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Web Bloopers: 60 Common Web Design Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

Web Bloopers: 60 Common Web Design Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

by Jeff Johnson, Steve Krug (Foreword by)

The dot.com crash of 2000 was a wake-up call, and told us that the Web has far to go before achieving the acceptance predicted for it in '95. A large part of what is missing is quality; a primary component of the missing quality is usability. The Web is not nearly as easy to use as it needs to be for the average person to rely on it for everyday information,


The dot.com crash of 2000 was a wake-up call, and told us that the Web has far to go before achieving the acceptance predicted for it in '95. A large part of what is missing is quality; a primary component of the missing quality is usability. The Web is not nearly as easy to use as it needs to be for the average person to rely on it for everyday information, commerce, and entertainment.

In response to strong feedback from readers of GUI BLOOPERS calling for a book devoted exclusively to Web design bloopers, Jeff Johnson calls attention to the most frequently occurring and annoying design bloopers from real web sites he has worked on or researched. Not just a critique of these bloopers and their sites, this book shows how to correct or avoid the blooper and gives a detailed analysis of each design problem.

Hear Jeff Johnson's interview podcast on software and website usability at the University of Canterbury (25 min.)

  • Discusses in detail 60 of the most common and critical web design mistakes, along with the solutions, challenges, and tradeoffs associated with them.
  • Covers important subject areas such as: content, task-support, navigation, forms, searches, writing, link appearance, and graphic design and layout.
  • Organized and formatted based on the results of its own usability test performed by web designers themselves.
  • Features its own web site (www.web-bloopers.com)with new and emerging web design no-no's (because new bloopers are born every day) along with a much requested printable blooper checklist for web designers and developers to use.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Engaging, Educational, Enjoyable, Erudite: Excellent!
—Dr. Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group

"If you get paid to develop a Website, you should have this book...I high recommend this one." Jessica Sant, Reporter, JavaRanch.com, July 2nd, 2003

"An artifact of the Information Age, the oldest Web page still operating on the Internet, is among the nuggests of gigabyte gold in Jeff Johnson's new book, Web Bloopers." Chicago Tribune, May 10th, 2003

The Barnes & Noble Review
We’ve come a long way from the early days of rotten web usability. Well, sort of. Sure, the quality of our mistakes is definitely on the rise. Unfortunately, the quantity doesn’t seem to be declining much. Jeff Johnson has taken the time to catalogue the mistakes we’re making most often -- in full color, with crystal-clear explanations of what’s wrong and what to do instead.

Johnson organizes his 60 “bloopers” into errors in functionality, user interface, presentation -- but, first and foremost, content. Home pages that don’t communicate. Descriptions that don’t describe. Classification schemes that don’t make sense. Content that’s internally inconsistent (two prices for the same item on different pages). Information that’s outdated, or unfinished, or missing, or downright useless.

You’ll find no less than nine form-related bloopers. Intolerant data fields. Mysterious controls. No defaults. Bad defaults. No text input focus (users must click in the first text field before typing).

Web Bloopers exposes bloopers everywhere (though Johnson, who must travel often, finds a disproportionate amount of bad work on airline sites.) He uncovers hidden, deceptive, or circular links. Bizarre buttons. Maddening searches. Sloppy writing. Johnson doesn’t simply skewer them: he offer better alternatives.

The book concludes with a “Memo to Managers” on why “bloopers by developers are often caused by bloopers by their managers” -- assigning jobs to the wrong people, releasing without testing, and so forth. These are pages you must show your boss.

In his usability consulting business, Johnson comes across the same mistakes constantly. If you read this book, none of those mistakes will be yours. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

Soundview Executive Book Summaries
How To Avoid Common Web Design Mistakes
In an effort to help Web designers avoid making 60 of the most common and critical Web design mistakes, computer and Web guru Jeff Johnson delves into the usability issues that haunt many Web pages. Offering designers solutions to their problems while tackling the challenges and trade-offs associated with them, Johnson covers content, task support, navigation, forms, searches, writing, link appearance, graphic design, and layout issues. Web Bloopers presents solid advice on how designers can avoid and fix these pervasive problems.

Johnson is interested in quality. Throughout Web Bloopers, he offers crucial lessons in quality control, and provides the details that can help any Webmaster make usability a feature of his or her Web site so the average person can log on and rely on it for everyday information, communication, commerce and entertainment. To do this, he has written a book that is filled with screen images of example Web pages, indicator arrows that point to problem areas, and comment boxes that include the site's address, the date it was recorded, and an explanation of all that is wrong, or right, with the Web page. Along with these features, he also outlines the underlying problems he sees while providing the solutions that could correct the bloopers he describes.

Poor quality and low usability are Johnson's enemy, and he roots them out wherever they lurk. Although he writes that every Web site has bloopers, he also admits that each one has good features as well. He is an equal opportunity critic, so sometimes a site he chooses to exemplify a blooper is also used to demonstrate how another blooper was avoided. Here are a few of the most frequently seen Web bloopers he addresses:

  • Blooper 1: Home Page Identity Crisis. Many Web sites fail to identify the site we are in or the page we are on. Johnson points out the inefficiency of vague home pages that do not state clearly who the company is or what it does. To solve this problem, he writes that a Web site can place the organization's name prominently, provide a brief textual summary of the organization's purpose, use a picture to illustrate the organization's product or service, and help outsiders understand its content by using straightforward language instead of industry jargon and abbreviations.
  • Blooper 2: Confusing Classifications. Johnson explains that one of the most important aspects of Web content is how it is organized for the end user. He tells Web designers that they should avoid arbitrary, subjective categories as well as placing items in lists that do not fit, or incomplete lists. He tells designers that content categories should be independent, mutually exclusive, exhaustive, nonarbitrary and organized hierarchically. Companies should test their Web sites before they are released to the public to help them test for usability.
  • Blooper 3: Unhelpful Descriptions. Misleading descriptions help no one. The information accompanying an item should allow people to determine whether products or services are what they want. Also, when multiple items seem relevant, the information provided should help users choose between them.
  • Blooper 7: Unfinished Content. Some sites are missing crucial content because they are obviously unfinished. This can lead to misleading information when information boxes contain zeros, Latin filler text, or no useful information at all. To avoid this blooper, Johnson explains that Web sites should not go live until they are absolutely ready, old Web sites should be kept up until they can be replaced with complete sites, and unfinished pages should be omitted instead of being left blank.
  • Blooper 9: Requiring Unneeded Data. Web sites that ask for the same data more than once are sites that ask for data they don't really need. When a site asks for a company name when registering a purchase even though the purchase is not made for a company, or asks for a unique ID number and a name, or treats all data fields as required even though they should be optional are annoying to users and push them away.
  • Blooper 42: Speaking Geek. Because many Web designers come from programming backgrounds, they use technical jargon that is hard for the rest of us to understand. "Domain," "field," and "drop down" should be avoided and replaced with more commonly used words.

Why Soundview Likes This Book
Web Bloopers is a fun read that points out all the annoying problems every Web user has faced and articulates it with clarity and purpose. Johnson is a smart Web user who has our best interests in mind, and offers many useful suggestions to Web designers that can make their work more usable and accessible while helping the companies and organizations represented online get their messages across better. His great humor makes his technical points easy for even the layperson to digest. Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

Elsevier Science
Publication date:
Interactive Technologies Series
Product dimensions:
10.22(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.81(d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco. He is also a principal at Wiser Usability, a consultancy focused on elder usability. After earning B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale and Stanford, he worked as a UI designer, implementer, manager, usability tester, and researcher at Cromemco, Xerox, US West, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun. He has taught at Stanford, Mills, and the University of Canterbury. He is a member of the ACM SIGCHI Academy and a recipient of SIGCHI's Lifetime Achievement in Practice Award. He has authored articles on a variety of topics in HCI, as well as the books GUI Bloopers (1st and 2nd eds.), Web Bloopers, Designing with the Mind in Mind (1st and 2nd eds.), Conceptual Models: Core to Good Design (with Austin Henderson), and Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population (with Kate Finn).

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