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7 Website Usability Mistakes You’re Making (And How to Fix Them)

Oct 3, 2023

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Welcome to the digital 2024, where your website isn’t just a series of webpages; it’s your online headquarters, your virtual handshake, and digital billboard.

(This article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this post at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I 100% believe in and use myself. Read the Privacy Policy for details.)

What is Website Usability?

Your website’s usability is more than just a fancy buzz word all the cool kids are using. It’s a key ingredient in keeping your website users engaged, clicking, and coming back for more.

According to Nielsen Norman Group, “Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”

Nielson Norman Group

Though this definition sounds a little academic, don’t worry. I’ve got the layperson’s version for you too…

Usability is really all about how user-friendly your website is. It’s about making sure that when your visitors use your website, it’s easy to learn and use and ultimately, people should actually enjoy using it. Some of the over-arching categories that website usability covers includes:

  • Availability 
  • Clarity
  • Recognition
  • Credibility
  • Relevance

Creating a usable website though isn’t as easy as it might seem however… Even the most beautifully-designed websites can fall into usability pitfalls.

Usability needs to be baked into every aspect of the website creation process.

But don’t worry if you’re late to the party on usability. In this post, I’m dishing up seven common usability website blunders I see happen all-too-often and serve up some easy solutions to fix them.

laptop computer open and blank

Usability Mistake #1: Cluttered Navigation

When your website visitors are presented with too many links in your main navigation menu it can quickly feel like a scavenger hunt.

If your users are met with too many choices it’s likely they are going to feel overwhelmed and be tempted to hit the “back” button.

Here are some tips to improve your website navigation:

  • Simplify your menu. Try to keep it under 6-7 main labels / headings / links
  • Group similar items into dropdown menus, creating neat hierarchal categories, such as Services, Programs, Products etc.
  • Make sure your links are labeled thoughtfully, and from the perspective of your users, not what you might call your offerings internally in your business.
  • Put your VIP links upfront, in the spotlight where users can’t miss them.

IMO, a well-thought navigation with clearly labeled links and a structured hierarchy is one of the most critical components that failing websites are lacking. Don’t let this be you OK?

Related Post: How to Create a Bounce-Proof Homepage Design

Usability Mistake #2: Lengthy Unformatted Paragraphs

Long, unbroken paragraphs of text are a surefire way to send your audience to sleep. They want to engage, not count sheep. To keep your visitors on your site longer and more engaged, try these usability design tips:

  • Chop up your content into skimmable, and delicious bite-sized pieces. Think tapas, not Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Add paragraph breaks after every 2-3 sentences and don’t be shy about using inline formatting such as bold, italics and underlines.
  • Use eye-catching subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists to break the monotony.
  • Sprinkle in eye-catching visuals throughout, like photos, infographics and charts.
woman working, clicking a mouse

Usability Mistake #3: Missing a CTA at the End of Your Pages

Ever binge-watched that amazing new Netflix series, only to be left hanging at the end of the season finale, desperately searching for the “next episode” button that just isn’t there?

It’s like the writers took a coffee break and forgot to finish and just left you with a bunch of unanswered questions, plot holes and frustration. That’s what it’s like when you fail to give your users a clear call to action (CTA) at the end of your website pages.

Without a clear call to action, users easily bounce away, missing the main event. Try these tips to make sure your users follow-through with what you actually want them to do:

  • Your CTAs should speak directly to your user’s desires and interests. Use action-oriented phrases like “Discover More,” “Get Started,” or “Unlock the Secrets.”
  • Ensure each CTA aligns with the page’s purpose. If it’s a blog post, invite readers to subscribe to your e-newsletter. If it’s a product page, lead them to make a purchase.
  • Make sure your CTA stands out visually. Use contrasting colors and bold typography to guide visitors’ eyes.

Related Post: 5 Critical Elements to Convert Visitors on Your Sales Page

Usability Mistake #4: Too Many Pop-Ups

Ugh pop-ups. Most people hate them, unless that is we’re talking about the pop-ups that happen to be on your own site and help you grow your email list… Am I right? 😉

You know that overly enthusiastic salesperson at Bath and Body Works who won’t stop creepily following you around the store? No matter how politely you tell them, you are, “Just looking, today…” they just doesn’t take the hint. Pop-ups can be like that, but worse.

Excessive pop-ups disrupt the natural flow of your website, and can quickly have users searching for a way out.

Instead of bombarding your users with a slew of less-than-sniff-worthy offers the minute they step foot inside of your digital space, try these tips instead.

  • Keep pop-ups minimal and timely. Only highlight your best stuff and limit to no more than 1 pop-up per page.
  • Make closing pop-ups effortless, with a highly visible X in the top right corner AND a secondary yet prominent text or button option ie. No, thanks!
  • Offer something irresistible in your pop-ups, like a discount code or free download
woman scrolling her mobile phone

Usability Mistake #5: Ignoring Mobile Optimization

Your website may be an utter masterpiece on desktop computers, but if it’s a mobile mess, I guarantee you’re losing a significant chunk of your audience. Mobile users expect a smooth, on-the-go experience and they’ve got close to zero patience for mobile hiccups.

Here’s how you can make sure it’s a good one:

  • Invest in responsive web design that adapts gracefully to different screen sizes. (Showit is my favorite platform for creating a flawless mobile design.)
  • Optimize images and content to load faster on mobile devices. Crop landscape photos to portrait orientation and swap out video content for static images to help them load faster.
  • Test your site on various smartphones and tablets.

Usability Mistake #6: Neglecting Page Load Speed

Ever sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, inching along at a snail’s pace while your patience wears thinner than your favorite pair of Lulu lemons that you just can’t bring your self to part with?

Slow website load times can induce that same level of frustration in your visitors.

Online, fast loading speed isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. Here’s how you can combat slow-loading website pages:

  • Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to uncover your website’s top performance issues.
  • Crop and compress those bulky oversized images. Aim to keep all your images 300-400kb or less. Try a compression tool like TinyJPG if needed to cut down on file size.
  • Serve images up in next-gen formats like WEBP and AVIF, and fast-loading SVGs when possible, and only use PNGs or GIFs when absolutely necessary.
  • Turn on site caching, and remove unnecessary code and scripts where you can.
  • Pre-load images high priority images at the top of your page .

Remember search engines give fast-loading websites a boost in ranking, so not only will it help improve your user experience, Google will give you a virtual high-five too.

woman working at a coffee shop, looking at her phone

Usability Mistake #7: Complex Forms and Registration Requirements

Complex website forms can be daunting – asking for so much information that you feel like you’re signing over your firstborn child just to download a PDF. Your users just wanted to browse your site, not join the CIA. Here’s some tips to help you keep it simple:

  • Trim down your form fields to just the essentials, like: Name, Email and Message
  • Offer the option to skip registrations or use social media sign-ins (SSO).
  • Be clear on the perks of registering, like exclusive content or discounts, and they’ll be more willing to join the club.
  • Create paged or conversational style forms so even when your forms do require more information, it breaks up the questions into more manageable chunks. Gravity forms* is one of my favorite WordPress plugins that can help you do this.

Related Post: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Make Your Website Accessible

So, there you have it – seven common usability mistakes that might be lurking on your website. But remember, identifying the issues is only the first step. To create a website that keeps your visitors coming back for more, you’ve got to actually take action to fix them.

Want to dive deeper into improving your website’s usability and user experience?

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Editor in Chief, Designer & Founder

kristin pruis

Before I enrolled in design school, I was *this* close to switching my major to become a writer. But fate had other plans, and here I am, 10 years deep as a designer while nurturing my love for writing on the side.


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Teaching others everything I've learned about branding, design, and marketing over the past 10 years is a passion that truly fills my cup. No matter where you are on your journey of owning your business, I hope you'll find something here that you can take with you and leave you feeling inspired.


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