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11 Website Nightmares That Scare Users Away

By Simon CreedComments

11 website nightmares that scare users away

The costume parties and fright nights have been and gone.

But there's something that's still scaring the pants off people...

Shocking websites.

So, put your fangs back in and sink your teeth into our rundown of what not to do when it comes to keeping people on the page, and learn how to get rid of those bounce rate bogeymen...


1. You'd get more sense from a headless horseman

This isn’t Victoria’s Secret. Your website should leave nothing to the imagination. If you’re not cutting to the chase people will suspect you’re trying to hide something.  

Home page propositions and ‘About Us’ pages aren’t there to fill blank space. This is your opportunity to ditch the bells and whistles, and really speak to your website visitors. Lay your offering on the line and make it snappy.

As Steve Krug explains, while you’re “thinking “great literature” (or at least “product brochure”), while the user’s reality is much closer to “billboard going by at 60 miles an hour.””

Don’t dance around your offering.

Overloading your copy with buzzwords and industry jargon is a grave error too.  

Tell your story, simply. Highlight the main values of your product or service. Make people curious and inspire them to go deeper.

2. It's horrificly crowded

We’ve all been in a bustling pub, music venue or train station. Barging past sweaty geezers, dodging half cut teenagers in the dark, negotiating the snotty ticket guy.

It’s hectic.

Trick or treat

Crowded designs make it difficult, if not nigh on impossible, for people to find what they’re looking for — and guess what? They don’t have the patience to dig through everything either.

If your website is visually too busy, your visitors will scarper quicker than you can say “trick or treat”. Free-flowing, easily digestible pages are essential if you want to keep that pesky bounce rate down. And when it comes to content, white space is your best friend.

3. The Rocky Horror Slow (to load)

According to KISSmetrics users take between 6 and 10 seconds to decide whether or not to abandon your website. What’s more, a spine-chilling 47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.

That’s quite a benchmark.

And when Aberdeen Group report that a 1 second delay can yield:

  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • 7% loss in conversions

...it’s pretty damn clear that if your site struggles to get up to speed, you may as well say ‘bye-bye’ now.

But all hope is not lost!

By enabling compression, leveraging browser caching, optimising images and following other site speed best practices, you can ressurect your website.

4. It's like a scare maze

We’re back to the start again with this one.

Clarity is essential in pretty much everything you do as a marketer.

If it isn’t totally, absolutely, unequivocally obvious how to navigate through your site, to the information people want to find out, there’s little hope.

Think about it. If road signs were ambiguous, or simply an afterthought, it’d be all out chaos.

Junction what?

scary websites

Categories, drop downs, and nav bars all need to be prominent, easily accessible and self-explanatory. When someone clicks on something, they do so with an expectation of what they’ll see on the other side.

Make sure what they do find is relevant and, more importantly, give them a clear route to what they’re after in the first instance.  

5. It takes many garish forms

This doesn’t mean every page needs to look identical. Quite the opposite. However there still needs to be that sense of continuity. We’re talking uniform experience and the feeling that everything is in its place for a reason.   

As Design Shack’s Carrie Cousins explains, “Quite simply, consistency is the thread that ties together elements in a single design”. She continues by outlining some basic web design principles that all brands can bare in mind...

Dominant and secondary colours and hues: Think Coca-Cola’s red and white. Your brand should have its own distinctive colour palette. Use it throughout your design.

Typography size, spacing and position: Seemingly simple stuff. But if you don’t outline rules regarding headings, font, line space etc, your user experience will suffer.

Size and relationships between elements: Find visual patterns and commonalities which “create harmony and balance that make design easy to digest and keep users engaged”.

Space and how it’s used: Between each element is an amount of space. Using a grid system allows you to regulate both vertical and horizontal spacing, and help to keep visual chaos at bay.

User patterns that work naturally: Don’t fix what isn’t broken. If elements work in the way users expect them to, “the design becomes somewhat invisible and usability shines through.

Harmonious interface and interaction: Button colour, navigation bars, footers, icons, clickable links, and everything in between, need to behave in the same way across the website.  

New Call-to-action

6. It's Back to haunt you from the 90s

...or even the 00s.

We’ve come a long way since the days of that screechy dial up tone. Our digital world of sleek tech and relentless innovation is unforgiving. Expectations are sky-high, and outdated designs are pretty much a death sentence.

“It’s an unfortunate truth, but we all judge books by their covers.” - Alex Bashinksy, HubSpot

First impressions count. Updating your website may seem like an inconvenience, but if you’re serious about wooing people, it’s time to brush away the cobwebs.


7. About as charismatic as Frankenstein's monster

Because let’s be honest, no-one likes boring.

Now’s your chance to be human, be real, be a little bit risqué if your brand permits it.

Pour some personality into your website.

Ditch cringey stock photos for visually provocative, imagery.

Craft conversational copy.

Inject humour where appropriate.  

In other words, create something that’s pleasurable on the eye and emotionally engaging.

8. Your content sucks

If you’ve been lauding your site all over social media, and its value proposition is equally bold, your content had better live up to all the promises.

content sucks

Using buyer personas to light the way, you should be creating blogs and resources that align with your brand message, speak to the reader in a consistent tone of voice and helps them to solve the problem they were looking for an answer too.

Half-arsed, fluffy content is a waste of your time and theirs.

Check out our 5-step buyer persona creation guide here.

9. Fiendish pop-ups everywhere

According to Choozle, 53% of people use ad blockers (rising to 62% among 30-44 years). This is bad news for sites, especially those who rely on ads as a main source for monetisation.

And Marketing Sherpa’s 2017 study makes for grim reading. Trust in online ads is still much lower than traditional advertising methods such as print and TV.

consumer trust in ads

What’s more, when ads take up too much real estate — detracting from or even encroaching on your website’s content — you’ve got a problem.

Slower load rates are one symptom of ad overkill. While intrusive pop-ups and irrelevant product pushing can also contribute to a higher bounce rate.

Don’t get me wrong. People don’t hate all ads.

The well-placed, relevant paid stuff has its place. Just be sure to keep it classy, minimal and ensure your original content remains the centerpiece of your website.  

10. It's a nightmare to use on mobile

mobile first

According to Smart Insights, more than 80% of internet users own a smartphone. While Salesforce report that 71% of marketers believe mobile marketing is core to their business.

In 2016, mobile internet usage overtook desktop for the first time. If your website isn’t mobile friendly you’re already at the back of the pack.

Responsive or ‘mobile-first’ design is common practice these days. It ensures that mobile users not only get an accessible experience, but also puts primary focus on core content, so people can cut straight to the information they need.

Only when users land on your site via a desktop browser, will they come across auxiliary design features and flourishes. In other words, a responsive website is made to ‘scale seamlessly’ to fit the context within which it sits.

“Now more than ever, we’re designing work meant to be viewed along a gradient of different experiences. Responsive web design offers us a way forward, finally allowing us to design for the ebb and flow of things.” - Ethan Marcotte

11. It doesn’t compel you to take action

Are you including messages that compel visitors to progress in their journey through your website? If you’re not shining a torch on where to go next, people are liable to wander off.

Calls to action can spark/re-spark interest and curiosity — even after people have got hold of the answers they were looking for.

Give people reason to stick around. Make it clear where you want them to go next.

Less boo, more woo

Go from horror show to conversion machine by re-vamping your website (are these puns wearing thin yet? I’m having a great time).

Stop spooking people and start hooking them with clarity, seamless design, some demon content, or risk ending up in Google’s bounce rate graveyard.

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