No 404 error page at Google?

Standard 404 page

Had a bit of a scare this week. If you accidentally type in www.google.com/masp instead of www.google.com/maps, you get this:

Not really what you’d expect from Google.

What is a 404 error page?

A web server shows an error 404 if it is asked for the url of a page that doesn’t exist. Because the page doesn’t exist anymore, for example. Or because the user made a mistake in typing in the url.

A standard 404 error page looks pretty unattractive and isn’t very useful. The best thing you can do is create your own 404 page. On that page you should put your logo, main navigation, the message that the page the user is looking for doesn’t exist anymore, maybe a few suggestions and a search feature.

Practice what you preach?

What makes Google’s lack of a customised 404 error page so strange is the fact that they give tips about how to make your 404 pages more useful on their blog. An oversight? Or strategy?

A big thank you to Elja Trum of Photofacts.nl for pointing this out.

Read more articles about , Usability.

And the winners of the Belgian Usability Awards 2010 are…

On the eve of World Usability Day, 10 November 2010, the winners of the second edition of the Usability Awards were announced.

1. Belgium’s most user-friendly website (overall winner – public vote)

Chosen by the general public based on a short-list of 10 websites selected by a professional jury.

The jury’s comments on Karel de Grote-Hogeschool:

  • Good information selection
  • Clear overview pages
  • Concise copywriting

2. Most user-friendly corporate or commercial website

Chosen by the professional jury

The jury’s comments on KrisKras:

  • Playful but clear graphic design
  • Nice filter options to find the trip that suits you best
  • The pages about a trip are very complete and well-presented

3. Most user-friendly government or non-profit website

Chosen by the professional jury

The jury’s comments on UiT in Vlaams-Brabant:

  • Clear, intuitive graphic design
  • Lots of relevant click-through options
  • Fantastic search feature with excellent filters

Congratulations to all winners!

For more info on why these websites made it to the top, come back soon.

Usability Awards 2011

If you would like us to keep you informed of the start of the submission period for next year’s Usability Awards, please leave us your email address.
Inform me about the 2011 Awards

Read more articles about , Other.

Registration kills conversion

Why is registration such a bad idea?

1. Are you registered or aren’t you?

On a website that has registration, the order process usually starts by asking you whether you’re registered or not. Trouble is, people often simply don’t remember.

You can improve that page by wording it a bit more friendly (‘Returning customer / First-time buyer’ sounds slightly more human than ‘Registered / Not registered’).

Layout-wise you can also make it easier on the user. By putting the options close together, like Amazon does.

But it’s still an extra page that can create doubt and confusion. A barrier to completing the purchase.

Find out why registration is losing you money

Read more articles about , , Usability.

Title and description tags: a complete guide

1. What is a title tag?

The title tag determines the name of a web page as it appears in Google. The content of the title tag plays an important part in the ranking a page gets in Google and Bing.

2. What is a description tag?

The description tag is a text of maximum 155 characters long that says what a page is about. Because Google often shows the description tag, it’s a great tool to persuade people to visit your page.

In our article ‘what is a description tag and why is it so important’ you can read in detail what Google does with the description tag and when it is and isn’t shown.

3. Title and description tag create the first impression

When making a website, a lot of attention always goes to the look & feel of the website in general and to the homepage in particular. While this is certainly very important, it’s not true that you need to do this in order to ‘make a good first impression’.

For more than half of your visitors, their first contact with you is not your homepage. Or any other page of your website, for that matter. The first contact, the first impression, is made by the title and description tag shown in Google.


Tips for writing perfect page titles and description tags

Read more articles about , , , , Search engine optimisation, Writing for the web.

How to track down the least visited pages of your website and what to do with them

Too many pages makes life hard for your visitors

Your website should focus on your users’ top tasks. Unfortunately, lots of websites don’t do that. They put everything they have ever done and more on their website. Result: a website with loads of pages nobody’s interested in.

Is that really so bad though? I mean, a user can ignore those pages he’s not interested in, right?

Theoretically, yes. But in practice, those extra pages make for a more complex navigation stucture, more links and more choices.

Which makes it hard for people to find what they’re looking for.

If your website focuses on the stuff people really use it for, there will be fewer pages and people will find what they need a lot faster. Because there’s no clutter to distract them.

Less is more. More conversion. More satisfied visitors. More return on investment.

Use Google Analytics to track down rarely visited pages

I’m using Google Analytics as an example because it’s the most widely used tool. You can of course use other analytics tools as well.

Step by step guide to track the least visited pages of your site

Read more articles about , , Information architecture, Methodology.

Visa’s idea of safe: Internet Explorer 6

Visa describes Visa Online as “Your one destination for all your Visa business needs”.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I thought so. Untill I actually tried to get into the European website.

It didn’t work in Firefox, even though I was using the latest version.


Will Internet Explorer 8 do the trick?

Read more articles about , Accessibility.

Analyse your site search to increase ROI

Why is it important to analyse your own site search?

Knowing what people search for on your site is very, very interesting.

After all, these people are already on your website. And they’re probably using your search feature because they can’t immediately find what they’re looking for. At least, that’s what we usually notice during user tests.

What do you have to do?

  1. Make sure you can analyse the search queries on your website
    Earlier, we talked about how to hook up your own site search to Google Analytics.
    Of course there are other tools out there, but they’re often expensive and quite frankly not as good.
  2. Analyse the list of most frequently used search words a couple of times per year
    Take into account spelling and wording variations and group these together. People looking for a ‘gun license’, ‘handgun license’ and ‘gun permit’ are all looking for the same thing. The filters in Google Analytics come in quite handy here.

Typical discoveries when analysing a search feature

  • People look for things that appear to be hard to find through the navigation structure
  • They look for things that aren’t on your website
  • They type in old product names and even your competitors’ product names
  • They don’t use the same words you do
  • People can’t spell very well… at all

    How can that help you to increase your ROI?
Read more articles about , , Usability.

Analyse your own site search with Google Analytics

Why analyse your own site search data?

  • What people use your search feature for says something about your navigation, homepage and overview pages. If those are all perfectly fine, chances are that very few people will use your search feature.
  • Insight into what people are searching for on your website. Which words do they use? Do they use other words than the ones you’re using? Are there typical spelling errors lots of visitors make? Are they looking for things that aren’t on your website? Etc.

3 ways to analyse your site search data

  1. Your content management system or search software has a built-in tool to analyse the search feature. In that case, you are very lucky. Unless of course it’s a crappy tool.
  2. You’re best buds with the IT crowd and they’re more than happy to make you a tool to analyse your search data.
  3. You use Google Analytics to analyse your website’s visitor behaviour. If that’s the case, do read on. (If you don’t have Google Analytics yet: make sure you do.)

How do you hook up your search feature to Google Analytics?

Read more articles about , , Usability.

Faceted search: 4 design tips

Faceted search: when and why?

Faceted search helps people to look for things based on criteria that are important for them.

In classic web navigation, the website determines the order of the choices. But this hierarchical structure is too limited for sites with a large product range or information offering. Different people often have different criteria in searching for the same thing.

Example: holiday homes

When I’m looking for a holiday home, a swimming pool is essential. For you it might be that pets are allowed or that it’s no more than 10 miles from a supermarket. All these things are important, but they’re not important for everyone.

The best way to solve this: faceted search. Sure, you could also go for an extremely advanced search feature, but I’d advise against it.

In this article we’ll discuss 4 design aspects of faceted search that are crucial for good usability.

Where do you put the search filters?

Read more articles about , , , Usability.

5 tips to show users where they are on your website

Your homepage is not always the first page people see. Lots of visitors find your site via Google and immediately end up on a detail page. Or maybe they’ve clicked a link on another website. A link that doesn’t necessarily mention your website’s name.

Letting people know which site they’re on and where they are on that site is pretty basic usability stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

1. Logo and company name in top left corner

Put your logo in the top left corner. If your logo doesn’t contain your company name, put your name directly underneath the logo. Do this on every page. That way, people immediately know whose website they’re on.

Don’t think putting your logo on the right side will make you special. Sure, you’ll be different, but not in a way people appreciate. You’re just making it harder for them to know which website they’re on.


Ogilvy puts its logo in the bottom right corner. Because that’s not where people expect it to be, it will take them longer to see it.

Not mentioning your name or logo at all is of course not the greatest idea either.


Without a logo or name in the top left corner, it’s not easy for visitors to know they’re on the website of the Museum for Industrial Archeology and Textile (MIAT) in Ghent.

4 more tips to tell people where they are on your website

Read more articles about , , , , Usability.