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Jakob Nielsen: "Top Ten Mistakes" Revisited Three Years Later

From: Patrick Burke <burke@ucla.edu>
Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 08:40:48 -0700
Message-Id: <199905031541.IAA19900@serval.noc.ucla.edu>
To: webwatch@telelists.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
http://useit.com is a great resource for us in that many of the design issues
discussed there overlap with disability concerns.

Re: The WAI-IG list recent topic of bottom-line advantages of accessible
design, this could also be useful. I don't know if Nielsen has discussed the
economic reasoning directly. However, his pointers on what will keep users or
drive them away should be pretty easy for anyone to translate into dollars &
cents for a commercial page.

I am including the entire article because I found it so relevant & generally
cool. The URL is:




link Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, May 2, 1999:
"Top Ten Mistakes" Revisited Three Years Later
My article from May 1996, link Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design is still
surprisingly relevant today, three years later. The article has become a minor
Web classic with about 400,000 page views so far. It is still read 17,000
per month. 
Even discounting the possibility that some people have read the article more
than once, a readership of 400,000 means that the "top ten mistakes" have been
read by less than 10% of the people responsible for the world's five million
websites. So most of these mistakes are still being made and I still recommend
that new Web designers read my old article. 
Are the Mistakes Still Wrong?
The following table scores each of the ten mistakes according to my assessment
of the implications for the usability of a website today if the mistake was
frequently on the site. 

Current Analysis
1. Frames
Frames are no longer the link disaster they were in 1995 and early 1996 due to
some advances in browser technology: Netscape fixed the Back button with
version 3, and since virtually nobody uses version 1 and 2 any more, this
that users can now navigate through frames with fewer problems. Version 4
reduced the problems printing frames (though users still often get a different
printout than they expected), and Internet Explorer 5 has finally regained the
ability to bookmark pages despite the use of frames. Frames still prevent
from emailing a recommended URL to other users and they also make the page
clumsy to interact with.

2. Bleeding-edge technology
If anything, users have less patience for bleeding-edge technology these days
as the Web gets dominated by later adopters and the link upgrade speeds for
browsers and plug-ins slow down. Users who encounter as much as a single
JavaScript error usually leave a site immediately. It's just not worth the
to figure out how to make something work when there are 5 million other sites
to go to.
Very Severe
3. Scrolling text and looping animations
It is as hard as ever to read scrolling text, but aggressive use of
animation now causes even more problems than in 1996: users have started
equating such designs with advertising which they routinely ignore. These
it is extremely important for any content and navigation elements to look very
different than prevailing advertising designs since users tune out anything
that they don't think will be relevant to their task. 
Very Severe
4. Complex URLs
Users pay less attention to URLs these days than they did in the early days of
the Web. Since most sites now have navigation support, users are also relying
less on the URL to tell them about their location on the site. But long URLs
still cause problems when users email page recommendations to each other. 
5. Orphan pages
Less likely to make users stuck since most people have learned the trick to
to the home page of a site by "hacking" the end off the URL. Still a disaster
for novice users; still annoying for experienced users. 
6. Scrolling navigation pages
90% of users used not to scroll navigation pages but simply pick from the
visible options. This has changed since most Web users now know that pages
scroll and that important links sometimes are not visible "above the fold."
Even so, the visible options still dominate and users sometimes overlook
alternatives lower down the page. This is particularly bad if the visible part
of the page seems to clearly communicate a certain purpose or a certain best
approach: users may then happily conclude that they know what to do and not
bother spending time on the rest of the page. 
Smaller Problem
7. Lack of navigation support
Rarely seen, but a problem when it occurs. People are now getting used to
certain canonical navigation elements such as a site logo in the upper left
corner (linked to the home page) or a clear indication of what part of the
the current page belongs to (linked to the main page for that section). So if
these elements are missing, users feel lost. 
8. Non-standard link colors
Continues to be a problem since users rely on the link colors to understand
what parts of the site they have visited. I often see users bounce repeatedly
among a small set of pages, not knowing that they are going back to the same
page again and again. (Also, because non-standard link colors are unpleasantly
frequent, users are now getting confused by any underlining of text that is
a link.) 
9. Outdated information
Worse now since so many other sites on the Web are continuously updated. Also,
with the growth in e-commerce, link trust is getting increasingly
important, and
outdated content is a sure way to lose credibility. (Note that archival
information and information about old products are plusses and very different
from outdated information.) 
Very Severe
10. Slow download times
Contrary to many Internet pundits' pronouncements, the bandwidth problem has
not been solved during the last three years; nor will it be solved during the
next three years. link Not until 2003 will high-end users have sufficient
bandwidth for acceptable Web response times. Low-end users have to wait until
about 2008.
Very Severe
I conclude that: 
       All ten mistakes from 1996 are still mistakes in 1999 
       Nine of the ten mistakes still cause significant usability problems
should be avoided in modern websites 
       Scrolling navigation pages cause fewer usability problems these
days and
can be allowed if caution is taken in their design (any time you have overly
long navigation pages, I would take it as a warning signal and as a
for usability testing) 
Received on Monday, 3 May 1999 11:41:08 UTC

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