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Here’s How to Stop Annoying Your Website Users

by Jason Unger, Founder

Photo by Anna Shvets via Pexels

Every time you, the marketing decision-maker, are presented with the option to make changes to your website, it’s crucial that you take off that marketing hat (for just a minute!) and think like your users.

Remember: you are not your users.

When you’re thinking about how to get more email subscribers, build an effective donation page, or generate more leads, you’ve got your marketing hat on. And that’s fine – you’re just doing your job.

But when you make changes on your website to achieve those goals, you have to step back and consider those changes from the user’s perspective.

Are the changes you’re making:

  • in conflict with your users?
  • going to hurt their experience interacting with your website and your brand?
  • going to annoy them to the point where they don’t want to come back?

Here’s how to stop annoying your website users.

Don’t Pop Things Up Relentlessly

There’s a time and a place for a popup window, and when done appropriately they can have great results.

But as we’ve said before, with great power comes great responsibility.

There is nothing more annoying than loading a website and immediately getting hit with multiple distracting popups. And I’m not even talking about the 1990s or 2000s versions of popups – I’m talking about an experience where, when you load a site, you get hit with:

  • A browser request to share your location
  • A request to allow notifications
  • A request to download the site’s app instead of visiting the website
  • An alert bar that comes down from the top of the page
  • A modal window in the middle of the page
  • A request to confirm cookies

These are all current, popular ways to engage with a user after they load your site. And if you do more than one of them at a time, you’re annoying your users. Don’t do it.

Stop Moving Things Around

How many times have you been on a website and tried to click on a link, only to have the wrong link open because the website content moved as elements loaded?

It’s incredibly annoying.

This is especially common with sites powered by advertisements, which may load last on a page after all of the other content has become visible. (If this sounds like your site, here are specific tips to not annoy your users with ads.)

Google’s Core Web Vitals update introduced the idea of Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which “measures the instability of content by summing shift scores across layout shifts that don’t occur within 500 milliseconds of user input”.

Optimizing your site so that content stays in its place prevents a jarring user experience, and should be one of your top priorities. In this era of responsive design, it’s more and more common to have things that shift depending on your device or browser size – so it’s crucial that you implement ways to improve CLS.

Don’t Bury the Lede

Have you ever wondered why Google spends so much time trying to deliver answers to your search questions right on the results page?

Besides their quest for world domination (a topic for another day), it’s because so many sites bury the lede to the questions people are asking. In an attempt to get users to stick around longer and click on a few more links, it’s way too common to see sites that make it hard to find the actual content they promise in their headlines.

Too many websites fill the page with fluffy supporting content, while the answer you’re looking for is buried 7 scrolls down in a difficult-to-find place. Don’t do that. It’s annoying.

Make your content accessible, and deliver what your users are looking for quickly and easily.

Be Consistent and Logical

Your website design needs to make sense to your users, and once they figure out how things work, you can’t stray from that logic.

Could you imagine if a website’s menu moved from left to right depending on the page of the site?

It’d be terrible! You’d spend way too much time trying to figure out the logic of where and why.

There’s a reason usability experts generally recommend putting your logo in the top left corner of your site; it’s where people logically expect it to be.

Your menu navigation, your footer, your content area – all of these pieces of your site need to be consistent so that users aren’t learning a new system every time they click from page-to-page. Your design system should make sense logically and be consistent throughout your site

You can stray from your main design system if you’re building a microsite, but even within that system, you need consistency and logic.

Don’t Make it Difficult For Your Users to Achieve Their Goals

All of these annoyances come down to one thing: making it more difficult for your website users to do what they came to do.

We talk so much about the importance of goals, and annoying your users makes it more difficult for them to achieve their goals.

When you have that marketing hat on, you’re often thinking about your organization’s goals – but it’s crucial that you always think about your user’s goals as well. Help them achieve their goals, and you’ll have delivered value.

Remember: at any point, your user can click out of your website and do something else. They’re not stuck there. They’re choosing to be there.

And if you annoy them, why would they want to stay?

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About Jason Unger

Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink. He built his first website on Geocities, and hasn't looked back since. Digital Ink tells stories for forward-thinking businesses, mission-driven organizations, and marketing and technology agencies in need of a creative and digital partner.

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