Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Don't tell me how to do it!

Today I was working on a client's online payment system, and came across the following paragraph on the online bank's merchant account page:

"To help you navigate through this system, please use the boxes below."
This is an example of one of my pet hates on websites. 

If you have to tell me how to navigate through your site, it's not intuitive, and therefore almost certainly not as usable as it could be.

Don't make me think

Steve Krug (an internet usability guru) wrote a book called "Don't make me think!". If users have to think about how to navigate your website, then you're putting barriers in their way and they're likely to go elsewhere to a website which is easier to use.

In the old days of the web we used to try and make all pages reachable in less than 4 clicks. However recent research has shown that people don't mind so much if they have to make a few clicks if they don't have to think to make those clicks, ie if the website navigation is intuitive and their options are obvious.

Don't make false promises

In my last post I mentioned that you shouldn't put links to pages that haven't been written yet.

In a similar vein, don't put instructions to things that aren't there!

To add insult to injury, on the online bank's merchant account page that I quote above, the boxes it refers to didn't even exist!

It reminds me of another online payment gateway which has the following instruction on the payment page:
"To modify a payment click the Modify link. To remove a payment click the Delete link"
...except neither the Modify or Delete links exist! 

What is it about online payment gateways that makes them have such poor usability? Is it any wonder the "abandonment rate" for online shopping carts is almost 90%?

Intuitive navigation

So how do you make a usable navigation system for your website?

There are several ways to do it, depending partly on your budget, the time available and the size of your website.

People have written whole books about it, but if you want to skip the reading and commission me to help you, then please get in touch: