Things that annoy website users (and quickly lose valuable traffic)

There are many seemingly ‘cool’ things that you can do to a website which instantly annoy any users.  Below are some annoying web design choices that can scare away your valuable traffic:

Auto-Playing Videos or Music

You can play a video or music file as soon as a visitors enters a webpage and buffers the media file enough.  Some sales websites will quickly show you a video of their main product perhaps or a pop up person walking along the bottom of the website.  Personal or ‘arty’ websites may force their favorite piece of music upon the hapless website browser or have some relaxing background music which repeats forever.

There are many situations when people DON’T want a video or music file automatically playing, a few examples are below:

– They have their speakers on maximum volume after watching a DVD
– They have opened 10+ tabs on their browser at once and don’t know which one started auto-playing
– They have limited bandwidth or a download limit on their connection
– They hate the video or song which is auto-playing
– etc. etc.

Auto play video adverts are becoming more popular with faster broadband speeds worldwide; luckily the advert is usually muted and doesn’t get in the way of the actual website itself.  If you are promoting a video online then please have the sound on mute if it automatically plays!

MySpace, the dying social network, automatically plays a music track on many user’s profiles, was this one of the reasons of it’s demise? More about MySpace later on…

Moving Text or Graphics

Websites 10-15 years ago had a lot of annoying little .gif images like this cheesy example below:
Hamster dancing quickly gets tiresome!

Amazingly we still see websites almost everyday which use repeating .gif images; they are distracting and usually have a bad quality due to the limited 256 colour palette.
The social network Myspace allows users to upload .gif images in images and profiles, as well as many forums.  These can look really cheesy and really annoy users over time, if you own a forum then consider blocking their use for members.

Scrolling and blinking text also are elements which make a website look cheap and will instantly harm it’s reputation. The people who don’t instantly leave a site with moving text will find it distracting and frustrating to use if you are trying to read the blinking or scrolling content.

Drastic changes of font and background colours

There is a reason why the default colour for HTML text is pure black, the background is set to white and links are coloured blue and underlined.  These contrasting colours really help people read the content of a webpage and quickly spot out links to other pages.  Unfortunatly many web designers start changing these colours drastically and ruin usability.

With little knowledge about CSS, web designers can for example have a black background with white text on top.  Not only does this make the website dark and depressing, it’s slightly harder to read and most images (which have a white background usually) stick out like a sore thumb.  Yellow backgrounds or any other bright colour can really sting visitor’s eyes, if you want to be bright then consider dimmer pastel colours or everyone favorite backgground colour ‘blue’.  Myspace allows users to modify their backgrounds with many users opting for image backgrounds which make text incredibly hard to use, another reason for visitors to Myspace to be put off.

Changing the appearance of links is a crime which several major websites commit.  Firstly, removing the default underlining on text links makes it harder to find them on the site, many websites do this and could instantly improve their entire site by placing them back in within the CSS file.  Secondly, the font colour of links can be modified to look close to the main font colour, this can make things look neater but also has the negative effect of hiding links from some less adapt users, make sure that all the links on your site contrast from the main content, remember default blue is always the top converting colour.

Fancy Navigation Bars

There’s lots of ways to get away from boring navigation bars including Flash Movies, Javascript menus and image menus.  All these solutions may look better or function in a cool way but they are all annoying in different ways to certain users.

Flash Movie Navigation – A significant chunk of people online (around 8%) do not have Flash installed on their computers which means they cannot see any Flash elements.  A fancy Flash navigation bar is therefore useless to 8% of people and also has the added drag of not being very SEO or development friendly.

Javascript Navigation – Slide in & out navigation bars can look sleek on browsers and computers that can handle them.  Different browsers and computers without Javascript may have a very annoying experience with these types of menus and in some case could never reach the inner page they wanted to visit ever.

Image Navigation – Due to lack of browser support with fancier non-standard fonts it can be tempting to use images instead of HTML text for navigation menus.  Images are not the worst choice for small brochure sites which may have only a few pages but they can be troublesome for a website with many pages.  Increasing the download times for a website annoys users, especially if they have to wait for the navigation bar to load and cannot use the site until it does.  Some web designers use image swapping tricks to notify user when they have hovered over an image link, unfortunately this requires double the amount of images and it can take a second or two for the hover over image to appear when it’s hovered over if not set up correctly.

When it comes to Navigation bars, stick to a simple CSS solution like on our latest ecommerce site for Graham and Green.

What things annoy you online?

We’d love to hear what annoys you on websites, is it popups, banners or “wait don’t leave” messages?  Add your comments below…

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