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Usability Tip: No Dead-Ends, Please

by Tammy Guy
2 min read
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Don’t confuse and annoy your users by leading them to dead ends.

One of the best ways to learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to UI and usability is to look at as many samples as possible, testing out pages and evaluating how certain elements are being treated.

Wanting to pay my cable bill, I tried to sign in to the Time Warner Cable website and realized I’d forgotten my username. I clicked the “Forgot Username?” link and advanced through the username retrieval process. Everything worked great up to the point where I received my username and found myself at a dead end.

Considering that I originally tried to login, it would’ve been nice to see the login screen below my retrieved information and to be allowed to login immediately. Instead, I had to click on the logo to go back to the home page, then the Login link to arrive to the original login screen I started on on. Dead ends create confusion and lead to additional and unnecessary clicks.

Search field on Menu Pages

1. Time Warner Cable sign in page

Search field on Menu Pages

2. Time Warner Cable Forgot Username page

Search field on Menu Pages

3. Username Retrieval page (dead-end screen)

By comparison, Verizon’s user’s ID retrieval process—while four steps long—ends with an option to login, which is intuitive and thoughtful.

Search field on Menu Pages

1. Verizon.com home page with Sign in area:

Search field on Menu Pages

2. Step 1 of User ID retrieval process:

Search field on Menu Pages

3. Step 2 of User ID retrieval process:

Search field on Menu Pages

4. Step 3 of User ID retrieval process:

Search field on Menu Pages

5. Final step of User ID retrieval process (with an option to Sign in immediately)

Build your users a yellow brick road by making it easy and intuitive to get back to the main task, even when they decide to take a turn.

Share your screenshots of dead-ends and yellow brick roads on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ using the hashtag #nodeadends. Include a brief explanation of why your example frustrates users or rewards them. We’ll add our favorite submissions to the gallery below. (Image of dead end courtesy Shutterstock)

post authorTammy Guy

Tammy Guy, Tammy Guy is the founder of a visual design and usability consulting firm focused on strategic brand planning, creative direction and diffusion of user experience problems by applying design theory and usability best practices in a rapidly changing Web environment. Her firm provides consulting services (e-commerce solutions, mobile apps and tablet experience) to clients from various industries such as fashion retail, commodity retail, pharmaceutical, insurance, financial services, social networking and others. Services include product evaluation, strategy and planning, creative development and direction and usability consulting. With more then 16 years of experience, Tammy previously worked as the Creative Director at LivePerson, Inc. and was a Design Group Manager at the Hertz Corporation where she art-directed all aspects of graphical application development for all customer facing websites. In addition, Tammy has been a frequent guest speaker with the Nielsen Norman Group for the past few years, teaching visual design and usability workshops. She also teaches similar design and usability courses with General Assembly in New York City.

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