15 seconds. That’s the average time someone will spend on your website. If you haven’t piqued their interest by then, you’re probably not going to.
That’s a really short window in which to make a good first impression and make someone want to explore further. So how do you get them interested? How do you get them to stay longer than 15 seconds? How do you get them engaged?
It’s tempting to add all sorts of features to your site to add some interactivity and excitement. But it’s easy to get carried away and add too many bells and whistles, or to use them in the wrong way. And if that happens, rather than getting people engaged, you’ll confuse, bore or downright irritate them into leaving your site.
Let’s take a look at 5 ways your website might be annoying your visitors, plus how you can fix them.
1. Pop ups, pop ups, and more pop ups
We all know how important it is to grow our email lists and it’s been proven that having a subscription form pop up can significantly increase your sign-up rate.
However, so many people find pop ups intrusive and annoying. I mean, these days you land on a site and you get the obligatory privacy and cookies pop up. Then you get a browser pop up that the site wants to send you push notifications. Then you’ve just cleared that out of the way when another sodding pop up asks you to sign up for the mailing list.
That’s three pop ups before you’ve had a chance to read a single word of the content. By now you either have the patience of a saint or you’re annoyed as hell and on the verge of deciding you didn’t actually want to read that blog post anyway.
And if that’s happening on site after site, even the most saintly of us will run out of patience. We reach the point where we can’t be bothered to close a series of pop ups, instead we’ll simply close the website and try elsewhere. Can you relate?
Now from a website owner’s point of view, pop ups are great. Anything that’ll increase your audience and build your list is A Good Thing. But when they’re not used properly, from the user’s point of view they can be A Very Bad Thing.
So how do you use them properly?
There are a few things to remember:
Firstly, use pop ups sparingly. Don’t make someone click to close pop up after pop up before they can start reading your site. Don’t give them RSI from clicking all those pop ups closed!
Make sure you don’t have your signup pop up appear as soon the page loads. After all, why should they hand over their email address before they’ve had a chance to see the quality of your content? Most pop ups these days let you set a time or scroll delay on your form. So the pop up will only appear, for example, after someone has been on your site for 30 seconds, or once they scroll half way down the page.
Why not try an ‘exit-intent’ pop up. That’s when the pop up appears as someone is about to click to close the tab or window your site is in. That’s the least intrusive way of using them. And since people leaving your site will generally fall into 2 categories:
- those who aren’t interested in your content
- those who are interested and have found the information they were looking for.
An exit-intent pop up can appeal to those in the second category. People who found what they were looking for on your site and will therefore be more likely to want to read more in the future. In other words, people in the right frame of mind to hand over their email address.
If you can, disable your pop up form on mobiles. Even though phone screens are a bit bigger these days, pop up forms that aren’t optimised for small screens can seriously interfere with the usability of your site. For example if they form extends beyond the edges of the screen, people won’t be able to find the button to close it and access your site properly.
For eCommerce sites, also consider disabling them on important pages like your cart and checkout. You want people on those pages to be focused on completing the transaction so you don’t want any distractions that could stop people buying from you. The only pop up I’d consider here is an exit-intent pop up offering a discount, which could reduce your abandoned cart rate.
2. Auto-play music or video
Adding media to your site can be an effective way to get people to hang around longer. For example, video can let your personality shine through and create a bond with your site’s visitors; it gives you an opportunity to entertain as well as inform. And podcasts are an extremely popular way for people to consume content these days.
However, most people hate landing on a website that plays sound or video as soon as it loads.
Unless the link they’ve just clicked is obviously taking them to a video clip – such as by clicking through to YouTube – they’re probably not expecting sound to start playing automatically. It’s annoying if they weren’t expecting it and embarrassing if there are other people around – like co-workers – and they don’t have headphones plugged in!
If it’s not obvious where to switch the sound off, or even worse, if there isn’t an option to turn it off, the simplest and fastest option can be to close the website.
How do you use them properly?
Unless music is related to what you do, like if you’re a composer, music is more of a gimmick on your site than a useful feature. So ask yourself why you want it on there. If you can’t come up with a good reason why your site visitors would want it or benefit from it, it’s probably best to get rid of it.
If you do have a good reason for using music on your site, make it easy for the user to control when and if it’s played.
With video clips, you can have them auto-play if there’s no sound, like a background video. Or if the clip does have sound, make sure you let the user control when the video starts so they can choose when to listen – and give them time to make sure their headphones are on if they’re in public.
Similarly for podcasts, let your site visitors choose when to hit the play button so they’re ready to listen.
3. Confusing navigation
People are extremely time-poor – we live in an age of busy, busy, busy. So the information on your website needs to be clear, easy to digest and most importantly, easy to navigate.
If you try to get clever or creative with your page titles and menu links, people don’t have the time or energy to decipher them. Rather than having people think it’s cute or funny, they’re more likely to be frustrated that they can’t find what they were looking for.
How to do it properly
And keep the link text short and sweet. And, of course, completely unambiguous. This is not the place to inject some brand personality and get fancy.
For example, people expect to see a link for a contact page, so call it something obvious like, ‘Contact’, ‘Hire Us’ or ‘Get In Touch’. Avoid things that could be at all unclear, like ‘Shout Out’, ‘Connect’ or ‘Start’.
You might also like: Your quick and easy guide to WordPress menus
Chat boxes on websites can be really handy. Especially live chat, as you can get help without waiting 10 days for an email. Or be stuck in a phone queue for half an hour listening to some dreadful muzak.
But live chat won’t work for everyone; it needs someone to be on hand to answer questions, so if, like me, you work alone, that’s impractical. Chatbots offer a solution to that.
Chatbots are an automated help option. Instead of chatting to a real person, the user chats – and hopefully receives help from – a robot.
When done well, these can be almost, if not as good, as live chat. But when they’re not used well, rather than getting help, the user gets a nice dose of raised blood pressure and a simmering rage at your business. Take DPD, for instance. The last time I needed help from them, the only option was their chatbot, which was (to put it politely) no help at all. Now my heart sinks every time I know something I’ve ordered will be delivered by them because I know that if anything goes wrong, there’s bugger all help on offer.
How to use them properly
Firstly, remember that you need to program the responses into your chatbot. So you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine all sorts of questions they might have and scenarios they might need help with.
Your chatbot should be able to handle simple and common queries but for anything that’s too complex, you need a way for people to reach an actual person instead.
So have a plan in place for when someone asks a question your chatbot can’t help with. And make damn sure you program your chatbot to direct those customers towards a real person so they can get the help they need.
5. Resize the browser
Now and then you’ll come across a site that, when it loads, will resize your browser automatically. Why? I’ve no idea. It’s super weird.
Presumably someone thought the site looks best like that, but I can’t actually think of a good reason for doing this. Of course, if you know of one please share it in the comments!
This is frustrating in the same way as the auto-playing music and video. You’re taking a bit of control away from the user when there’s no need for it. If the browser does need to be smaller, let them change the size themselves. It is their computer after all.
How to use it properly?
Honestly, I don’t have a fix for this one. It baffles me why anyone would think it was a good idea.
There should be no need to forcibly resize people’s browsers if your site is responsive. A responsive website will adapt its layout and styling to fit the size of screen it’s displayed on. So your visitors will get the same great experience whether they’re on their laptop or their phone.
You might also like: Is your website responsive?
So there are 5 ways you may instantly annoy your website visitors. Thankfully though, they’re easy to fix so they don’t lose you any more readers, subscribers or customers. If you’d like help to sort out your site, get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.
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