If you want your website to be easy to use, intuitive, and usable then you need to be conscious of common interactive design problems as strive to follow best practices in usability.
Part of the problem stems from the notion that many graphic designers who are accustomed to designing for static print material are not cognizant or aware of the interactivity of websites. So, these traditional graphic designers need to be trained, educated, and encouraged to shift their paradigm.
Another part of the problem is that when designers design and developers develop they know what the website is supposed to do so their focus is narrow and they know in their minds how the website is supposed to work. So, they operate the website as they know it should be operated. But the problem is for the uninitiated web visitor who is unfamiliar with a website and not necessarily privy to how the website was intended to be used.
This is why user testing becomes important, so you can discover how random web visitors perceive the user interface and what things they try to do or not do.
Clickable things should look clickable
One of the easy things you can do is to ensure that if something is clickable then it needs to look clickable. Buttons need to look like buttons. Links need to look like links. There are basic conventions such as the user of underscore (or underline) beneath the link text to indicate that it is a clickable link.
While some people suffer from color blindness and this one particular technique could get you in trouble with the Section 508, WCAG, and accessibility folks; you could also ensure that your clickable links are in another color, such as blue.
On the flip side, if something is not clickable then it should not look clickable. If it looks like a button but is not a clickable button then don’t make it look like a button. Or, if you want to keep it looking like a button then make it clickable.
While this may seam like common sense, you would be surprised how many people simply don’t get it.
Another area where people run into trouble is with headlines. Sometimes, headlines have a dual purpose of a) bringing to attention the subject matter of the content to follow and b) acting as a link to the rest of the article or a landing page of similar articles.
The problem is when some headlines are clickable and others are not but they look the same. So, you need to take an extra step to add something to the clickable heading to let people know it is clickable.
So, remember the rules:
- IF something is clickable, make it look clickable.
- IF something is not clickable, don’t make it look clickable.