Sometimes web developers forget, that they are not typical net users and develop websites and applications for themselves rather than the intended mainstream users. Too often we let ourselves slip into a “geek to geek world”, and forget, that many of the sites we create are not for geeks, but for common users. Here are the top three mistakes made across a large number of mainstream websites, as I’ve seen them.
Users don’t know technology
Even though a solution is done right in a technical term, it may not be done right if you want the users to use it. If a website requires a certain browser plug-in don’t assume your users know here to find it. If you want them to submit information, which should be encrypted, don’t expect them to check the HTML source, to see if the submit target a HTTPS page, signal it by also encrypting the page with the form.
Compared to the developer, most users use old hard- and software
Most developers work on their machines several hours a day, and as a primary work tool they are usually fairly modern machines. A large part of the users on a mainstream website use machines a few generations back. Some of the key differences you should be aware of are which browsers and operating systems to support, how much strain does your website (ie. through Ajax) put on the end users’ system.
Developers have far more bandwidth than the average user
Heavy Graphics, Ajax and other fancy effects are a far greater issue if your using a modem or a not-too fast broadband connection. The total page size, the number of http-request does matter – even if you don’t notice it on you multi-megabit Internet connection…. And in the same terms – remember that the average user on Digg, Google Docs and other “web 2.0” sites, are not the average joe, but the average geek – end users still surf on the old fashioned Web 1.0 without Ajax, “Beta conditions” and is probably the place you were five years ago.