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There are a lot of excellent websites out there and many have focused on improving the user experience in recent years, but there are still a lot of sites that fail to pay enough attention to usability issues.
After the jump, our list of the things that annoy us about websites, some from well known brands who really should know better...
People visit your website to find information or the product they are looking for. Navigation should be easy to find and use, and always located in the same spot on every page. Make users work too hard on this and they won't hang around. Don't try to reinvent the wheel with your navigation (a common complaint with Flash sites - see reason 4 for more), just make it as straightforward and obvious as possible.
Too many 'Bookmark My Site' buttons
If someone wants to bookmark your site, they will do it, no need to ask them. In addition, adding this button wastes valuable space on your web page. Social Media Icons Overload Syndrome is another example of this sort of madness, as Matt Linderman has pointed out in the past.
Site intros / Interstitials
See Forbes.com for a downright appalling example of this. NOBODY wants to watch a 30 second advert before they get to the article they want to read. At least with Forbes you can skip the intro, though some sites make it hard to find the link to do this. But that's no use - we've stopped reading Forbes around these parts, just to avoid The Rage.
Excessive use of Flash
Flash has its uses, but we don't think there's any reason for using it to power your website. When done badly, it can take up bandwidth, can confuse users with bizarre navigation and control mechanisms, and there are plenty of issues relating to accessibility. River Island, which stupidly relaunched a Flash-based site as recently as 2006, is one example of this - it even carries an apology to all the disabled customers who cannot access the site. On the flipside, Flash is sometimes used well for rich microsites, such as the one that supports the excellent Sony Bravia ads.
Thankfully, this kind of advertising is less prevelant than it used to be, but some sites still persist, including the likes of The Guardian and The Times (a shame as they are otherwise excellent sites). Overlays are simply awful for the user experience. Advertisers shouldn't be buying them. Publishers should disown them and sort out their ad strategies, rather than selling out. Interruptive advertising will ultimately die. It's this sort of thing that has led to the rise of pop-up blockers and ad-skipping PVRs/Tivo/Sky+ boxes.
Disabled back button
People not able to use Back button will click the third most important navigation element - that X button in the top right. Fact. Why make people stick around if they want to leave? Idiocy.
Hidden contact details
"Where is the goddamned telephone number?" Well, where is it? If people want to speak to you then please let them. It's not such a bad thing. Prominently displayed contact details can help engender trust. Hiding your email and phone numbers has the opposite effect. Go on, try the One Minute Find A Telephone Number Challenge on Amazon. It's harder than you'd imagine. The clock is ticking...
Forbes.com again provides a shitty example of this. If I want to play a video or listen to something, I'll click on it. Otherwise it is just annoying, and intrusive. Stoppit, please! Advertising creatives take note. Please.
Slow loading sites
The promo site for the BBC's Electric Proms is a good example, taking at least a minute to load up. There used to be a loose 'eight second rule' for page loading, but, with the prevelance of faster broadband connections this may now seem tardy. Any more than a few seconds and many users may aim for the back button, assuming it works...
Poor page layout
This site is one example of poor layout, only letting you read two lines of the story before having to scroll down for the rest, just to make sure you see all the ads. Pathetic, really. And as for sites that automatically expand the browser window to use your full screen, well, they really suck, especially if you use two monitors! Ogilvy is guilty of this - click on the 'Our Work' link to annoy yourself.
Is there anything we've missed out that irritates you about websites and spoils the user experience? Leave your comments below...
User Experience Briefing - July 2007
Dr Dave Chaffey on Web Design mistakes