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Website Usability – Don’t Destroy It

Written by Matt Brooking: Web Developer.
· 4 minute read

I’m a big fan of shouty websites. Sites with big and bold designs, animations and transitions everywhere. Designers and developers basically just showing off.

I like to browse websites like Awwards and CSS Design Awards. They showcase a lot of sites, and distribute awards to the best ones. Some sites will inspire, others will blow everyone away.

However, one gripe I have with a lot of these websites is that they change how you have to use your computer; hijacking your scrolling and changing your cursor icon which ultimately makes the website less intuitive to use, and on occasion feel horrible to use.

Scroll Hijacking

Scroll hijacking is where you try to scroll down a page on a website, but the site thinks it knows better, and starts to handle the scroll for you. The excuse being to provide a ‘narrative’ experience.

Think about how you use your computer. You know the sensitivity of your mouse. Now imagine the time you’ve had to use someone else’s computer, their mouse settings are completely different and the whole thing feels so much harder to use.

Hijacking their scroll will inevitably cause users to get frustrated. Users with high scroll sensitivities will find the page constantly scrolling up and down, they have no control of the page anymore. Eventually they’ll get annoyed, and just close your site.

If you want to guide your user through a page, give them a button to click, or tell them where to go. Just don’t try to control their mouse, because you don’t improve their experience.

Changing the cursor

This isn’t as common to see but it seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment.

Occasionally I’ll come across a website where my mouse cursor has changed to a semi transparent circle, or just a new pointer entirely.

Everyone knows where to place the pointer of their cursor to click a link. With a weird new cursor, this isn’t the case. You have to figure out how to click and navigate before you can do anything. Think about the days of Windows XP and that guy with a dinosaur for a cursor.

Dinosaur Cursor

You want your website to look great and be easy to use for your users. If you decide to alter how a user has to use their computer, there will be users who will get annoyed with it, and if they’re anything like me, will end up immediately closing all sites that have a slower scroll speed.