Usability Tip #1: Don’t Break Conventions Unless You Have a Very Good Reason

CBSSports.com has a great feature. It is called Rapid Reports and provides users with numerous brief news snippets about every team in the NFL every day. However, one element of their design breaks a convention that leads me (and many other users I am sure) to have to think every time I use it. That element is the “previous” and “next” functionality at the bottom left of the page.

See the image:

Most search results and other lists have Next on the right and Previous on the left just as CBSSports.com does. However, instead of using the same convention as the great majority of sites on the web, they make users think every time they go to use this seemingly minor interface element. I am sure the reason they made this change is because, literally, the posts you are going to see next are the “previous” posts as this list is in reverse chronological order with the newest post at the top of the list. Making users think through the fact that these are “previous” posts every time they go to click the link rather than following the convention of just clicking Next, as users do on most lists is tedious at best and a minor annoyance at worst. This type of usability issue won’t ruin your site, but if you add up a number of them across an entire website, it can easily lead to unhappy customers who will gladly look elsewhere.

Suggested Reading: Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

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About Scott

Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and RememberStuff.com. After earning 2 degrees from MIT, he transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area where he had a front row seat to the dot com boom and bust and the subsequent growth in importance of web, mobile and desktop application designs to the everyday activities of businesses and consumers alike. Get in touch with Scott if you'd like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at sbarnard@theusabilityreview.com.
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