10 Things I Hate About Your Website

10 Things I Hate About Your Website

It’s true: I spend a lot of time on the Internet. Now that I’ve traded my desktop for a laptop, there’s a computer at my side everywhere from the park to the diner. And when it’s too much work to open the lid and log on, I have my phone, with its unlimited data plan, which Ralph is convinced has become grafted to my palm in a wholly unnatural way. So I visit a lot of websites. As a result, I complain a lot (as Ralph also knows) about things that drive me nuts.

So I figured I’d share a mere ten of the things that drive me nuts about (quite possibly your) website, in no particular order, so you can see how your site measures up and either congratulate yourself on a job well done, or get to work fixing it. After all, I’m not just a web marketer – I’m a consumer and quite possibly your customer. Impress me. Or at the very least, don’t annoy me!

PS: This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good place to start. And if you hang in, I promise to bring you 10 Things I Love in a future blog so you can see how you stack up there, too! For now, here are 10 things I hate about your site…

1. I Can’t Find Your Contact Information

You want me to contact you, don’t you? Presumably you didn’t build your website for my browsing delight. So why can’t I find a phone number or email address? Where’s your “Contact Us” page? If you make it hard for me – or other visitors – to get in touch with you, we won’t.

Here’s how to do it right:

  • Put a phone number and contact form on your website. Depending on what I need or how quickly I need it, I may want to get in touch by phone or email.
  • Offer as much contact info as you can. Phone number, fax, email, Facebook page, Twitter link, Morse code. Give me options and cover your butt in the event that your contact form doesn’t work/phone line is down/fax is busy/etc.
  • Keep contact info in an obvious place. A “Contact” page is a good idea. A sidebar is nice. A footer works and is also the most traditional and expected place to find contact info.

2. It Only Works In IE

I’m a geek who hasn’t used Internet Explorer since 2004. So give me a break and get with current standards. If I open up your website in Chrome and get a message that my browser is not supported/optimized/other crummy excuse and encouraged to view your site in IE…. Guess what? I won’t.

It can be a pain in the neck to get a site to work across browsers so you can’t cop out here. You need a developer who knows what they’re doing and will test, tweak and retest until your site works. It may not look or function exactly the same in every browser, but it should certainly be usable.

3. It’s Built Completely In Flash

I complain about this a lot so before I do it again I assure you that I am not anti-Flash. It has a place in design and function if used effectively and intelligently. However, that is not how most people use it. Most sites that are built in Flash can be built just as well – nay, better! – in HTML.

In fact, it’s not Flash itself that drives me nuts but the side effects of it. Namely…

  • I don’t care about your opening animation. It’s long, boring and I just want to get to your Contact page except I can’t, because it’s loading… loading…
  • It’s constantly loading… loading…
  • I can’t view it on my phone. Remember the one that’s grafted to my palm? It renders your site useless.
  • I can’t bookmark the page I want. Without unique HTML pages, the only thing I can bookmark is your top level domain, which is annoying when what I really want is your “About Us” page.

4. The Ads Are In The Middle Of Your Content

I don’t mind ads. Ok, I hate ads. But it’s your fault because you make them so annoying! Done correctly, ads should be distinguishable from the rest of the content and not interfere with a visitor’s experience on the site. Ads in a sidebar, banner ads on the top or bottom of the site, even inline ads if they’re offset by a design element, line break or note saying “Sponsored” are all ok. Ads that get in the way or don’t look like ads are not ok.

These bad ideas for using ads will send me packing:

  • Ads that pop up over the thing I’m trying to read, especially if they don’t have a big, obvious “close window” button.
  • Ads that are inline with your text so it’s difficult to tell that they’re ads until I’m sent off-site where someone is trying to sell me a meat thermometer.
  • Ads that are embedded in text links in your content and pop up those irritating little bubbles that refuse to close when my mouse accidentally hovers over them.

5. The Links Mess With My Head

If you’re going to interlink pages – as well you should be – please do it sensibly!

  • Don’t link to PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or other non-HTML pages without telling me. Having to wait for a PDF to load in a browser or having my entire screen taken over by your presentation without warning is not amusing.
  • Make sure the links work. Test the links on your site out of the gate. And don’t assume that because they worked once that they will always work. You might have moved or renamed a page and now a link is broken. That makes it impossible for me to find the page I want.
  • Stop linking! I know, you heard that keyword text-links are good for SEO. But don’t be link-happy and take me in endless circles through your site because every page links randomly six times to every other page.

6. It’s Ugly

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? When we design sites for our clients, we generally create 3 or 4 options. I silently pick my favorite and rank them from most to least favorite. Then I present them to the client, who inevitably picks the one at the bottom of my list. It’s not that one is inherently better than another, but that everyone has different preferences and ideas about what makes a pretty site.

With that said, there are a few things that are just plain ugly. And annoying.

  • Dark backgrounds with light text. It’s not only ugly but distracting and difficult to read. No matter how you slice it, neon yellow on black or hot pink on lime green is not attractive.
  • Bad stock photos. Spring for a few photos or skip them altogether. If I see another smiling-woman-on-phone photo again I’ll scream.
  • Generic Photoshop effects. If the words emboss, bevel or lens flare are anywhere in your working vocabulary, get your site redesigned.
  • A complete lack of design. A blue block with a curved corner that sits beneath your left-hand navigation is not a design. Neither is that stock photo slapped on the top of every page.
  • A design that is more than 5 years old. I’m being way generous here, because 5 years is a long time in internet years. An old design may have been brilliant in its day but will look dated down the line. Big hair and leg warmers were hot in the 80s but they’d look pretty stupid today. Web design trends go in and out of style too.

7. I Can’t Figure Out What To Do

I bet you don’t randomly visit websites and click around just for the fun of it any more than I do. I bet you visit sites because you want or need something. So when you get to a site and can’t figure out how to get to your end goal, isn’t it annoying? This problem manifests in a bunch of ways.

  • No call-to-action. If the goal is to get people to shop, how about a “Buy Now” link? If the goal is to solicit email signups, how about a “Sign Up” button? I know what I want to do on your site. Show me that you know it too, by offering me the easiest path to my goal.
  • Mystery Meat navigation. This could be a whole blog post. For now, let’s say that you should not hide or bury navigation within navigation so that I have to dig around blindly for what I need.
  • Clutter. Text, photos, graphics, ads, starbursts, videos, highlights, sidebars, multiple columns… sometimes there’s just too much going on. You don’t need to fill up every square pixel of your page with information. White space is your friend.
  • Too many directives. And by “too many” I mean “more than one”. Figure out what THE thing is that you want people to do on a particular page and make it THE directive. You may want people to shop and sign up for your emails and find you on Facebook but if you give people too many choices they are likely to make none.

8. Text Is Embedded In Graphics

If I can’t copy and paste stuff off your web page then I’m mad at you. I swear I’m not stealing. Sometimes it’s helpful to copy and reference information. It’s especially helpful to be able to copy and paste your contact information, which is probably embedded in a graphic in your footer, which will force me to either type it into my contact manager or just shrug off your site and take my business elsewhere.

Besides, there’s almost no good reason to embed text in a graphic. It’s not good for SEO, it’s not good for visitors who turn graphics off, it may slow down the load time of your site and something as simple as having your phone number in a graphic instead of as text can cost you business.

9. The Content Stinks

The content stinks if it’s too short and doesn’t tell me what you do. Or if it’s too long and still doesn’t tell me what you do.

The content stinks if it doesn’t give me a reason to care. As a customer, I care about how you’re going to help me and how you’re going to make my life easier/better/simpler. Somewhere in all the verbiage about how great your business is, there needs to be a reason for me to care about doing business with you.

The content stinks if you use big words. Or buzz words. Or boring words. Or any words at all that aren’t necessary and don’t further your goals and lead visitors to their goals.

10. Stuff Happens Without My Consent

On top of being a complainer and geek, I’m also a bit of a control freak. When I visit a website, I want to do what I want to do. I’ll leave your site in two seconds flat if it does something I didn’t ask it to do and takes the experience out of my control.

  • No popups! Ads, newsletter signups, surveys, one-time-only-special-offers, floating “chat now” windows are all distracting and intrusive.
  • No video autoplay! I can click the little arrow, thank you.

It may seem like a good idea to put certain information literally in the face of your visitors but people are so good at filtering the noise that they’re more likely to click away than to pay attention. If you put your super duper daily deal in a permanent sidebar instead of a popup, you’ll probably have a better response rate.

On the whole, your site should sit there and look pretty until it’s asked to dance. Create an interactive experience by involving your customers, not by preempting them.

That’s my “random ten”. How does your site hold up? Are you grinning and feeling pretty good about it, or cringing a bit and wondering if you should get rid of that intro animation? If you’ve got concerns or questions about your site, feel free to ask me and I’d be happy to share my thoughts. I promise I won’t be snarky. I save that for this blog.

And how about you? Is there anything that drives you nuts? Share your thoughts!