Cursor Curated
26th June 2023

How to stop annoying users

People, not sheep..

17 cover annoy users
Cursor Curated Issue 17
Daniel Westlake

When was the last time you clicked through to an article on a local newspaper site, only to be bombarded by a million distractions? Pop-ups, banner ads and surveys all obscure content – and more importantly, ignore accessible design principles.

The impact of annoying features

Of course, there’s the click-through rate argument for these features. A newsletter sign-up pop-up may increase subscriptions, for example. But for authentic engagement, we need to remember that what is good for us isn’t always good for the user.

Overdo these annoying features and you risk long-term metrics like user loyalty. Without user-centric web design, we risk:

  • Sloppy and unprofessional appearances
  • More demands on busy users’ time
  • Jarring and unpleasant interactions

Instead, we need to focus on empowering users. The benefits of a positive user experience speak for themselves: according to Forrester, every $1 invested in UX returns $100.

It also promotes authenticity. In an age of fake news and misinformation, website transparency is key. Further research by Forrester shows that 71% of US consumers can relate to authentic brands, with seven in ten stating that it gives them a “stronger feeling of confidence”.

So, as web designers, what exactly should we avoid?

Your checklist for annoying user experiences

Transparent website design comes from a clean user experience that allows people to navigate from one page to another without distractions. Said distractions include:

Pop-ups and interruptions

Pop-ups, or “intrusive interstitials” come in many forms. All are annoying! Newsletter sign-ups, promotional offers, cookie consent notices – even pop-ups begging users to stay on-site – disrupt the user flow. Worse still, they obscure the main content, which could prevent conversions.

Auto-playing media

Videos or sounds that play without the user’s consent ignore accessible design principles. For starters, they single out hearing or vision-impaired users. Second, they devalue the user as it is not their decision to make the content play. But most importantly, like pop-ups, they interrupt the browsing experience.

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Poor navigation

The age of mobile-optimised sites has seen a rise in burger menus. These are ideal for responsive web design, but if they are inconsistent in structure or unclear, they can frustrate users. In some cases, menus may overlap with others and stop your customers from moving on.

Poor navigation also leads to decision fatigue. Give users too much of a cognitive load and they become overwhelmed.

Slow loading times

Our users are time-poor. They have little patience for large images or media files slowing the site down. Likewise, excessive scripts and plug-ins or poorly optimised code can slow your site down. It could even be an issue with the server.

Think of this from the user’s and a search engine’s perspective. Bounce rates increase by 32% when load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds. If we factor in Google’s Core Web Vitals too, this could reduce search engine rankings.

Intrusive advertising

You’ll see this a lot in the above-mentioned local news sites. These may be pop-up ads, sticking or floating banners, loud audio ads or unskippable video content. This forces unwanted media on users and hides the content they want to access.

There’s also the brand risk – poor ad placement, such as gambling ads on a website for children, can damage your reputation.

Unreliable layouts

Intrusive pop-ups and adverts are particularly annoying when they load into the page after the rest of the content, causing the layout to shift suddenly. This can cause users to accidentally click on a link they didn’t intend to open, which makes for a frustrating user experience.

Known as Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), this is another of Google’s Core Web Vitals, and a high CLS score can damage a website’s search engine rankings.

Asking for too much information

We want to empower our users, not hold them to ransom. Features like multi-page forms, which may include unnecessary fields, may cause privacy concerns. It also shows that we don’t respect our users’ time, particularly if we’re asking for the same information twice.

Users are more likely to abandon forms altogether, which hampers our conversion rates.

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Overuse of jargon or technical terms

Accessible design principles also cover language. We don’t want to alienate our customers by using industry-specific terms, acronyms or abbreviations without context. Likewise, waffling on with technical explanations will turn users off.

Instead, website transparency comes from clear language – not hiding behind fancy jargon.

Aggressive or excessive retargeting

How many times have you left a website only to have ads “following you around” for weeks afterwards? Excessive retargeting, be it over multiple websites or too many repeats, reeks of invasive tracking.

Users may lose trust in your brand or feel like their privacy has been violated. Plus, seeing the same ad 100 times is just frustrating.

Treating users like real human beings

For a positive user experience, we should treat customers as we would in real life – like human beings. These accessible design features will empower users and increase loyalty.

Enhance usability and personal connection

A valued user is a happy one. This means responsive website design for multiple devices, aided by clear and consistent navigation menus. We can also look at code and server response times to increase speed.

All of these will promote an inclusive, accessible journey – from simplified forms to transparent data collection. Remember, users are individuals, not traffic numbers.

Foster trust, transparency and respect

Long-lasting relationships are rooted in trust. We can build trust by being transparent – from clearly labelling pricing and fees to simple and concise language. We should also respect our users’ privacy, letting them know how their data will be used, and complying with regulations.

This means no aggressive retargeting or overdoing personal forms – instead, treating them how we would in person.

17 transparent data

Encourage authentic engagement and interaction

We can build a sense of community by providing relevant user content and listening to feedback. Such content includes on-brand interactive features, allowing users to give their thoughts rather than manipulating them into sharing information.

User-centric design offers community features that allow customers to share their feedback. It then rewards them by listening to their thoughts and creating improvements.

The takeaways

In a digital landscape where attention is currency, we need to keep our users on-side. Transparent website design puts user needs first, honouring their privacy and letting them interact without distractions.

Listening to user feedback will always outweigh the potential conversion opportunities of these “annoying features”. Maintain the balance, and loyalty will follow.