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10 common usability problems with websites | Nomensa

10 common usability problems with websites

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7 minutes, 52 seconds
10 common usability problems with websites

In today’s digital age, websites play a pivotal role in connecting businesses with their target audiences. Poor or under-researched usability issues can undermine a website’s effectiveness, leading to lost opportunities, frustrated users and decreased engagement.

Usability problems refer to issues that hinder users from effectively and efficiently interacting with a website. These problems can manifest in various ways – such as confusing navigation, cluttered layouts, slow loading times, ambiguous instructions, or inconsistent design elements.

Usability problems can also include inaccessible content for users with disabilities, poor mobile optimisation, or lack of clear calls to action. Addressing these issues is crucial to ensure a positive user experience, enhance user satisfaction and increase the website’s overall usability, ultimately leading to improved engagement and conversion rates.

To ensure that websites provide a seamless user experience and optimise user satisfaction, it is essential to address a range common usability problems. “I know I want to improve my website’s usability, but where on earth do I start?”, you might ask. We have put together a list of top 10 usability issues encountered on websites, along with our recommendations for improving them.


1. Lack of effective user testing and feedback

The problem:

You will have heard the expression “the customer is always right”. Neglecting to monitor feedback or invest in adequate user testing with the people who use your website or product can lead to persistent usability issues. These issues will hinder the overall experience and cause low engagement or conversion rates on your website. Without testing your website with users, it is challenging to identify and understand the usability problems.

Our recommendation:

At Nomensa, we place a strong emphasis on the value of user testing to identify any usability problems and gather valuable insights. It is crucial to regularly gather and analyse user feedback as part of a continuous improvement program. Testing provides valuable data and insights into user behaviour through observing and analysing user interactions. This data allows for data-driven improvements to the design, layout and functionality of websites.

As with all of the items on this list, testing new designs or features with your users before going live ensures that your website will have the desired impact and will save you time, effort and costs in the long run.

2. Unclear or complex navigation

The problem:

Websites with confusing navigation structures or information architecture can leave users feeling lost and frustrated. This can be anything from the design of your menu to the structure of the content on your website. When users struggle to locate information or desired features, they get frustrated and abandon your website. A complex menu can cause cognitive overload from too many options or a complicated structure. This can overwhelm users and make decision-making more challenging.

Our regular engagement with users across a broad range of industries, from government to private sector, has shown that users prefer to have clear and accessible journeys with as few clicks as possible to their intended destination.

Our recommendation:

We would recommend simplifying navigation menus, ensuring a clear and logical categorisation of content, and to utilise intuitive labelling.

At Nomensa we regularly support our clients with Information Architecture projects, using quantitative and qualitative research methods to understand users’ mental models. This allows us to design menus and content structures that are intuitive to your users.

Implementing a search function can be a good first step for quick access to specific information. Through Google Analytics 4, you can utilise this data to provide insights into what content interests your users most.

3. Overwhelming or cluttered layouts

The problem:

Websites with cluttered layouts overwhelm and hinder users’ focus, readability, interaction and loading times. Cluttered layouts will impede users’ navigation and their interactions with their websites, creating cognitive strain and driving them away from your website.

Content structure also plays a big role in supporting your users to find the information they need. Large blocks of text that are unscannable or overwhelming your designs with calls to action (CTAs) will frustrate people and cause them to leave your website.

Our recommendation:

We recommend embracing clean and minimalist designs, utilising white space effectively, and prioritising your content hierarchy.

A good way to overcome this issue is ensuring that important elements are visually prominent. We have experienced content designers and UX designers who are experts in their field and can support you in building the right content strategy or design.

4. Lack of mobile optimisation

The problem:

Mobile phones are now the most used device to access the web, so websites that are not optimised for mobile and tablet screens present a significant usability problem.

This can include text that is too small to read or pages that don’t resize, which can frustrate your users and prevent them from accessing information or completing tasks on your website. Not optimising your images and website content for mobile will increase its loading speed over 4G or 3G networks.

In 2016, Google announced that it was going to rank mobile websites before the desktop version. This meant that if your website was not optimised for mobile use, it would have significantly less ranking potential.

Our recommendation:

It’s important to take a responsive design approach that adapts to different screen sizes and reduces load speed. This will create a more user-friendly experience. As part of your design journey, we would strongly recommend testing websites with users on various mobile platforms and device types to ensure a consistent experience.

5. Slow page load times

The problem:

Websites that load slowly doesn’t just frustrate your users, but can lower the overall perception of your website or brand. Slow loading times can lead to high bounce rates, user frustration and hindered navigation or interactivity. Loading times are particularly important when considering mobile devices using 4G networks.

Our recommendation:

Often, the most effective way of dealing with slow load times is by reducing the size of the page that you are trying to load. This can be as simple as compressing images, but may also include minimising code or utilising caching techniques.

An SEO technical audit can be one way of identifying the underlying issues for load speeds. It’s a good idea to regularly monitor website performance and potentially utilise content delivery networks for faster delivery.

10 usability problems image, representing the different types of problems. Discussed further in text

6. Insufficient error handling

The problem:

What happens when something goes wrong, or is entered incorrectly? Websites that lack proper error handling will take longer to fix. Errors can be as simple as a link that takes you to a 404 page, or coding errors in forms or interactions on your websites.

Our recommendation:

It’s advisable to provide informative error messages that clearly explain the problem, suggest a solution and make error fields easily identifiable. We also recommend tracking when error messages appear through your analytics solution, as this allows for ongoing reporting and analysis.

Contextual help or live chat support is also highly valued by users in this situation.

7. Inadequate accessibility features

The problem:

Websites that do not accommodate individuals with disabilities or different types of needs exclude a significant portion of potential users.

Our recommendation:

Nomensa recommend following accessibility guidelines (e.g. WCAG) to make websites perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. We suggest providing alternative text for images, captions for videos and keyboard navigation options.

We have a dedicated Accessibility Team who can support you with making sure your website meets these guidelines, including accessibility audits and user testing.

8. Poor readability and legibility

The problem:

Websites with illegible fonts, low contrast or poor typography hinder users’ ability to consume content easily.

Our recommendation:

A few ‘quick wins’ can make your website much more usable. These include choosing fonts and font sizes that are readable on various devices and screen sizes, ensuring that there is sufficient contrast between text and background colours and pay attention to line spacing and paragraph formatting.

Poor readability and legibility are also accessibility problems, and our dedicated team are experienced in supporting clients to ensure all users can read and access their content.

9. Lack of feedback and progress indicators

The problem:

Websites that do not provide feedback or progress indicators during user interactions can leave users uncertain and disorientated.

Our recommendation:

Offer real-time feedback for user actions, such as button clicks or form submissions. Displaying progress indicators during lengthy processes or multi-step forms can be extremely valuable and help to retain and reassure users. This helps them to understand that their interactions have been registered by the website and builds their trust.

If users are aware they are already a certain way through their journey (e.g. a checkout process), they are more likely to complete it.

10. Absence of personalisation

The problem:

Websites that lack personalisation fail to deliver tailored experiences to users.

Our recommendation:

Implementing user preferences and customisation options can greatly enhance the overall experience. Utilising your user data to provide personalised recommendations or content suggestions can be an invaluable tool to deliver what the user wants and reduce poor usability.

Personalisation makes the user’s experience more relevant and helps them find what they’re looking for. It increases user satisfaction and supports retention rates on your websites.


Can we help you?

Usability problems are common but solvable challenges that can greatly impact the success of your website. Nomensa’s team of usability experts possesses the knowledge and experience to tackle these issues head on, enhancing user experience and driving meaningful engagement. Don’t let usability problems hold your website back – contact us today and embark on a journey towards an optimised, user-friendly digital presence.

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