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7 UXperts Share Most Annoying Usability Mistakes 18 June 2015 | Piotr Koczorowski

Have you ever asked yourself what is UX all about? I have one answer to that – it is about learning from mistakes. You can build a design around the idea of turning bad experiences into good ones.

Yeah, we tend to follow the core principles of UX design in every project possible. However,  sometimes they slip people’s minds, and it leads to mistakes that are becoming an integral part of most projects. If UX were treated as linguistics, I would say they no longer are mistakes – they became UX errors.

So, to see these errors, we reached out with the question “What ONE UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?” to the following prominent UX experts in the field: Paul Olyslager, Frank Gaine, Brad Frost, Stephen Hay, Andy Budd, Molly Wolfberg, and Heydon Pickering.

As a result, we collected a list of 8 Usability Mistakes That Make Experts Go Nuts. See the greatest vile perpetrators of UX design.

Expect the unexpected

Paul Olyslager

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

The unexpected. Performing an action (e.g. clicking a button) that does not result in a way I have thought it would.
– Paul Olyslager

Paul Olyslager, UX Manager at Nu3 shared with us one of the core reasons for all bad user experiences – the unexpected. Have you ever been irritated with something that works opposite to your expectations? Many websites have this problem, when their users do not know exactly what to do.

Vincent Flanders is an UX designer and a creator of a hilarious website Webpages That Suck. If you did not know that one, I just made your afternoon. He addressed the aforementioned issue and coined in 1998 the term mystery meat navigation, which essentially is designing webpage elements in such a way that they do not communicate their purpose.

One of our clients was a mystery butcher when it comes to mystery meat navigation. Their front page featured an area, which had elements posing as call to action buttons telling people to Register Now. Through a click tracking study, we saw that people clicked on them too often, while the buttons did not do anything.

That made people simply quit the site, after they assumed it is broken. After changing the buttons into clickable ones, their conversion rate went up by 122%. A small usability fix, but influential.

usability mistakes

24% of these clicks did nothing.

Check this out: Bournemouth University. Below the header there is an area deceptively posing as a menu bar, offering buttons that just beg to be clicked. In reality, they are just vague pictures with buzzwords. The design of the website is so convoluting, that the creators had to include instructions how to use it. Check out Flander’s amusing commentary, where he advises to poke one’s eyes out to end this abhorrent experience.

usability mistakes

A proposed improvement to the website.

However, there is more meat to come – Luke Wroblewski mentions another abomination of unexpected design.

Luis Abreu describes how distasteful hamburger menus are. They were supposed to be the fast food of navigation. However, they became harmful to our (mental) health, as they do not serve the expected purpose at all times.

What’s the takeaway from this point? Be clear. Make sure that every item in your project has a purpose, and that it communicates its purpose immediately.

The internet is a funfair

Frank Gaine from UX Switch brings you the reason why most people gave up on going to many modern news websites:

Frank Gaine Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

Those ‘Top 20′ websites, where you have to click a Next button and refresh the page to see each item in the list. Grrrr. They should just do a big long list on the one page.
– Frank Gaine

Are you dizzy when you browse the web? I sure am. The growing abundance of carousels and clickbaiting pagination makes me, and many others nauseous.

They exist to get more money from the page views. A terribly cheap way of exploiting your users.

usability mistakes

Click to find out.

Brad Frost speaks of that another child of the merry-go-round family – carousels. They are supposed to bring “fun” to the user. However, they are badly executed, causing confusion and misinformation. Because of that, people tend to skip past them.

usability mistakes

Typical case scenario, courtesy of Brad Frost.

If you need stats telling you why carousels are bad for your website, Harrison Jones from Search Engine Land tells you right here that sliders are bad for both usability and SEO.

Conclusion: Remove image sliders, carousels, and clickbaiting pagination. Be clear and honest.

Inaccessible mobile pages

Stephen Hay Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

When I follow a link to your site on my phone, and I can only get to the content if I ‘download the app’. I’m not going to download the app.
– Stephen Hay

Many a time upon entering a webpage was I greeted with a lovely message on my phone that I need to download a dedicated app for that.

usability mistakes

AT least I have a choice here…

Stephen Hay from Zero Interface tells us exactly what happens in that situation: nothing.

There is not much to tell about this issue. Acting honestly and with integrity towards your users is a must. Forcing them to download applications so they can browse your website is a shameful way of extorting statistics. Some claim that their website isn’t optimized for mobile browsers – stop right here. Don’t do that.

Bad Performance

Bad performance ain’t gonna receive no applause, says Brad Frost:

Brad Frost Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

Performance is perhaps the most crucial aspects of a user experience, but unfortunately it’s largely ignored.

And it’s largely ignored because it’s invisible. Teams spend a lot of time polishing the aesthetic experience and enjoy diving into the latest development tools, but ultimately neglect how fast the experience loads and performs. It’s up to us to prioritize performance in our projects in order to better serve our users.
– Brad Frost

It narrows down to how fast we can operate the website. High page loading times yield devastating results.

KissMetrics presents a great infographic showing you stats, which prove that slow performance means death.


Jakob Nielsen speaks how responsiveness is a basic user interface rule that needs to be incorporated into every project you make.

Do not forsake performance for the sake of aesthetics. Slow loading times and heavy websites are the first detrimental factors that people notice.

If you suspect that you are facing a speed problem, check out this guide how to optimize your speed.

Reading is a chore

Since we rely heavily on the Internet nowadays, reading is an essential activity. Because of that, rules and guidelines were created in order to make that task as pleasurable as possible.

Some do employ them properly, but some forget that reading content should be optimized.

Frank Gaine Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

I hate huge amounts of text without sub headings to summarize and divide up the text!
– Frank Gaine

UXBooth tells you that most designers put visuals before the content itself, claiming it is destroying the value of the text. Later on, however, they advocate how both design and content can be optimized – the right way to go. By optimizing typography, text division, order, and many more, you can deliver the most pleasant experience to your readers.

Content serves the web right now, so it is crucial to make it easy to digest.

If you want to go in-depth with optimizing your text, have a look at this piece from Smashing Magazine telling you how to craft a perfect paragraph. We have been taught in our classes that paragraphs are the building blocks of every text, so let’s make sure that their quality is awesome, or else the whole thing shall crumble.

UX Movement tells how center alignment makes orphans and children cry, and then they move on to tell you that you should get rid of orphans entirely (you know, those dangling pieces in the text, not real orphans).

Your forms are out of form

I have no idea why so many websites neglect web forms and leave them completely not optimized when their business heavily relies on them. You are an e-store? Imagine having bad order and delivery forms – these conversion rates are going to hit the ground so hard your business will lose its balance.

Andy Budd from Clearleft elaborates on these nasty, nasty forms:

Andy Budd Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

As a user I get really frustrated when overly enthusiastic form validation tells me a field is wrong when I know it’s right. This usually happens when I try to add an international prefix to a phone number, let’s say, but I’ve also had buggy validation tell me that my date of birth was wrong, which is especially annoying.

A related frustration is when the page refreshes and some of the information you previously entered has been removed and it’s not clear what’s actually causing the error in the first place.
– Andy Budd

Websites tend to lie to you that you need to undergo a “quick” registration process that will take only a minute, and 15 minutes later you still are trying to enter the right CAPTCHA at the end. Don’t forget about re-entering your password every time, because it resets for security purposes.


Soooo, I can’t go with “hunter2″?

Smashing Magazine comes to help with an extensive guide to optimizing your web forms. Once you focus on three basic aspects of web forms (Relationship, Conversation, Appearance), you can fully understand the core principles of successful form design.

If you want to go ahead and test out your web forms UsabilityTools offers comprehensive web form analytics.

There is one thing – check out this website focused on showcasing terrible forms on the Internet – BadForms. What I found curious is the fact that the category “Good Forms” is actually empty. Dear Internet, start optimizing your forms, thanks – Everyone.

Signing in makes you want to sign out

Sometimes you click “Sign In”, a box pops up, you fill out two fields, press enter and you “enter the matrix”.

Sometimes you have to go through 3 pages to even reach the form alone.

Molly Wolfberg from UX Sisters tells you of this horror:

Molly Wolfberg Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

When I have to go through too many clicks to sign in! there’s one banking site I use often, and I have to click THREE TIMES to even get to my login page. It’s awful! If you’re making people sign in to use your product, make it easily accessible!
– Molly Wolfberg

Not only registering should be quick and easy – signing in when returning to the service should be a breeze as well.

Do I hear faint “But it follows the 3 clicks principle…” in the background? No. The 3-clicks rule is an obsolete relic that only illogically shuts down any design-related debates. UX Booth orders you to stop counting clicks, as the amount of pages you need to go through is not the issue – the amount of effort required for each of them is.

Of course, the above is related to the browsing experience in general, but both the signing in and the general browsing face the same issue – being too strenuous for users. There are two solutions:

  • If signing in takes too much effort because of the clicks you need to make, simplify it.
  • If reaching information on your website can be done with two clicks, but requires tons of searching because of the abundance of tabs in the navigation menu, simplify it.

Generally, simplify it.

And that leads us to the final point…


Take it easy, a piece of truth coming from Heydon Pickering, a Senior Designer at Neontribe and Accessibility Editor for Smashing Magazine:

Heydon Pickering Usability Mistakes

What one UX mistake on websites drives you crazy?

Complexity is the most prolific enemy of good user experiences, blighting all kinds of users. Complexity is also one of the hardest things to fix after the fact.

The only way to “fix” complexity is to axe features, so being the anti-complexity tzar means telling people their work has to be destroyed. Not an easy job. Good planning and the willingness to say “no” in the early stages of a product’s life are the best way to reduce complexity.
– Heydon Pickering

Complexity is THE issue of all UX projects, and is one of the most common mistakes. Many designers do not see that their project is overloaded with features, even though they are core elements. Being critical towards your own work is difficult, as removing one part causes others to crumble – this is the scenario we need to change.

The philosophy of all modern projects gravitates towards this one rule – simplicity. UXMag speaks how hard it is to be simple. If you want to make it, try following 10 principles UXMag proposes. They advocate being focused, as that will lead you to a clear product. Smashing Magazine highlights many examples of changing projects by employing the rule of simplicity. The results are often immediately pleasant to the eye, proving that the results are there.

Remember – complexity is dirty. Clean it all up and make your projects simple.

The final word

Thanks to reaching out to UX experts, we could gather what actually bugs people on everyday basis. Some of abovementioned points appear to be painstakingly obvious – the question is why they still appear? The answer might be the fact that they became too integrated with most of the designs, and that forced us to get accustomed.

That is a terrible mistake.

Never get used to bad experiences. Do your best to deliver and demand the most pleasant UX possible. Do it for both yourself and for others.

Feedback Questions 1a

Piotr Koczorowski

Written by Piotr Koczorowski

Quirky, funny and energetic young blogger from Poland with a passion for video games, contemporary American literature, chillwave music, and pizza. Between studying Translation Studies at a Polish university, Piotr works at UsabilityTools where he blogs about UX and goes overboard with puns and cultural references. In his free time he dreams of space travel (and pizza.)

  • jaffathecake

    The article layout, justified text, and text-in-an-image makes this article really tough to read.

    • Piotr Koczorowski

      Hey, thanks for the insight! What would you change in the layout?

      • Evan

        If you were to replace the image quotes with a single stylized blockquote format, I think the article would look significantly better. The image quotes muddy what is an otherwise OK design. It also doesn’t help that they are all different flashy colors, which makes them look like ads. You should also link to the web pages where the quotes appear, or add a more formal citation if that’s not possible.

      • jb

        aside from replacing the text-in-image quotes as others have mentioned, i would lose the AddThis share bar and fix the header font. the section fonts are much too thin/light and hard to read, and the Get Free Trial button looks like something is wrong with it.

    • joelgoodman

      This. Also, the non-existence of a visual hierarchy, not vertical rhythm and bright images that look like ads. Everything about this page should have been included in the 8 tips. I couldn’t even find the first tip until I’d scrolled past it.

    • Airwalk Design

      Was about to mention this!

    • NathanCH

      It really is terrible. ‘Hey let’s put their quotes onto an image.’ What a fucking awful idea. It’s clear to me that the author of this article doesn’t know anything about usability.

      • Piotr Koczorowski

        Went too meta and tongue-in-cheek, gonna avoid that in the future, thanks! 😀

  • Paul Olyslager

    I wanted to thank you for reaching out. I believe too many UX problems still find their way online and it should be everyone’s responsibility to tackle them, not just ‘UX Experts’. I believe you have gathered some great tips with this story that can put everyone to work!

    • Piotr Koczorowski

      Thanks for the thumbs up! :)

  • Jeffany

    An article talking about usability and ux that is nearly impossible to read … oh the ultimate in designer irony.

  • Anthony Silver

    Please please please get your hyperlinks to open in new tabs. Otherwise, if you’ve sent me to a good article, it is hard to get back to this one or I’ll just forget to come back. Would help your engagement.

  • wordsilk

    Why would you put the quotes in a teeny, tiny font size in images that make it nearly impossible to read them? A joke?

  • BlueEel

    I hate when I can’t print out a page correctly because someone didn’t bother to add printing CSS…

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