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6 Usability Mistakes That Kill Conversions

A maze

It’s happened to you before.

You arrived on a website confident in your mission. You needed to buy a vacuum cleaner! But once you got to or or wherever you planned to make your purchase, you become enraged.

  • What category are vacuums in? Home? Electronics? Tools?
  • How do get through the site?
  • Where do you click to see reviews?
  • Are there color options?
  • Is that a link in the corner?
  • What if you want to search by price?
  • Or by brand?

Bad usability kills otherwise pleasant website experiences and makes customers angry. Angry customers don’t buy things.

User experience design is about creating the right path for your users and removing unnecessary roadblocks. Below are six common usability roadblocks killing your customers’ experience and your bottom line.

1. You Aren’t Keeping it Simple

The secret to creating a great user experience is to keep it simple. Don’t put the navigation on the right side, if your audience will expect it to be on the left. Don’t make links green, when they should be blue. Don’t design fairies to cascade down the page as a user reads it.

As a marketer or a business owner, there are plenty of avenues where you can be clever. The architecture and the design of your website really shouldn’t be one of them.

Create a simple site by designing a logical page structure that is based on headers, lists, and paragraphs. Use a simple navigational structure.

Don’t create Flash-based navigation, have crazy dropdowns or insert elements that serve no function to the user. Have consistency of design and messaging throughout the site to help visitors understand where they are.

A great user experience is one where the visitor didn’t notice there was supposed to be a struggle. It just worked.

2. You Tried to be Pretty, Not Useful

Your website has a single goal: to allow users to quickly and effectively accomplish their mission. If your website does this, it is successful. If it doesn’t, it has failed.

It doesn’t matter if your site has lots of well-written content, if the videos are engaging, or if you have more resources than your audience could possible read through; if it doesn’t solve their problem, it’s all for nothing.

Build a site that is useful by understanding your audience and their needs. You may choose to do that through:

  • Keyword research
  • Analyzing user queries
  • Talking to your customer support team
  • Tracking movements and behavior patterns
  • Organizing focus groups
  • Creating user personae

Or maybe you’ll do a combination of those things. That’s great. Identify your visitor’s ultimate goal and then create a site that’s sole purpose is to help them achieve that.

3. You Forgot Words (or Spelled Them Wrong)

I know all the experts have told you no one reads on the Internet and that your customers don’t care about your content. But those people are wrong.

High-quality content helps to separate a good user experience from a poor one. Great content solves the pain points of your audience, it defines the benefits (not the features) of your product or service, it sparks emotion, and it excites a user to take an action.

High-quality content doesn’t contain jargon or misspellings, come from sketchy sources, or make people question whether you’re serious about your website.

4. You Give Too Many Options

There is no pain quite like arriving at your local diner when you’re already starving. You’re handed that menu and suddenly you can order nearly anything. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Soup. Salads. It’s all on the table, leaving you feeling completely unable to make a decision.

Too many choices is a problem that paralyzes. Instead of finding what we need, we start wondering if this is the best we can do.

We second guess. We overanalyze. We become anxious and frustrated.

Avoid this by guiding your customers into the correct course of action by limiting the choices offered. Your homepage doesn’t have to feature every product in your arsenal, but your three best sellers. If a customer likes those, he or she can look further.

Less is more. Cater to what you’re good at and remove distractions.

5. You Didn’t Make the Action Obvious

If you want visitors to do something, make it obvious what you want them to do.

  • If you want them to click on a link, tell them in the copy and make the link blue.
  • If you want them to download a report, title the button “Download” and use bright colors to get their attention.
  • If you want them to share a piece of content, ask and make it easy for them to do so.

Make sure you visitors know the purpose of the site and what it is you want them to do, regardless of where they land.

6. There’s No Communication

Always give visitors a way to communicate with you and your team. Allow them to report bugs, to share their experience, and to tell you where they got lost.

Be proactive by reminding them to tell you these things and let them know how you want them to communicate. Do you want them to have the conversation on Twitter or via a contact form? Encourage users to support your site by supporting them.


You’ll notice none of the recommendations above are particularly hard to implement. That’s because good usability is based on best practices and creating an experience that intuitive and makes sense for a user.

How well is your site doing at covering the basics?

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