So, I put together a list of the 12 things that annoy me the most about websites. Maybe you’ll agree; maybe you won’t.
Music blares the minute I visit your site. That is unexpected, disruptive, and downright rude, from a customer experience standpoint. And, in case you weren’t sure, it ticks me (and most people) off more than just about anything. Wake up and smell the coffee! That is so 2001. Frankly, it wasn’t cool even back then—but today, music on your website can mean the kiss of death.
Your “awesome” Flash website takes forever to load and then blasts me with all these neat-o visuals that require me to twiddle my thumbs and waste precious time. I need information, not entertainment. Get over yourselves. Quit listening to your creative team (and if they’re recommending Flash, hire a new team), and maximize the three seconds of attention I’m willing to give you by telling me something I want or need to know.
Pop-up ads (and that’s what they are) make me want to kill you. Yeah, I know they’re effective at boosting click-through rates. I still hate ‘em. Stop it. Using pop-up ads tells me you don’t care about my experience—you just want to sell me crap. It’s like going on a first date, and having the date say, “Let’s fool around” before dinner hits the table. It’s too much. Too soon. I don’t care what the experts say. Pop-up ads make me want to leave.
9. Walking Ads
[Cue scream here.] Speaking of pop-ups, walking ads stink even more. They are annoying, disruptive, and inconsiderate. I came to your site for information. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and walking ads are not the way to do it. I don’t care who sold you on it. It’s a bad idea.
8. Contact Info
Sure, I have a lot of patience and free time. I really WANT to have to dig through your bleepin’ site to find your contact information. That makes my life super-easy. Go ahead, hide it! Or better yet, don’t put contact info on there at all. That’s one way to ensure we don’t ever work together.
Websites that don’t tell me what you do, why I need what you do, and what it’s gonna cost me are downright ineffective. I don’t want to dig for pricing. I want the information, and I want it now. Being coy might work when you’re dating, but when it comes to business, I’m like Sergeant Friday on Dragnet. Just the facts, ma’am. You’ve got about three seconds of my time and attention—use it wisely. And copy that’s “mysterious” is not.
6. Down the Rabbit Hole
Contact pages that make us feel like Alice in Wonderland? Not prudent. And when your contact form leads us to default email programs that we can’t stand, they cause us to immediately leave your site. For instance, I don’t use Mail; I don’t want to use Mail. And when your contact form automatically loads Mail for me, it makes curse words flow out of my mouth that are very unladylike. WHAT are you thinking? Stop it. Please.
5. Black Backgrounds
Black backgrounds and white or grey type are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to read. With very few exceptions (there are some sites done very well by people who know what they’re doing, but they are rare), cut it out. Black backgrounds stink. And if your Web-design team thinks those backgrounds are cool, do your homework. Ask people who know about converting the leads that come to your website to sales about the performance of sites with dark backgrounds. After all, isn’t that what you’re really interested in—leads that you can convert to sales?
4. Miniscule Text
Fonts that are too small can be remedied by a surfer; I’ll give you that. But it annoys me when I have to manually bump up the type. And I’m thinking that if you really think about what you want from a site visitor in terms of actions, it’s not making them do something to learn more. Tell your Web developers with young eyes that it’s often old folks like me who are making the buying decisions. The “default” font most Web developers use is almost ALWAYS too small. Bump it up a notch. Or three. You’ll be amazed at how much happier your Web surfers will be. Know who your customers and prospects are; serve them information that is easy for them to consume—without the need for modifications.
3. An Undesired Delivery
I consume a lot of content. And when I find yours—and I like it—I want to read more. And I want it delivered to my email inbox, not my Reader, which I use for different things. When your blog doesn’t take that into consideration, I know you’re not paying attention. And I know you don’t care about me as a consumer, you’re only thinking about how you like information delivered. Newsflash: It’s not about you. A vast majority of content consumers are just like me. They want content delivered to their email inbox rather than subscribing via an RSS feed. When you overlook that and when you don’t offer me an option that suits my consumption preferences, it tells me you’re not paying attention.
2. Searching for Search
What are you doing to make it easy for people to search your site? You’d be amazed how many sites don’t have an easy-to-find search function—or that don’t have a search function at all. That’s just plain dumb. Make sure your website has an easy-to-locate, easy-to-use search button.
Where are the buttons displaying where to find you on the Web? I keep running across websites that have social sharing buttons on them, but when you click on the buttons, instead of taking you to say, for instance, someone’s Facebook page, it allows me to share your page of content on Facebook. Seriously? As if I want to share your “About” page on Facebook? No, dummy. What I’m looking for is your brand presence on Facebook (or Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)—maybe because I want to “like” you there and pay attention to what you’re doing. Not having social sharing buttons shows me that you’re not participating in the social media space (whether that’s really the case). And it also shows me that you have no idea that I’m judging you—and your level of savviness about the digital space and the importance of social networks—based on their absence. Is that what you want? Really?
The Bottom Line
Don’t be egocentric when it comes to Web design. Know who your audience is and what people come to your site looking for. Or what you want them to come to your site looking for. Let your Web analytics play a huge rule in this process. Focus on creating a user experience that respects users’ needs and makes it easy for them to find the information they seek. Make sure your site has a navigation system that makes sense. And when you’re developing it, step outside the group of people working on the nav design and ask for feedback from others. Test your theories before implementing them. You’ll be surprised how often you’ve made assumptions that aren’t quite right. Sometimes, we’re so close to our own businesses and our own designs that we can’t be objective.
Great design is cool. And cool is nice. But that isn’t enough when it comes to effective online marketing. A beautifully designed website that has a crappy user experience serves up zero results. Great design paired with navigation that’s well-thought out and content that does the job it’s supposed to do? Those make a website work. Creating an effective Web experience that actually turns site visitors into leads and allows you the opportunity to convert those leads into sales—that’s what effective online marketing is all about.
And if you really want to strengthen your Web presence, consider attending the MarketingProfs University course Websites That Work (now on demand), an 11-class course that will help you plan, redesign, measure, optimize and track all your landing page and website activities. I’m slightly biased because I taught one of the classes, but I can promise you that I also sat through all the other sessions. And learned a lot. You will, too. So, register now.
Oh, and thanks to the Punks for their feedback. It’s always nice to know the very things that drive me crazy drive other people I respect and admire crazy, too. Now, what have I missed?
Image by Niklas Hellerstedt via Creative Commons