In a quick break from travel, this is an open letter to website designers, bloggers, and companies with no sense who are wearing me out every day.
I write and and edit travel features, hotel reviews, and travel gear reviews for a living, I do a lot of online research. That means a hours of time surfing new websites, too much of that time wanting to shout random swear words at the walls of my office. Do any of the following if you want to make your visitors grumpy from the start. These steps will ensure that your site seldom gets any repeat visitors.
1) Automatically play music on your site.
Visitors landing on your site especially love it when the’re in a quiet office, in a coffee shop, or on a train/bus/plane when encountering this. If you make the icon really hard to find to turn it off—or don’t include one at all—then bonus points on the irritation scale.
2) Nag us with a pop-up ad
These went out in 1999, right around when we got n0-call lists for telemarketing, but some people didn’t get the memo. Aggressive bloggers and webmasters will say, “But the pop-up converts really well in getting people to sign up for my newsletter.” Yeah, so does dragging people by the arm into a timeshare presentation or knocking on their door to get them to donate money to UNICEF. In the virtual world, those you didn’t “covert” have a handy back button they’ll click instead.
3) Cover up what we’re trying to read.
Related to #2, but sometimes even covering up the entire page or putting an additional page in front before we can get to our destination. (In industry terms, this is an “interstatial ad.”) We have to click on something either way to get to what we were trying to read. This is the equivalent of a roadblock on your route to work that makes you take a slower, roundabout detour, except in this case you’re making people go around a giant billboard instead of highway improvements. How do unexpected detours usually make you feel?
4) Leave out the vital information we came to find.
I can’t top The Oatmeal’s rant on disappointing restaurant websites, but here are other examples that are baffling: hotel or villa websites with no rates, public relations websites with no client listings or contacts, museum websites with no admission info or hours, product sites with no “where to buy” button, blogs with no contact e-mail address or “about me” page, real estate sites that make me fill out a form to e-mail someone, and on it goes. Hey, how’s that whole “air of mystery” thing going for you?
5) Build the whole site with frames and Flash
This way every page of your website has the same URL and we can’t link to anything. Oh well, we probably can’t find you in Google anyway as a result and you don’t show up on Apple mobile devices, so in essence you don’t exist.
6) Build a fancy swirling intro page
This doesn’t give us any information and it takes forever to load, but hey, that designer had to do something that would justify the high fee, right? Hint: for extra points, make sure the “skip intro” button doesn’t come up until after the whole page has loaded, preferably in a tiny font like the example at the top. For triple points, put artsy images or icons on the page to click on instead of real words.
7) Make us click through 20 pages to read one article
Sure, the article is only 1,200 words and would easily fit on one page, but if you make us click on 20 pages instead, that’s 20 times more chances to serve up flashing banner ads about tooth whitening and diet plans. Wow, look at the “increase” we can put into that page view graph for Powerpoint! The suits are going to wet themselves!
8) Make us register to leave a comment or ask a question
Savvy web surfers have a whole bevy of fake names and e-mail addresses for this purpose and there are sites like BugMeNot.com to get around this irritation. But I guess you can say you have thousands of “registered users” this way when the suits ask you for some numbers.
8.5) …your turn in the comments