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How To Stop Users Making Stupid Mistakes

Something not everybody thinks about when designing a website is how to avoid user errors. If someone makes a mistake navigating or understanding the function of the website, is it their own fault, or the designer’s?

The answer is it doesn’t matter. The web designer needs to solve the problem, or the website is going to lose business due to people getting frustrated and giving up. Solving the issue at the top level and making everything work for the benefit of the user is going to result in your site getting a more favourable reaction from people, and make it easier for them to spend money with you. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate these fixes from the beginning.

  1. Use familiar design patterns
    Make use of frameworks that are already in use around the Internet, because people are already naturally comfortable around things that feel familiar. If someone can navigate round your site intuitively because you’ve taken an existing layout and improved it rather than inventing something unique for the sake of it, errors are likely to be minimised. A consistent horizontal menu bar providing access to all areas of the site is a great example of how to make users feel at home.

  1. Include plenty of affordances
    Affordances are the small hints you give your users to help them understand your site’s functions and make use of them without detailed instructions, or pointers that reassure them they are in the right place. Whether explicitly written, indicated by symbols and icons or alluded to by the structure of your page, these affordances are going to gently nudge people in the right direction to cut down on the number of mistakes they make. If your design is too minimal and you don’t label anything, you risk people missing the important details.
  1. Use of a deletion failsafe
    A frustrating issue everyone has encountered at least one is when you accidentally delete something that took time and effort to create. This was once all too easy on the Internet, when an inadvertent click was all it took to erase hours of work. Now, you may have noticed an increasing trend for websites and browsers double checking everything. Are you sure you want to go back? Are you positive you want to delete that? Do you want to think about it for a few minutes before you click that button? Ultimately these little nagging messages are there for our own protection, and your users won’t thank you for including them, but if you don’t, they’ll be furious at some point.


Your UX should come first, and ego second. It might be hard for you to work out all the kinks in the website you’ve lovingly designed without getting some constructive input from others, but if something that seems obvious to you turns out to make no sense to your users, you didn’t do a great job on your design. Work out the issues in advance, and you’ll reap the rewards later.


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