Top Ten Web Design Mistakes

This page summarizes the top web design mistakes over the past decade, as researched and reported by Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen/Norman Group. I encourage you to review the lists, read the original articles for more information on each item, and decide whether your site needs to improve its usability based on this research. It's important to list the mistakes even as far back as 1996, since many sites still make those mistakes today.

"Those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it." — George Santayana, Philosopher

All Time Mistakes

  1. Bad Search
  2. PDF Files for Online Reading
  3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
  4. Non-Scannable Text
  5. Fixed Font Size
  6. Page Titles with Low Search Engine Visibility
  7. Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement
  8. Violating Design Conventions
  9. Opening New Browser Windows
  10. Not Answering Users' Questions

2005 Mistakes

  1. Legibility Problems
  2. Non-Standard Links
  3. Flash
  4. Content That's Not Written for the Web
  5. Bad Search
  6. Browser Incompatibility
  7. Cumbersome Forms
  8. No Contact Information or Other Company Info
  9. Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths
  10. Inadequate Photo Enlargement

2003 Mistakes

  1. Unclear Statement of Purpose
  2. New URLs for Archived Content
  3. Undated Content
  4. Small Thumbnail Images of Big, Detailed Photos
  5. Overly Detailed ALT Text
  6. No "What-If" Support
  7. Long Lists that Can't Be Winnowed by Attributes
  8. Products Sorted Only by Brand
  9. Overly Restrictive Form Entry
  10. Pages That Link to Themselves

2002 Mistakes

  1. No Prices
  2. Inflexible Search Engines
  3. Horizontal Scrolling
  4. Fixed Font Size
  5. Blocks of Text
  6. JavaScript in Links
  7. Infrequently Asked Questions in FAQ
  8. Collecting Email Addresses without a Privacy Policy
  9. URL > 75 Characters
  10. Mailto Links in Unexpected Locations

1999 Mistakes

  1. Breaking or Slowing Down the Back Button
  2. Opening New Browser Windows
  3. Non-Standard Use of GUI Widgets
  4. Lack of Biographies
  5. Lack of Archives
  6. Moving Pages to New URLs
  7. Headlines That Make No Sense Out of Context
  8. Jumping at the Latest Internet Buzzword
  9. Slow Server Response Times
  10. Anything That Looks Like Advertising

1996 Mistakes

  1. Using Frames
  2. Gratuitous Use of Bleeding-Edge Technology
  3. Scrolling Text, Marquees, and Constantly Running Animations
  4. Complex URLs
  5. Orphan Pages
  6. Long Scrolling Pages
  7. Lack of Navigation Support
  8. Non-Standard Link Colors
  9. Outdated Information
  10. Overly Long Download Times