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top 10 design mistakes of 2003

well at least according to Nielson

2:28 am on Dec 25, 2003 (gmt 0)

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1. Unclear Statement of Purpose
2. New URLs for Archived Content
3. Undated Content
4. Small Thumbnail Images of Big, Detailed Photos
5. Overly detailed ALT Text
6. No "What-If" Support
7. Long Lists that Can't Be Winnowed by Attributes
8. Products Sorted Only by Brand
9. Overly Restrictive Form Entry
10. Pages That Link to Themselves
4:49 am on Dec 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I think a lot of you are missing the point of what Mr. Nielsen is saying.

He is an expert on web USABILITY. Not accessibility, and definitely not design.

His site looks horrid, but it's painfully easy to use.

Ease of use is his primary objective, everything else (including design) is supplementary. The Web DESIGN mistakes are ones that hinder usability.

The restrictive data entry is the only one I can gripe with because of what someone posted earlier about having to do countless scenarios of bad data entry.

His top 10 mistakes in web design are that take away from website usability. Nothing else.

6:54 am on Dec 31, 2003 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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For what it's worth, it was after I discovered Jakob Nielsen and starting trying to do what he said that my first site started making money. I strongly believe that's a direct cause-and-effect relationship, not just coincidence.

Use your own aesthetic judgement about HOW you apply his principles, but take them seriously, very seriously. Usability and profitablity are two sides of the same coin.

7:10 am on Dec 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My number 1 design mistake:
text only web pages.

Yeah - I hate those text-heavy sites too - sites like that dull, boring WebmasterWorld.


5:04 pm on Jan 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Wow, Nielsen is getting such a bad rap here!

Nielsen is hardly as extreme as some people make him out to be. Sure, his site looks bare. But you know what? It works. It loads very fast and gives me the information I want without flashing distractions. It also works for him, since he gets a lot of traffic and sells lots of books.

I'll also have to echo buckworks here. Real-world experience proves his recommendations work in e-commerce sites. And note: he does NOT suggest following 100% of his recommendations, arguing that 80% might be the maximum achievable.

His "E-Commerce User Experience Report", now 2 years old, is still a gold-mine for me. Almost half the people that try to buy something from a website fail to do so. That's pathetic.

Having actually done usability testing on a few sites, I'm constantly amazed at how bad people are at using sites, and how many of the things I find have been flagged by Nielen.

One of his specific recommendations is to "use a type-in field, not a selection list, for the state". I thought that was BS until I actually watched users struggle during check-out. Some thought typing "Ca" should bring up "Canada", not "Afghanistan". Since 99% of my visitors are from North America, there are now three radio buttons: US, Canada, "other"- the makes the drop-down appear. The default is determined by the locale and IP address. (Of course, there are type-ahead drop-downs out there, but many people do press "C" repeatedly to get to Canada: a javascript solution would have to accomodate both. A radio button seemed like less work).

Most of his 207 e-commerce recommendations are incredibly easy to implement. Product Availability on a product page? D'oh, I had missed that one too. Having a check-list is damned useful at times, and most of these are trivial programming tasks.

Yikes... can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine? :)

5:58 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The key thing is focus on what customers want. Not what you want. My own company did a re-design soley based on the desire for better seo and made sure to use corporate colors, even if no visitor can read them.

The key thing is to focus on how to provide sites that are easy to use and provide solid consistency.

People don't like surprises, they don't like to waste time.

In my research and experiences, there are really two types of customers.

1. The Browser, just looking around, saw this site, it may have something i might be interested in.
2. I need part x, where is part x on your site. What sizes, colors, quantities is it available for? what price ranges? Is this a good price compared to your competitors.

The other part of usability is building trust. That means not hiding your returns policy and shipping charges information. Even if you don't have the best prices or policies ever, you'll still win points by being honest and up front.

Also you have to build a customer life cycle.

Each customer based on the niche of products/services will have a life cycle of how long they will buy from you.

all your work should be focused on extending it.

Which is why i recommend the following book.

"Customer-Centered Design" by Kreta Chandler and Karen Hyatt.
"This book provides readers what they need to know to greatly enhance website usability and the customer online shopping experience" óJakob Nielsen, author of best-selling title, Designing Web Usability"


6:00 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I have a copy of the Ecommerce Search Report of his, and I always wondered what his User Experience one was like.

I am a big usability junkie, because i am dedicated, diehard web developer towards creating applications that people can actually use!

6:28 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The E-Commerce USer Experience publication is excellent, I'd say. To some people it reads like a collection of "no brainers" -- but they are all established by user testing and that makes a big difference.

Some of the included user comments are enough to make me wince, realizing how often I've created the smae flawed experiences for my end users. And even the best e-commerce on the web (Amazon, e.g.) only hits about 75%-80% of the total list of elements that are discussed.

I've been happy I spent the big bucks for this report from day one, and I know it has made me more money than it cost by several orders of magnitude.

7:14 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Usability is about common sense and I think everyone needs to see the basic list of stupid things not to do from time to time.

That being said, all websites are unique and need to be designed so that they serve their purpose best.

If you and Jakob are not in perfectly aligned orbits, then big deal. Make sure you are not doing the basic stupid things, and then put the rest of your time towards making your site better for your users, not railing on about why or why not he has any right to talk about web usability.

7:42 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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All good points.

BTW, this thread is very high quality, I am only glad i am able to converse with so many intelligent people with good integrity.

I wish there was only a way to get training in usability.

8:13 pm on Feb 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Not doing stupid things is certainly a big part of usability -- but overlooking othern user-friendly elements can be a big part of usability as well. There are many such insights that NNG's user testing uncovered that really help.

For instance:

Does every page offer a clear "location cue" that matches, or at least lines up with, the link text that the user followed to arrive on that page?

If a page requires significant scrolling, do you offer navigation at the bottom as well as the top?

If you use an image of a product as a graphic element somewhere on your site that is outside the normal Point Of Sale, can a user still locate and buy that item easily? Very frustrating to see a picture of just what you want, but you can't figure out how to buy it from this page.

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