What Site Visitors Find Annoying

Ever since the dawn of time ... well, okay, March 15, 2000 ... I've been saying "Don't do it" when it comes to those irritating online practices that send your visitors scurrying for your competitors. I've told you they'll bail on you, and that bailing once is usually the same as bailing forever. You tick off a visitor, and they don't come back to let you do it again.

Thing is, a customer bails and it doesn't necessarily remain a private matter between you and the individual. That disgruntled customer is just as likely to start spreading the news through all those lovely consumer-generated media venues. You know ... blogs and reviews and lists.

So here we are, well and truly rooted in a media-rich market that has upended all the relationships we used to take for granted. These days, the customer is in control. And that customer is growing increasingly intolerant of shabby online experiences.

You simply can't shrug it off. So, with help from Hostway, here are some impressive numbers that should put teeth into the stuff I've been telling you ... ever since the dawn of time!

Hostway's national Pet Peeve survey assembled a list of 15 irritating website practices:1

  1. Pop-up ads

  2. Requiring the installation of extra software to view the site

  3. Dead links

  4. Requirement to register and log-on before viewing the website

  5. Slow-loading pages

  6. Content that is out of date

  7. Confusing navigation - hard-to-find pages, too many clicks

  8. Ineffective site search tool

  9. No contact information available (web form only)

  10. Inability to use the browser's back button

  11. Overdone sites - unnecessary splash/flash screens or animation

  12. Text that moves

  13. Music or other audio that plays automatically

  14. Poor appearance - colors, fonts, format

  15. Opening a new window for a link

Then Hostway asked their respondents how they felt about each of these. What did visitors find annoying? Well, it would be easier to tell you what the majority of folks didn't find annoying. Only (only?) 38 percent of the respondents found 'opening a new window for a link' irritating.

The biggest bugbear: Pop-up advertisements. Ninety-three percent!

Eighty-something percent found Peeves 2 through 8 very or extremely annoying. Seventy-something percent were ticked off by Peeves 9 and 10. 'Overdone sites' ticked off 69 percent of respondents. And aesthetic issues like moving text, automatic audio and poor appearances scored in the 50s.2

Pop-up ads were everybody's favorite pet peeve by a landslide. Requiring visitors to register or log on before viewing content and requiring visitors to download additional software to make the site word came in second and third, respectively.

Then Hostway asked folks what they'd do when they came face to face with their pet peeve (cue the ominous opening of Beethoven's Fifth):

  • 76% said they'd never come back to the site

  • 74% said they'd unsubscribe from promotions and mailings

  • 71% said they'd never purchase from the site

  • 71% said they'd view the company negatively

  • 54% said they'd complain to friends and associates

  • 45% said they wouldn't buy from the company's brick-and-mortar (if the company had one)

  • Only 24% said they'd take the time to complain directly to the company

These are some pretty devastating numbers. Never come back? Never do business with a different channel? Ouch!

The good news is, almost every single one of these peeves is easy to fix. Around here, we call this stuff the low-hanging fruit - deal with it, and you can give your conversion rates a nice booster shot.  You need to dig much deeper to achieve your potential, but these things make for a good start.

I'm certain none of my loyal readers are making these mistakes, but if you are, get that phone number into your site template. Put a real address on your Contact Us page.  Regularly review your content, including links, for freshness. Ditch the pop-up ads. Remove all the gimmicks. Work with developers to speed downloads and simplify your interface applications. Don't make folks have to register with you just to buy from you. And don't ever ask your customers to give up something they value (their contact information) without giving them a super good reason to do so.

If your customers won't put up with these shabby online experiences, why in the world would you?

1 "Survey says ... Internet pet peeves: what drives customers away from your e-business." Press Release. Hostway. August 1, 2005. http://www.hostway.com/aboutus/press_releases.html# Ratings were based on a five-point scale from 1 (not at all annoying) to 5 (extremely annoying). Percentages cited combine responses of 4 (very) and 5 (extremely).

2 You can find the exact results by visiting the above link, clicking on the press release, then following the results link at the end of the press release.

Volume 124: 02/01/06

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