The Nielsen Norman Group is one of the world’s leading user research firms, and they recently completed a study of more than 40 websites in the US and UK to compile a new list of the “Top 10 Enduring Web-Design Mistakes.” Unfortunately, as their title hints, the list is new but web designers have been making these same mistakes for years:
- Unexpected Locations for Content: navigation links that don’t give users a clear idea of what they will find by clicking them.
- Competing Links & Categories: navigation links that are too similar, leaving users to guess which ones contain the information they need.
- Islands of Information: information scattered around the site, rather than grouped together in a logical way.
- Repetitive Links: frustratingly long series of clicks to get to information users are looking for.
- Hidden Fees & Prices
- Stranding Users on Microsites: topic- or organization-based subsites or sections that don’t allow users to easily return to the parent site.
- Poor Search Results
- Flawed Filters & Facets
- Overwhelming Users with Information
- Hidden Links: links in text or navigation that look more like images, ads, or headings rather than links.
Based on my own experience, library websites in particular tend to have useful content in unexpected locations (#1), and often overwhelm users with information (#9). Especially with the proliferation of vendor-hosted online resources, library website users often get stranded on microsites (#6) and have to range widely for information scattered about different pages, sections, and sometimes domains (#3).
Some of these problems are more difficult to solve than others, but all can be addressed to make your life, and your patrons’ lives, easier. If you think your library’s website may suffer from one or more of these errors, but are unsure how to fix them, contact me and I would be glad to consult with you about ways to make your website more useable.