Strategic Web Usability

Attack of The Bad Usability

Inspired by a recent trip to the Sci-fi Dine-in Theater at Hollywood Studios, I thought it might be fun to do a presentation in the style of a classic 50s sci-fi/horror movie. I came up with this tale of the horrors of bad usability, which I hope is both entertaining and educational:

This one's best viewed in full-screen mode, as it contains a number of screen shots of an imaginary website. Enjoy...


 · Tuesday, June 23
Killer idea for a presentation.

The mock copy on the website is also delightful. Well done.


 · Tuesday, June 23
I love your site and just so happened to plug UserEffect twice in my newest blog post. Thanks for being such a great resource.

Dr. Pete

 · Wednesday, June 24
@MikeTek - I'm glad somebody read it. It was afraid I'd put all that time into fake copy no one would ever see :)

@jlbraaten - Thanks, Josh, and nice to see you over here. I recognize your name from over on SEOmoz.


 · Thursday, June 25
Very nicely put - in a manner that can be easily recalled. Thank you! Now let me try to remember those again....

David Hopkins

 · Thursday, June 25
Another nice slide show. Do you have a sci-fi-esque name for the opposite of point 3, the incredible shrinking white space? The one when people feel the need to have about 1 page of A4 of white space between their main content and footer. Here is an example site. Although that footer is lucky enough to find itself above the white space.

Keeping of the sci-fi theme, one of the worst offenders of your 5 horrors I've seen about is this:

Dr. Pete

 · Thursday, June 25
@David - You're absolutely right: anything can be done to extreme. I think the real value of whitespace is in allowing people to easily group site elements and quickly understand where navigation, content, etc. are located. By squeezing everything together, that grouping becomes much more difficult. What's funny in the example is that, while there's a huge whitespace between the 2 columns, the menu is shoved up against the left side of the screen. Of course, a huge chunk of whitespace at the bottom that makes people scroll to see what's there is usually just bad HTML/CSS.

I try to avoid religion and politics on the blog, but I'll just say (re: the second exmaple) that I'm not going to be adding "Aliens On The Internet" to my reading list any time soon.

Terry Bleizeffer

 · Friday, June 26
That's wonderful, Doc. I've been working on an education course on design fundamentals, and we found that it's the bad examples that really resonate with people. Show someone a good example and they shrug, "Well, duh, obviously that's the right design... anyone can do that... boring..." Show someone a bad example and they say, "Whoa! I've done that/seen that a bunch of times before!"

Of course, my education doesn't have any killer robots in it. Pity.

BTW, our kids love the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater... eating burgers, drinking milkshakes, sitting in cars, watching campy sci-fi... what could be better?

Dr. Pete

 · Friday, June 26
Thanks, Terry. I've been finding that the manufactured examples sometimes illustrate basic ideas better. Real sites are incredibly complex, demonstrate problems at various levels of severity, and mix them with other problems. Sometimes you have to really show a problem in its extreme form for people to get the message.


 · Friday, June 26
Really funny and creative, Pete! A nice way to get the point across. I enjoyed this.


 · Tuesday, July 21
its really funny thank you again for your article Dr.Pete. Are you really a Doc ?


 · Wednesday, July 22
Love 'the curse of the calls to action' - think I'll adopt it as a term. Great site, wonderful resources. Thank You

John Turner

 · Saturday, December 26
Hey Dr Pete, I just discovered your site and I gotta say it's really opened my eyes to the different ways I can make my site easier for users.

This slide presentation was great (and cute), but seeing the last one "Curse of the Call to Action" REALLY illustrated how its better to focus on only one or two things, and not 8 trillion things at once!

Succeed Online

 · Friday, July 16
As the demographic of people using websites continues to get "older" we'll see the problems of small text abound. Unfortunately, as they increase the font size, too many developers try to cram more and more above the fold eliminating too much white space.

These are way to easy to "justify" to themselves, but are detrimental overall.

Keep you pages on target with a single call to action funnel to keep them moving toward the goal you want them to accomplish.
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