Common violations of user expectations
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Ways to really annoy your viewer and waste their time


As is often said, people spend most of their time on other sites, which means they come to have certain expectations of how things work, violate those expectations and your site usability can drop to zero in a matter of moments. A viewers time is very valuable to them, waste it and they will go elsewhere.

Download now :That doesn't. Click the button that says download now, only to be taken to another page or even two or three until I finally get to the download now, that really does download whatever it is.

When it says download now, I expect it start downloading when I hit the button, or at the very least only one more page that gives me options of download types and mirror sites. If I get dragged by page after page ,having to click , download now, again and again, my answer is the same as most people, leave for somewhere else that won't abuse my time.

Download now that is not available: Another variation, is to have a download now link that takes you to a page of coming soon.  If the download is not yet available, better would be to have no working link and just say watch this space for upcoming download and give a date if possible. If I have to keep coming back month after month checking is this there yet ? I most likely wont after a few try's.

Buy now that won't let me: This one is similar to the Download now, in that buy now doesn't take you to a way to buy. A page of options of ways to pay and other order information is expected, but I have been on sites that drag me through page after page of mostly advertisements, until they finally let me order.

If there is too much of this, my typical response is "I don't want it that badly ". People shop the net because its easy, if you make it inconvenient and waste their time, you have just lost not only that sale, but others when they tell their friends don't bother coming to your site.

Links that don't work: Hit the link and nothing .. enough said

I can't tell its a link, links :

A: No underline: Somewhere along the way someone decided that underlined text links were a bother and figured out a way to display links without underlining, unless you hover over it. Now unless you hover your mouse over it you have no way to know if its a link or not. Again, my time is being wasted running my mouse around looking for the links.

B: Link colors the same: Here's another bad idea, leaveing the underline, but makeing the link the same color as the rest of the text. Just about as helpful as A: As now I have no color change to guide me, as underlining can be used for emphasis of the text as well. It's the underline with the color change that guides me. If its all the same color, you have just taken the guide away.

The same goes for color changes that are too slight. The text is blue for example, and the link color is a few degrees lighter shade of blue. It may as well be hidden for all the good that does, as unless my monitor or my eyes can detect the slight color change, it's not there. Much better is a obvious color change so I can see were the links are, anywhere on the page, at a glance.

C: Links don't change color: The standard for the industry is, if you have already visited a link its a different color now when you return to the page the link was on, normally by being a shade that is faded or more like the background color. Example, link is blue, visited link is purple. Any color key that is consistent and obvious will work.

Some people however, have the design idea to make the link, visited link and internal links all the same color. It might look neat and tidy, as there are no sudden shifts in colors in the links on the page, but now, there is no way to tell if you have visited that link or not. Which wastes the viewers time, they have to figure out if they have already viewed a link themselves. Some pages have dozens to hundreds of links, they are supposed to remember all that ? I think not. Make it simple to know what they have already seen, so they can move on to the rest of your pages.

D: Links change color but every page is different: Now I have to figure out on each page which is the link, rather than have a color key, where all the links are the same color throughout out the site.

There are a few times this violation is reasonable if say, for example, the background of the given page and the chosen link color for the site are too similar, so it needs to be a different color for contrast, but most of the time, pick one and stick with it, as your viewer has come to expect it based on the rest of the site.

Links with odd names: Another fun game, violating the users expectations for names.

I'm tearing the page apart looking for a link that says ,for example: Download .. and what do I finally figure out is the download link, Resources. Which to me, means a links page as that's what it means everywhere else. There are a million examples like this. I'm not on your site to figure out what to do here, KISS, keep it simple simon. Or I will go somewhere else that is simple.

Links that wont stay put: If, for example, the return to home link is on the bottom of the page on the first page I view, that's where I expect to find it on all the pages ! I don't have the time to waste to look for it on every page, I want to view the content, not figure out the navigation.

Massive amounts of advertisements: Now we all know that some ads can be useful and profitable, but there is a limit: Understandably, especially in the case of "free" content sites, its understood that there will be some "price" to pay, for the free content, but there is such a thing as overkill.

I have seen way too many of what I call, ad sites, were the content is broken up into unreasonably small sections, often paragraph by paragraph in the case of text, or graphic by graphic, running down the middle of a whole page of adverts. Often done with high demand content that you really want to view and are forced into downloading all this stuff to do it.

This is not a site, its a bill board and unless your content is extremely high demand, people wont tolerate this abuse of their time for long or often, even if the content is " free".

Esta Weiss


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