Nielsen's Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design
1. Using Frames
Splitting a page into frames is very confusing for users since frames
break the fundamental user model of the web page. All of a sudden,
you cannot bookmark the current page and return to it (the bookmark
points to another version of the frameset), URLs stop working, and
printouts become difficult. Even worse, the predictability of user
actions goes out the door: who knows what information will appear
where when you click on a link?
2. Gratuitous Use of Bleeding-Edge Technology
Don't try to attract users to your site by bragging about use of the
latest web technology. You may attract a few nerds, but mainstream
users will care more about useful content and your ability to offer
good customer service. Using the latest and greatest before it is
even out of beta is a sure way to discourage users: if their system
crashes while visiting your site, you can bet that many of them will
not be back. Unless you are in the business of selling Internet products
or services, it is better to wait until some experience has been gained
with respect to the appropriate ways of using new techniques. When
desktop publishing was young, people put twenty fonts in their documents:
let's avoid similar design bloat on the Web.
3. Scrolling Text, Marquees, and Constantly Running Animations
Never include page elements that move incessantly. Moving images have
an overpowering effect on the human peripheral vision. A web page
should not emulate Times Square in New York City in its constant attack
on the human senses: give your user some peace and quiet to actually
read the text!
Of course, <BLINK> is simply evil. Enough said.
4. Complex URLs
Even though machine-level addressing like the URL should never have
been exposed in the user interface, it is there. Users sometimes need
to type in a URL, so try to minimize the risk of typos by using short
names with all lower-case characters and no special characters (many
people don't know how to type a ~).
5. Orphan Pages
Make sure that all pages include a clear indication of what web site
they belong to since users may access pages directly without coming
in through your home page. For the same reason, every page should
have a link up to your home page as well as some indication of where
they fit within the structure of your information space.
6. Long Scrolling Pages
All critical content and navigation options should be on the top part
of the page.
7. Lack of Navigation Support
Don't assume that users know as much about your site as you do. They
always have difficulty finding information, so they need support in
the form of a strong sense of structure and place. Start your design
with a good understanding of the structure of the information space
and communicate this structure explicitly to the user. Provide a site
map and let users know where they are and where they can go. Also,
you will need a good search feature since even the best navigation
support will never be enough.
8. Non-Standard Link Colors
By default links to pages that have not been seen by the user are
blue; links to previously seen pages are purple or red. Don't mess
with these colors since the ability to understand what links have
been followed is one of the few navigational aides that is standard
in most web browsers. Consistency is key to teaching users what the
link colors mean.
9. Outdated Information
Budget to hire a web gardener as part of your team. You need somebody
to root out the weeds and replant the flowers as the website changes
but most people would rather spend their time creating new content
than on maintenance. In practice, maintenance is a cheap way of enhancing
the content on your website since many old pages keep their relevance
and should be linked into the new pages. Of course, some pages are
better off being removed completely from the server after their expiration
10. Overly Long Download Times
I am placing this issue last because most people already know about
it; not because it is the least important. Traditional human factors
guidelines indicate 10 seconds as the maximum response time before
users lose interest. On the web, users have been trained to endure
so much suffering that it may be acceptable to increase this limit
to 15 seconds for a few pages.
Even websites with high-end users need to consider download times:
we have found that many of our customers access Sun's website from
home computers in the evening because they are too busy to surf
the web during working hours. Bandwidth is getting worse, not better,
as the Internet adds users faster than the infrastructure can keep
Adapted from Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox
for May 1996