Six unforgivable website sins


Dislike{{}}Nowadays, anyone can design a website. But to be honest, I’m not sure that’s always a good thing. Because while we might all be able to get started with an easy website builder, we don’t all have the design knowledge to sidestep common mistakes

Here are six common website sins that will drive your visitors away in droves. Seriously, if your website commits any of these, you might want to have a rethink. Fast.

1. Mobile door-slams

A door-slam is a message that pops up asking you to ‘download our app’ or ‘view our mobile site’. They tend to appear when you follow a link from a search engine on your smart phone, and they’re called door-slams because they’re a bit like having a door slammed in your face.

Here’s an example from ‘computational knowledge engine’ Wolfram Alpha{{}}. See how the door-slam gets in the way of where you want to be?

Thankfully, door-slams are becoming rarer as website owners implement more sensible mobile designs. But they’re still out there, and they’re still about as polite as, well, slamming a door in your user’s face.

2. Sound that plays automatically

Nobody has ever visited a website thinking ‘it would be great if this page played a loud sound automatically’. Sounds are distracting, disruptive and downright annoying, particularly if your visitor is in an open-plan office.

Automatically playing sound (or, for that matter, video) is rude, because it takes control away from the user. Show some respect, and let them choose if they want your website to start shouting at them.

3. Ads that take over your visitor’s computer

Banner ads have long provided income for website owners. But as banner blindness has grown, advertisers have resorted to more intrusive online ads.

The result is clear when you visit an ad-heavy page. As the page loads, your computer slows as it struggles to process demanding ads that can contain animations and other effects.

Often, these ads incorporate video that plays automatically, expand over content you’re trying to read, or pop up halfway through an article.

At the moment, these painful ads seem to be most prevalent on news websites, like the Evening Standard, PC Pro and numerous local newspaper sites.

I get that it’s harder than ever for publishers to make money, but online advertising is getting ridiculous. As the user experience gets worse, is it any wonder extensions like AdBlock are growing more popular?

4. Surveys that ask stupid questions at the wrong time

When they ask appropriate questions at a relevant time, surveys are a great way to gather insights from people using your website. But why do so many businesses still do online surveys so badly?

For a start, it’s no good asking people to complete a survey as soon as they arrive on your website. You’ll take them off task straight away – and they can’t tell you what they think unless they’ve had a chance to explore.

Secondly, think about what you’re trying to learn. Giving people a 50-question survey that takes 20 minutes to complete is plain rude. Work out what you really want to know, then ask two or three simple, focused questions.

5. Forms that forget things

Once a user is willing to enter their details into your website, you’ve done the hard work. You’ve convinced them that whatever you have to offer is worth exchanging their details for.

Yet plenty of websites still haven’t realised that the design of online forms matters. One key principle is: always remember what the user entered.

For instance, if a visitor makes a mistake when re-entering their password, you shouldn’t also make them re-enter their name, address and phone number. Make sure your site retains this information.

6. A pointless introductory animation

What is this, 1996? Introductory animations went out around the time the 2000s came in, so if you seriously still force visitors to watch a cringeworthy introduction before allowing them to navigate your website, stop it.

Enough said. What other website sins do you hate?