Six Usability Mistakes to Avoid when Designing User Interfaces

Whether they’re for a website or a mobile app, user interfaces should provide a great experience for the people using them. These interfaces should always be designed with the users’ needs in mind. This is a simple principle that is easy to lose track of when attempting to create a UI that provides a great aesthetic experience. Focusing too much on a UI’s look may interfere with its function. A careful balance of both is required to create an interface that people will enjoy using.

Here’s a list of the most common usability mistakes web developers and designers make when creating user interfaces.

Using Unclear Copy for UI Text

All user interfaces require written copy for labels, tutorials or help text, and error messages. UI copy should be short, simple and clear to make it easier for people to understand how to use its features. The labels on an interface’s buttons and clickable elements should tell users exactly what these elements are for. Mailchimp’s “Create My Account” button is a good example of a button that has a clear label because it indicates exactly what the button does.

According to Leo Widrich, Co-Founder and CMO of Buffer, says creating written content for a UI is a matter of being clear versus being clever. He says, “We learned that picking the clear solution over the clever solution — even though the former might not be as pretty or as unique or as cool — is always what’s better for the user.”

Making Clickable Areas Too Small

Links are meant to be clicked, which means they should be easy for users to find and hover over. Use larger buttons or increase the text’s font size or padding to make clickable areas more obvious.

Not Making Room for User Error

Users will make mistakes no matter how well-designed a UI is. Include “undo” or “back” functions for text input and other actions to make it easier for users to make any necessary corrections. Create error messages and alerts that let users know what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from occurring again. Make sure these messages are short, specific, and accurate to avoid confusing users.

Leaving Blank Slates Empty

A UI screen’s “blank slate” is what it looks like when it has no data to display. For example, when a user accesses the Posts section of an empty blog’s dashboard, it will display a blank table. Many designers and developers neglect this stage because they start designing and testing their UI with dummy data already in place. A blank slate with no information or actionable items can confuse users. Barry identifies three simple elements that can enhance a blank slate and provide opportunities to teach users about the website, app, or software:

  • Prominent Description: Create a detailed description of what the screen or page is supposed to show, and display it where users can see immediately.
  • Actionable Components: Include buttons or links that inform users what to do to populate the screen with data. For example, add a “Write a Post” link to a blog’s blank Posts page.
  • Blank Slate Indicator: Prevent confusion by adding some text that informs users that there is no data to display.

Making Users Wait without Keeping Them Informed

Websites and apps should minimize loading time for any action or content, but there will be times that users will have to wait. Nathan Barry, author of “Designing Web Applications”, says, “Making users wait is sometimes unavoidable. But making users wait – without telling them why – is never unavoidable.”

Tell users when an app or a website is loading data, updating content, or performing any function by displaying a progress bar or spinning animation, along with text that describes what’s happening.

Adding Too Much Content or Too Many Design Elements

The most important question to ask when developing a UI is: “Does the user really need this feature?” Designer Kyle Sollenberger says “The best interface designs are invisible. They do not contain UI-bling or unnecessary elements.” All the features included in a UI should serve a practical purpose and contribute to overall user experience.

UI design requires careful planning and research about user behavior. Contact us to start working with web designers and developers who can create interfaces website visitors or app users will love using.

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