Design Mistakes That Scare Users Away

This is the article that had to be written.  The one that gave us no choice.  Even though the majority of our readers wouldn’t ever commit the grievous sins on this list, the sheer magnitude of the problem compels something to be written about it.

This is the culmination of millions upon millions of agonized groans of frustration as users continue every day to discover new depths of the abyss. Terrible has become the new normal, and something must be done about this.  Consider the article you are now reading as one small step towards creating a better world for us all.  We can only hope…

1. Too many ads

Nobody wants to deny your right to make a little money from your website.  Make a lot of money, if you have the talent.  But don’t try to take shortcuts by plastering your site with more ads than content, because the greed is just too blatant.  We came to see your content, not your ads.

Even people who work in television are smart enough to know that you need more content than ads, and this is not a group of people who have gained notoriety for having high levels of intellect.  If the balance is tipped to far on the content-to-ad ratio, viewers will change the channel.  You can expect more or less the same reaction from web users.  If you are too annoying with your ad placement, they’ll click away to view less annoying content.

You’ll still make money if you cut down on the ad count.  You want to strive for balance, and ideally to have the ratio more in favor of content.  If your content is good enough, it will attract more visitors and those visitors will be more inclined to share it with others.  This way you’re making more money and causing less people to make the decision to add your site to their blacklist.

2. Making everything a slide-show

Readers who are old enough will remember the actual slide-shows that modern day Internet slide-shows are named for.  During these terrifying ordeals, otherwise sane couples would keep visitors captive against their will, forcing them to look at yet another photo of “Rodney buying an ice cream from a man in Turkey” or “Merryl slipping on a banana skin in Rio”.  Nobody ever wanted to see any of these things, but Merryl and Rodney could be quite insistent and persuasive.

The problem is not the slide-show format, but the abuse of it.  It’s done with the same concept but less pure intentions than Merryl and Rodney’s home slide-show extravaganza.  The website owner wants to keep you captive on his or her site.  They want you to see all those lucrative money-making ads.

Slide-show format is appropriate in those situations where it is important not to reveal all the information at once, because doing so would ruin the experience for the user.  In other words, that decision to use slide-show format is based on considering the needs of the user, not the needs of the website owner.

The rampant abuse of slide-show format has led to many users simply not bothering with any site that makes use of the technique.

3. Click bait

Here’s another sure fire way to annoy users and send them scrambling from your site in droves.  If you’re going to take the time to create a catchy headline, then you must also ensure that you deliver what you promise.  Users are becoming more and more frustrated by this problem, which is showing up as evidence in the comments they leave on sites that use this dishonest tactic to attract visitors.

It’s a problem because if you have some good content on your site that people might actually want to read, they’ll probably no longer trust you enough to go and check it out.  That means you’re losing twice.  Not a good way to run a business, and not something you can be proud of.

4. Blatant SEO copy writing style

Everyone has come to accept that SEO is a normal part of the everyday Internet experience.  It’s become necessary for sites to create SEO content because the search industry is so competitive and sites can’t afford to be obscure.  That means creating mountains of content that doesn’t need to exist for any other purpose.

But just because an article is created for SEO purposes doesn’t mean it should be garbage.  You should still show some respect for the people who took the trouble to follow that link that brought them to your site.  The article should still be professionally produced.  It should still pop in all the right places.  It should still be enjoyable and informative.

Above all, it should not be too blatant in it’s use of keywords.  Writers are instructed to include key phrases like “dental clinics Boston”, and you end up with something that says “When you are suffering from tooth ache, you will probably want to find dental clinics Boston who can help with your problem”.  This is disgraceful, and there’s no need for it.  Google won’t care if you throw in some filler words and make that key phrase “dental clinics in Boston” or even “dental clinics located in Boston”.

Write your content for human readers and the search engines will love you and so will the human readers.  Incidentally, with the dental clinics example, there are a lot of better ways to write that copy.  You can always tell when a company has produced content in this way.  They try to spend the minimum amount, so writers can’t devote any time to research or crafting a quality article.  The result is drivel, and it gets your site blacklisted in the worst cases.

5. Autoplay media content

There is never an excuse for enabling Autoplay, and that counts double for ads.  Not everyone is on broadband and not everyone has unlimited bandwidth.  When you enable Autoplay, you are stealing from the users, plain and simple.

Beyond that annoyance, there’s also the fact that users might be at work or in a public place, and your annoying media broadcast could cause a lot of problems and embarrassment.  Announcing in a loud voice that your miracle product cures crabs up to four times faster than other leading pubic lice remedies is not going to do anyone any favors, and especially not you.

The Internet is not television.  Users want some control over what they see and hear.  When you enable AutoPlay, you take that control out of their hands.

Respect users and they will reward you

Doing things the right way doesn’t ever hurt you.  It’s when you try to employ tricks or subterfuge to achieve outcomes that are favorable to you and you alone that things get messy.  Users will feel that you don’t respect them, and they will resent every wrong thing you do.  Just because “it’s normal” and “everyone is doing it” (which isn’t true anyway) doesn’t make it appropriate for you to do it.

Stand out from the crowd for the right reasons and visitors will flock to your site.  Welcome them.  Give them great content and keep your promises to them.  Go beyond their expectations, and you’ll exceed your own expectations as well.

header image courtesy  of Nikita Prokhorov

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best website builder for myself. Check out my current top 10 website builders.

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