Nothing will turn a visitor away from your website faster then coming across a problem or issue that they cannot see an instant way around. Even a pet peeve can see a potential customer going elsewhere at the speed of a mouse click. Common issues with websites can often be solved in short order and radically increase the overall friendliness to keep people coming back.
1. Why must I sign up for something you say is free?
Many visitors are led to a website with the promise of some free content, information or other goody, only to run away when they see the dreaded sign-up screen. Trading their personal details makes the deal not free in the eyes of many users.
Solution: Remove the sign-up screen entirely, or limit it to an optional request for a name and email address. When the visitor sees the value of your content they are more likely to come back.
2. Why enter my e-mail address twice?
Endless duplication is a bane in many lives. But, this step, seen over and over on sites throughout the ages with no attempt to fix the issue, can stop some users in their tracks.
Solution: Instead of asking them to enter an address twice, let them enter it once. Then, show it to them on the final confirmation page in a larger than normal font size with a tick box to confirm the address.
3. Why is there so much text on a page?
Most users are goal orientated, so they scan the page to find the next step on their path. When there is too much text on a page, particularly during the first pages on a site, when they need the most guidance, visitors get frustrated and tend to leave because the site is too much effort.
Solution: Employ a copywriter (either get a freelancer or use an agency), or be ruthless in editing and remove everything that isn’t needed. Use bullet points where possible to condense text and get your points across.
4. Your site is confusing, why are there so many icons and too much information?
If a site has too many options, buttons and icons – users get overwhelmed with the choice and leave. Some homepages can be so crammed full of links, text buttons and banners that users really struggle to find what they are looking for. The irony is that site owners/designers often put all these options there to help users. But, how is a typical user expected to know what all those icons mean or trawl through vast amounts of text on the first page?
Solution: Prioritise key users (who is most likely to visit your site) and prioritise their core information needs, the reason they are visiting your site. Offer the high priority options and allow users to drill down to more detailed information rather than offer everything up front.
5. Why is your site full of strange words and acronyms?
Just because you and your web-designer friends can have an entire conversation in TLAs, doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. Nothing will put a visitor off a page faster than a wall full of jargon, industry terms and buzzwords.
Solution: Ask a non-technical person to read through a print out of a site and highlight anything they do not understand. Replace any highlighted terms with plain English, if some terms or acronyms are necessary, ensure the site has a highly visible panel defining any acronyms or terms.
Trouble behind the scenes
One or more of these problems can appear on almost any website. It may be that the designer is simply following a previous design, or that the site owner has seen them elsewhere and considered them “de rigueur” or good looking. Either way, they put up additional barriers to a good user experience but, fortunately, can be effectively pruned to improve the site.
Are there any other common issues you can think of and how would you address them?
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees