in the way things work, appear and are labelled across the app
3. No providing proper affordances that give people visual clues about what they can do with an object (e.g. that they can drag-and-drop an object)
4. Not giving proper feedback about what is happening
5. Bad error messages that don't tell what went wrong and how to fix it
6. Asking for the same information twice
7. Not providing defaults (e.g. in a list of radio buttons)
8. Dumping users into the app without giving them an idea of how it works
9. Not indicating how collected information will be used
10. Offering system-centric features that reflect the system's internal view rather than the users

And generous as Jakob is, he also has a bonus mistake: Reset buttons on web forms.


  • Top-10 Application-Design Mistakes Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 20, 2008

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See also: Error handling (7)  Guidelines and Standards (15) 



Google applications are for dorks and geeks

According to Jeff Bonforte from Yahoo, poor usability is the main reason behind the limited adoption of Google's online services such as Gmail and Google Talk.

Google is receiving a lot of attention from "dorks and geeks." But because Google is ruled by engineers and pay little attention to usability, they haven't been successful in turning ordinary people into users of their online applications.

Yahoo has found that removing features from their online applications have made them more attractive to mainstream users.


  • Yahoo rubbishes Google usability Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 02, 2007 - via Usability In The News

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Part two of report on how to design web applications

Part II of the The Designer's Guide to Web Applications is out. In this 62-page report, Hagan and David Rivers examine seven of today's most innovative web applications, including:

- WebOffice
- Serenata Flowers
- Backpack
- SurveyMonkey
- Writely (now Google Docs)

The authors investigate the purpose of each application, its target users, and how each application tackles its specific design issues.

There is a free chapter of the report available.


Henrik Olsen - December 15, 2006

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Report on how to design web applications

Hagan Rivers has written a 54-page report that deconstructs some of today's most complex web applications. The report gives step-by-step guidance though the process of creating successful web application.


  • The Designer's Guide to Web Applications, Part I - Structure and Flows Open link in new window
  • Interview with Hangan Rivers about the report Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 07, 2006

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The book Getting Real

37signals have made their book Getting Real available online for free (you can still buy a PDF and now they also have a paperback).

The book is about how to build successful web-based applications the "smarter, faster, easier way" and features a short chapter on interface design.


  • The book Getting Real Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 05, 2006

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See also: The design process (24)  Books (47)  Online books (5) 



Making the Web Work

As the web has matured, interaction designers have been faced with the challenge of designing complex web-based applications, which resemble desktop applications in functionality and complexity.

Bob Baxley is a practicing designer specialized in interface design for both web and desktop applications. In his book, he does a great job explaining how the page-based hypertext model of the web, compared to the task and action based model of desktop applications, present a variety of unique challenges for web interface design. In the book, you'll find a great amount of useful tips on how to exploit the limited interactive vocabulary of the web.

Unfortunately, the focus of the book is somewhat blurred. A large part of the book deals with general aspect of web site development, which isn't relevant in the context of web applications. I'm sure that if Baxley had focused more exclusively on web applications, he could have taught us much more in less space.


  • Sample chapter (PDF) Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • A more extensive review from Boxes and Arrows Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 15, 2002

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See also: Books (47) 


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