Top five usability blunders (and fixes)

frustrated user

Five easy steps to alienating your users with bad usability

  1. Fail to simplify a comprehensive interface so that new users can quickly climb past the suck threshold.
  2. Build an inconsistent UI layout or interaction design that varies throughout the application, creating a sense of dissonance for the users.
  3. Interrupt the user‘s workflow with pop-ups and other modal interruptions.
  4. Limit expert users to following “new user” workflow, one tedius, repetitive step at a time when shortcuts would work.
  5. Don’t suggest solutions when an error message is displayed.

Five difficult steps to making your users fall in love with your application

  1. Plan for new users. Incorporate training, documentation, guides (or wizards), and feedback (breadcrumbs, confirmations) into your design. All of these “new user” solutions can be ignored once the users become experts.
  2. Plan a consistent UI. Share a common stylesheet across web pages. Keep screenshots of the application taped to the wall where UI designers and developers can quickly assure commonality. Reuse interace code – derive from (or reference) common search widgets, sortable grids, etc. Make sure part of design reviews explicitly ask “is this the same as what’s already there” or “are we updating the existing stuff to match this?”
  3. Provide passive warnings. Provide feedback in the status bar or page header when something “might not be right”. Add “Don’t ask me again” checkboxes to the “Are you sure you want to do this?” interuptions – let each user decide when they know what they’re doing and don’t want the interruption. Add undo capabilities for when users mess up.
  4. See #1‘s solution approach.
  5. Add a “Fix this for me” button whenever a modal message must be displayed. At a minimum, offer targeted advice on how to fix the problem manually – right in the dialog. Add logging of all modal interruptions, so that developers can design new automated fixes (or prevent errors entirely) in future releases.

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