Which websites have mobile design patterns

Usability as a success factor: The 7 most common usability mistakes in website design

The Internet has meanwhile become a matter of course for many and helps us to make our everyday lives more comfortable - whether private or business. Nevertheless, we are always on a tour of discovery online - we are looking for information, offers or services.

And again and again in our search we come across websites or web shops that do not offer us what we expect.

They're inconvenient, complicated, and not fun. The most common impulse for something like this - on to the next one!

Our expectations of websites and web shops in terms of user friendliness are now high. Mainly because the range of websites and web shops has increased almost fifty-fold in the last 20 years (according to Statista there were around 860 million websites in 2015, compared with only around 17 million in 1999). This huge offer, accessible to everyone, makes competition tougher and less forgiving of mistakes.

You can quickly become interchangeable - the tolerance of users towards bad sites is decreasing and the bounce rate is skyrocketing. This development is exacerbated by the surge in the number of users of mobile devices. If the tolerance for desktop applications is already low, it tends towards zero for mobile applications.

Unfortunately, there are still many websites and applications that are not optimized for mobile use. To the annoyance of users and to the detriment of the operator (even if many still do not want to admit it).

If they are dissatisfied, potential customers are gone faster than one would like. You're looking for a better, more straightforward solution that is just a few clicks away.

Usability or user satisfaction becomes the central competitive advantage for offers.

What is usability?

Usability can be translated with user satisfaction. It is a sign of the quality of how easy it is to use something.

It's about how quickly and efficiently users can learn to use an object or an application and then remember it. In addition, the susceptibility of the object or application to errors plays a role and how much the user is pleased (UX). Usability and UX research are very closely related. Only when you understand and know what the target group wants and expects can you align usability accordingly.

Good usability is seldom perceived, but bad usability is.

We have listed some of the biggest usability mistakes in website and application development. The results are the result of many studies by the Nielsen Norman Group and our own experience over the past few years. The really surprising thing: many mistakes have existed for years, despite all further developments.

Design patterns, schemes and aesthetic ideas have changed, but user requirements are still the same - content needs to be found quickly and easily, legibility and comprehensibility have to be ensured, and it has to be intuitively clear where to click to go to to get to his goal.

Perhaps you will discover one or the other error that your website also has!

1. Websites are not optimized for mobile devices

Mobile devices have long since conquered the market. The number of users who access the Internet via smartphones is constantly increasing.

The requirements placed on mobile applications are high and few are forgiving of mistakes. Unfortunately, not all companies have internalized this by a long way.

They seem to be countless still there - the websites that are difficult to read on mobile devices. And nothing is more annoying than a website whose content is so small that you have to zoom in to see anything at all. A high bounce rate is inevitable.

The decisive factors for mobile usability:

The most important point is the much smaller screen (even with an iPhone Plus, the screen is much smaller than with the desktop).

In order to be able to absorb the same amount of information, the user has to take on significantly more interactions (scrolling, scrolling, scrolling). That is why mobile content is much more difficult to display - think twice about whether you need an element or not!

Every additional element, whether text, button or image, increases the workload of the user, which significantly limits his comfort. For this reason, mobile design should also be of secondary importance.

Priority is given to the essentials and user requirements should be kept as simple as possible.

Because attention is limited and a very volatile commodity - especially mobile. Therefore, try to present what you are looking for to users as quickly as possible. "Form follows function"!

Important: All upcoming usability errors also apply to mobile applications. In most cases even in a more severe form. If a text is already too long and difficult to read on the desktop, this is especially true for the smartphone.

2. Information cannot be found

One of the most common mistakes: If customers can't find products, then they can't buy them either - you can adapt this simple rule to everything you offer!

Why is that? Bad information architecture and bad UI design!

Many websites have inadequate descriptions of the categories and the content they contain. Designations are chosen so that they will not be understood by anyone who has nothing to do with the company directly.

Or the content is arranged as it is believed to be correct from an internal point of view in the company - the user perspective has been neglected.

If the mental model of the users and the page structure do not match, then users will find it very difficult to find their way around your site. User expectations are not met and the potential customers immediately go on “searching”.

Our tip: Include your target group in your website development from the start. Through relatively simple and inexpensive test procedures such as the Tree test or that Card sorting you avoid this economically damaging mistake.

And: changes in retrospect cost a lot more time, money and nerves!

What are card sorting and tree testing?

Card sorting refers to a process with which logical and easily understandable navigation structures can be developed. (Wikipedia)

Card sorting ensures that the navigation only contains terms that your target group can relate to. The test persons receive cards with possible terms. These cards should then be assigned to given generic terms.

With Tree testing the information architecture (tree) is examined for meaningful structuring.

This makes it possible to show the routes, the test subjects will take to get to their destination through the navigation structure. The tree test is only carried out with the pure terminology so that the users are not influenced by design, help, etc.

The following questions are answered with card sorting and tree testing:

  • Are category / menu names understandable for the target group?
  • Does the planned navigation structure correspond to the target group's vision?
  • Where was the user's point of view not focused and the content is structured from the company's internal point of view?
  • Do the arrangements of the menu items meet the expectations of the users (mental model)?
  • Are the names self-explanatory?

3. Similar categories and links

This error is similar to the first one. Confusion caused by similar names for categories and / or links means that users do not know exactly where to look.

In this case, it is important that the names you choose speak for themselves, but are also clearly recognizable in the entirety of all other elements on the page.

If the designations are chosen so that information can be found in different places on the page, the user has to make assumptions. Many users don't feel like doing this and leave the site annoyed.

There are two types of problems:

  • The links lead to different content, but have such similar names that the difference is not clear to users.
  • Similar or identical content is on different pages and it is not clear why.

Both cases confuse users and lead to cancellation and a bad opinion about your offer.

Our tip: Card sorting and usability tests can reveal such errors and help avoid them in advance. Invest in your content strategy, because bad link names often result from bad planning.

4. "Iceland" information

Some websites offer their users fragmented information - some information on the subject here, some information there, without any discernible context or connection.

So it is not apparent to the user that there is further information, even if they need it. As a result, it can happen that users leave the site to search for more information on Google and then - in the worst case - end up in the competition.

What remains is a bad impression of the website and an inextricably linked negative attitude towards the company.

This not only means a bad user experience, it is also an organizational nightmare. Maintaining content in different places means more effort and, which is deadly for SEO, can also result in duplicate content.

Our tip: Test your site for duplicate content. There are some software applications for this, some of them free of charge.

Then consolidate your content:

  • Duplicate content should be avoided as a matter of urgency.
  • Brings together what belongs together, e.g. by linking.

However, it is better to analyze why the content is in different places on the website. If there is no real reason for it, bring them together and place them clearly visible.

5. Lead deserts and text walls

A lead desert is never attractive. Nevertheless, there are providers of special services or products who should convey important information on their websites - expert knowledge and background information that strengthens user confidence in the provider.

In such cases it is important that the texts are visually prepared. The reader should already be able to scan the most important key messages while skimming them.

The following tricks can be used to make texts easy to scan:

  • Headlines
  • Subheadlines
  • Enumerations / lists
  • highlighted keywords
  • short paragraphs
  • Processing according to the inverted pyramid
  • an easy-to-understand writing style without nested sentences

6. Breaking design habits

Consistency is one of the most powerful usability laws: If things don't change and always behave in the same way, then users are confident in handling them because they have experience.

The more often the user expectations are confirmed, the more they solidify and the user has the feeling that he is controlling the system. So he thinks it is all the better.

But if the system disappoints expectations, the user feels all the more insecure.

A golden rule is that users spend most of their time on other websites, not yours. So you collect your user experience on other pages and the user expectations are formed there.

It is therefore important that you do not interrupt these expectations on your part and that you adopt the generally accepted patterns. If this is not the case, your page does not like - the bounce rate increases.

7. No answer to user questions

It is important to know your potential customers and what they are looking for on the Internet!

Users are very goal-oriented on the Internet. They come to your site because they want to get something done - maybe they want to buy your product or are interested in your service.

One of the biggest mistakes a website can make is not offering all of the information it is looking for.

In many cases, the answer you are looking for is simply missing on the page, and then the purchase will go “by the rag”, because the potential customer is not “picked up” during his search.

Just as bad: the answer you are looking for is hidden under loads of marketing slogans on the page. These tires the users and they don't feel like fighting their way through.

Our tip: Do a precise target group analysis in advance with the development of personas and define your USP. You can collect ideas through a content workshop.

A usability test can then be used to collect findings as to whether the users can find what they are looking for.

Our conclusion

In principle, it makes sense to use various analysis methods in advance for all applications in order to test user friendliness. Because only applications that are highly user-friendly can be successful on the market over the long term.

Applied in advance, high costs can be avoided. Because it's like a car - retrofitting with additional equipment is much more expensive and often only partially possible. Of course, existing applications can also be analyzed and optimized with these tests.

Companies should focus more on usability. Because no matter what measures are taken - if they are not accepted by the customer, they are useless.


Kathrin von Kaiz has been working on the topics of digital transformation since 2006. She is convinced that there is still a great deal of need for action, especially in Germany, and that only consistent education and training can contribute to positive development. That is why she gives seminars and workshops on the topics of usability, design thinking and agile methods at the university and offers workshops on these topics for companies. She is a certified usability trainer (CPUX-F).