If you want a great site, you’ve got to test. After you’ve worked on a site for even a few weeks, you can’t see it freshly anymore. The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.
The more you watch users carefully and listen to them articulate their intentions, motivations, and thought processes, the more you realize that their individual reactions to Web pages are based on so many variables that attempts to describe users in terms of one-dimensional likes and dislikes are futile and counter-productive. Good design, on the other hand, takes this complexity into account.
In the last few years, making things more usable has become almost everybody’s responsibility. Visual designers and developers now often find themselves doing things like interaction design (deciding what happens next when the user clicks, taps, or swipes) and information architecture (figuring out how everything should be organized).
Faced with the prospect of following a convention, there’s a great temptation for designers to try reinventing the wheel instead, largely because they feel (not incorrectly) that they’ve been hired to do something new and different, not the same old thing. Not to mention the fact that praise from peers, awards, and high-profile job offers are rarely based on criteria like “best use of conventions.” Occasionally, time spent reinventing the wheel results in a revolutionary new rolling device. But usually it just amounts to time spent reinventing the wheel.
Another needless source of question marks over people’s heads is links and buttons that aren’t obviously clickable. As a user, I should never have to devote a millisecond of thought to whether things are clickable — or not.
A person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can figure out how to use the thing to accomplish something without it being more trouble than it’s worth. Take my word for it: It’s really that simple.