20 Common usability issues to look out for

common usability issues in ux design

After coming across some recent issues when browsing the web, I thought it would be a great idea to share some of the most common usability issues to look out for and how to avoid them. These might be things to look out for in your own projects, things you have experienced and things we can all agree kinda suck.


1. Excessive clicks and submenu

There is a well known saying that if anything a user needs is more than 3 clicks away is bad practice and I have to say I agree. You shouldn’t ever be that far down a rabbit hole that you cant get out within 3 clicks. I don’t always think that you should be able to do everything at all times, but keep this in mind and keep it simple. Put things where users expect them to be, I think I am going to say that a few times this article.


2. Unclear UI

Another well-known expression: “User Interface is like a joke. If you need to explain it, it’s not that good.” Can’t really say it better myself, never blame users for not understanding your website.


common usability issues page speed

3.  Slow loading websites

If you have a website, please do a speed test if you haven’t. You can use Pingdom or GTmetrix some good test results. In my opinion, you want to have your website load in under or around 2 seconds if possible and if you’re nudging on 4 or 5 seconds you need to make some changes. If you use these tools don’t just run 1 test, run several and get your average. These websites also give you tips and show you why your site is slow.


4. Inconsistency

Consistency is king, ensure your site used a strict layout of pages with the same design, fonts, header usage, button placement all these things have to be in the same places otherwise you just add confusion to the experience.


common usability issues - error messages

5. Poor Error Messages

Error messages are there for a reason, so give the reason. If you have a script password form, tell the user before they start. If your form has a weird format requirement, show the format you want before they hit a blocker. Don’t make your users feel dumb because you have an abnormal system in place. Ux Planet has a great post about how to write a good error message, that is also where the image above comes from.


6. Going backwards

Wheather it’s a signup form or checkout flow it’s always good to let the user correct their mistakes or change their mind. Offer solutions for going backwards and try to avoid forcing users to use the back button because most of the time that causes more problems and frustration.


7. Mobile website design on desktop

The responsive web design revolution of a few years back was amazing, it brought the web up to date with our current methods of internet usage. But work to ensure all platforms have good design in mind is important.


usability issues - hamburger menu

8. Hamburger menus on desktop

These icons are the default for the menu on most apps or websites on a mobile device which I have no issue with. But if you’re using a hamburger menu on a desktop site, it really is just lazy design. You have real estate don’t hide your menus when you don’t need to, it makes content harder to find for no gain.


9. Overloaded or unclear navigation

I have seen a lot of sites who stuff as much as they can into the main navigation, its more to read, understand and scan through. Your site should have a thought out hierarchy and sitemap, don’t be afraid to create subpage and nest items inside one an others. Keep in mind my previous point #1 about taking this too far beyond 3 clicks down or so.


common usability issues - sitemap sketch

10. No site structure or sitemap

Not all websites need a sitemap really, this blog, for example, does need one because it only had 4 pages. But it is not without structure, every post I made used categories and tags, meaning if a user wanted they could read my posts just on one specific topic. But if you have a larger site, store, product, you need to take these into consideration because even if your sitemap isn’t used my users, knowing the structure will help you understand your user’s locations and potential blockers.


11. Popups

Popups are a touchy subject, no one likes them but almost everyone used them? why? This is a case when the business goal outweighs the user’s experience, by that I mean it’s more important to try to collect an email address or show you an offer via a popup than it is for you to enjoy your experience. It’s a very standard part of any website, the balance of experience vs business. If you’re going to do popups make sure your users actually want what you’re shoving in their face and make it fast and easy to close.


12. Scroll-jacking

Don’t do it, it’s annoying. Seriously I see a lot of site from the well-known website design awards website Awwwards showcasing websites that completely highjack your scrolling and force you to go through some slow scrolling animation. I love Awwwards by the way, but they seem to care more about the aesthetics than the usability.


13. Autoplaying Music

This trend died a few years ago but I have seen it being resurrected in recent times. It’s terrible! You don’t know what the user is doing, listen to music, on the bus, in bed and when they land on your site music comes blaring out. This trend died when flash did and we don’t plan on bringing back Flash do we?


usability confusing forms

14. Contact information

A contact form is not enough they might fail. Always provide a simple backup and put your contact details right next to the form.


15. Links that open a new window

I am conflicted about this and its hard to know whats right. I personally almost always open the link in a new window manually, but I think I am the edge case. Most users would probably like to make the decision for themselves, so even though I sometimes make my links open in new windows, I probably shouldn’t.


16. Tiny text links

Tiny little links with no padding around them that are hard to click with your finger, imagine being an elderly person trying to click some tiny little link. Add padding so the touch and click area are larger than the text!


17. Blog posts broken into several pages

I loathe websites that do this, there is absolutely no reason other than to get you loading more pages to see more ads. It’s a terrible user experience and shows you don’t care at all about your users, just getting a few extra cents.


18. Overly complex signup process

There is a time and place for intense security and password on your website if you’re a bank or a website that will hold my credit card details for example. But if you’re a blog or game forum, you do not need a 10 character password with one number, symbol and capital letter. The same goes for asking for more information than you need, I know its good to understand out users but try to get your data from Google Analytics, not me. Users are not stupid and most like to be pretty private online so get the minimum data you need anything more should be optional.


usability long forms

19. Long forms

Collecting information is important and a necessary part of signing a user up to your platform. Keep in mind your users time and effort level, it’s much easier to digest a signup process if it’s broken into smaller steps. You can even take crucial data on the signup and try to get the additional information after when the user has more time. Ux Design has a good post about designing better forms.


20. Non-Mobile email design

If you receive an email these days you’re normally safe, the email is designed for mobile and mobile-only. So on a desktop its narrow, this is not the best user experience but its the only real viable option for email design. Email platforms are known to be terrible and archaic Outlook is built on top of Word so you cant use modern day coding techniques for email designs. This is another example of something that is not necessarily a good user experience but the overall usability is good.



I hope this post was helpful, maybe you noticed some of the things your website is having usability issues with. If you have your own usability issues you’d like to share or just want to comment on one of mine you can leave a comment or email me.