Great ways to make your website as hostile and annoying as possible

Here’s a roundup on my take regarding some of the most annoying practices on websites, along with how I react to them and suggestions on an alternative approaches that site designers may want to consider. With Travelfish.org I’m guilty of some of these (we use some flash and not all of the site is mobilised yet) – there’s always ways to further improve the user experience.

Use a pop up for newsletter subscriptions 
While I realise you could just signup via the newsletter subscribe box in the left hand column, research * has shown that pop up boxes, ideally loaded about 15 seconds after you start reading a story and nigh on impossible to close on a smart phone are far more preferable to readers.

Why do people do this?
Most likely because it pumps up subscriptions as people find signing up is the only easy way to get rid of the pop-up.

What do I do?
Close the website.

Another option
Write compelling content and have a subscription box towards the end of the content.

Publish all stories over at least four pages
Research * has shown that readers much prefer to read a story over four pages rather than one. Readers also love pagination boxes that are minuscule and require the filing down of fingers (or the accidental clicking of ads) in order to be able to be used.

Why do people do this?
To drive CPM revenue.

What do I do?
Close the website.

Another option
All stories should be displayed on a single page to make the reading process as easy as possible.

Display all image galleries via slideshows
Advanced research * has indicated that loading images into a slideshow is far more preferable to having them all running down the one page. For an additional usability bonus, make sure that the image gallery is Flash based so that it won’t work on many smartphones.

Why do people do this?
To drive CPM revenue.

What do I do?
Close the website.

Another option
All images should be displayed on a single page to make the viewing process as easy as possible.

Display every single available social sharing plug in
You do want to share the story before you read it right?

Why do people do this?
Because they don’t know any better.

What do I do?
Ignore them all.

Another option
Facebook is the only social service I’d say warrants automatic inclusion. Others such as Twitter of Google+ should be included only if you are especially engaged on that platform.

Supply only partial feeds to RSS readers
All research * has indicated that people far prefer to click through from their RSS reader to read a full story. This is especially advantageous when your readers lack internet connectivity.

Why do people do this?
To drive CPM revenue and to protect content from scrapers.

What do I do?
I find this intensely annoying and will only click through to read the absolute most compelling content.

Another option
Full feed all the way. If you must have a partial feed, have a custom intro rather than just the first par so that you’ve a better chance to get that clicktrhough.

Use Js plugins selectivelyAdd all Js at the bottom of the code
Anecdotal research * has shown that users prefer to wait as long as possible for Js related widgets to load, just to guarantee that the reading process is as disruptive as possible. Never ever use async Js.

Why do people do this?
I have no idea.

What do I do?
This is often especially annoying with some WordPress plugins that result in the story shifting around a lot on a phone. Dealing with this kind of stuff is one of the only ways I end up clicking on an advert or related story link.

Another option
Use plugins very selectively.

Do not have a mobile version of your site
All research * has clearly illustrated that people prefer to pinch and zoom regular websites on their smartphones rather than use a mobilised version. 

Why do people do this?
Lack of tech knowhow or a belief that mobile is not important

What do I do?
Close the website.

Another option
Add a mobile version. If you are using WordPress this is generally very easy to do.

Auto play all videos
A practice pioneered by the Sydney Morning Herald, it has been clearly shown * that autoplay videos, especially those that commence with an advertisement and cannot be turned off are absolutely preferred by readers.

Why do people do this?
To boost user engagement

What do I do?
I get engaged with the “close window” button.

Another option
Don’t ever autoplay anything.

Use as much Flash as possible
Readers, especially those using smart phones prefer to get as much content in Flash as possible. The most innovative hotels often make their entire websites in Flash which is an absolute boon for readers trying to find the telephone number to call to make a reservation.

Why do people do this?
A lot of legacy websites just haven’t adapted, but anyone being advised to build a new website mostly in flash needs to get some new advice

What do I do?
Stare at blank screen for a while then close window.

Another option
Use Flash only is totally unavoidable.

In conclusion, think of everything from the user’s point of view. Many of the above are counter intuitive from a reader’s point of view — why would youwant to sign up for a newsletter when you have not had time to read the story? Look at each case and think which is preferable for a reader – that’s most likely the approach you want.

* “Conversations with a single drunk tuktuk driver in Bangkok” by Stuart McDonald, 2012.