After many years and what seems like infinite resources at our disposal, I am amazed at how many websites are still so bad. Why are there are STILL too many sites that have an outdated design, neglected, and a blatant disregard for users?
As far back as 2011, I started to write a few articles on these topics because even back then, they were so obvious. You can view these articles here:
To help you understand my own frustrations, I've listed out a couple of the most common things I notice. Usually, sites that appear to be problems all seem to have common issues. Some of the worst offenders include
- Unplanned structure and bad navigation practice (ie: users can't find anything)
- Bad user experience causing a visitor to leave
- Compatibility problems with any mobile device, again, causing users to leave
- Too many ads which cause sites to be slow and interfere with the content
- An overwhelming number pop-ups which obstruct content and show up to often or before a user has even had a chance to see if the site will provide value
These examples are not the only issues, but they are at the top of the list of most noticeable issues.
To my shock, after 11 years and counting, my first set of articles is as relevant today as they were back then.
What do you mean by Websites are Still Bad?
I was always optimistic when specific changes were announced and believed my articles would be outdated and irrelevant not long after they were published. I thought that, like any other change that affected the success of a business, website changes would be part of the updates. I believed the issues would be looked back on like a distant memory.
I was VERY wrong. So little has changed on many websites, and I can’t figure out why.
As of April 15, 2015 (more than 4 years ago), Google released news of an algorithm change that declared websites that were not responsive on mobile devices would get penalized in search results. This one change was enough to make me think something would change.
Getting found in search results is very important too many people, yet, after 4+ years, not enough people, as I would have expected, complied with the change.
You’d think the indicated threat that a website may get penalized and potentially not be found by customers searching the web would be the push needed for people to update sites.
I was optimistic. I waited. I was wrong.
Common website problems, avoidable mistakes, and things people misunderstand about websites.
Are you wondering: What is the difference between mobile-friendly, responsive, and adaptive sites?
Before getting into what makes a Website such a disaster for users, I’d like to address the most common and misunderstood terms about websites:
RESPONSIVE WEBSITE LAYOUTS
- Responsive websites are sites coded in a way that creates flexible elements in the page layout. Flexible images and cascading style sheet media queries. A responsive website intends to identify the size of a user's device screen and adjust the elements on the page accordingly.
- When a site is mobile-friendly, it is planned well and developed, so it's easier to use on mobile devices. “Responsive” and “Mobile-Friendly” are synonymous; they both ultimately deliver the same results. They both deliver layouts that detect and automatically rearrange the page elements to adjust and fit the user’s screen. Responsive sites typically provide better experiences since nothing needs to be done by the user. When coded and styled well, a user may not notice a difference unless they are intimately familiar with the desktop version of the site.
- Adaptive websites utilize a website hosts' server to detect user devices and adjust the page display accordingly. Adaptive sites display different versions of a page on a website to accommodate visitors better
When a site is responsive, it is not as simple as just being able to see the site on a mobile device. It is usually more complicated and involves planning, proper styling, and development to achieve the desired results. There are many painstaking steps developers take to style a site to accommodate different screen sizes and anticipate how elements appear on a device.
Click to play animation below
Many developers indicate that the process of making a site responsive tends to take more time than to code and perfect compared to just created a website for use on a desktop computer. Each element that changes to be responsive requires a style change that can and usually does affect other items.
There are usually many rounds of testing, hair pulling, crying, groaning and ultimately starting over before things work the way they are supposed to. The more complicated a site is, the longer it takes to make sure everything works just right.
Many developers often testify that making the site responsive tends to take more time than to code and perfect compared to just created a website for use on a desktop computer. Each element that changes to be responsive requires a style change that can and usually does affect other items.
There are usually many rounds of testing, hair pulling, crying, groaning, and ultimately starting over before things work the way they are supposed to. The more complicated a site is, the longer it takes to make sure everything works just right.
Let’s Get Real About What Makes a Website Bad.
As a consumer and average Jane, I take my time searching for things online to find what I NEED. I often have to revise my search phrases to get different results. And I still don’t always get what I need. When I finally find a page or site, which seems to be what I am looking for and BAM! I get smacked in the face with problems that make me want to scream.
Every year, we see that more and more people have shorter attention spans, less patience to wait, and far less time than ever before.
I want and need what the seemingly perfect title promises. Usually, this includes instructions or information about a particular topic or project.
The 7 Most Common Website Issues
1. Poorly formatted sidebars or too many sidebars
When a website is not optimized for mobile users, and it has at least 1 sidebar (let alone 2 which most of these sites have), everything is so small. Sure, I can still see the site, but I can’t see or read a damn thing. I have to manually zoom in on my screen and sometimes use my finger on the screen to swipe the page left to right to be able to read the text. The experience is horrible for users.
An optimized site for mobile has proper code that hides the sidebar on mobile or a condensed menu with all those items you can CHOOSE to look at if you want to find something else.
SOLUTION: Edit your website's stylesheet and add classes that hide unnecessary sidebars on mobile, and if necessary, add code for an easy to use a mobile menu that contains the hidden items.
2. Barely Legible or Tiny Text
As noted above, if your website’s text is so small on a mobile device, a user is forced to zoom in and move the page around to read it, consider yourself lucky they’re even making the effort at all. I usually close the website page when this happens because I don’t have the patience. Let’s not forget: there’s much competition out there, and I am rather sure there is a different site that is easier to read you can find and visit.
Don't forget that many people wear glasses and not everyone has excellent eyesight. More importantly, the content on your website should be accessible for anyone to read, and I don't mean users understand what they are reading. I mean, being able to see it.
SOLUTION: Fix the code and styles that affect your text, so when viewed on mobile devices, everything is legible without forcing the user to have to adjust anything.
3. Multiple Pop-up Triggers for Opt-ins and Sign-ups
Pop-ups are a hot topic and a big issue for me, personally. Multiple pop-ups are the MOST annoying since most of them show up before I’ve gotten to read even a few sentences of the post. Why in the world am I signing up for something if I have no idea if your content is any good yet?
That pop-up gets closed as fast as I can manage. IN some cases, websites get coded so poorly it is nearly impossible to close the pop-up, so I leave the site.
Bottom line: Multiple and duplicate ads and pop-ups are a perpetual problem, and every site owner should be aware.
SOLUTION: Spend time thinking about your list building goals and how you like how they show up on someone else’s site. Find the most useful and unobstructed way to display the signup box or correctly time when it shows up. No matter what you do, make sure it is visible at the most appropriate time and in the best position on the screen.
4. Numerous and duplicate ad banners on a single website
Too often, I visit websites and see pop-up ads in the form of video. These video ads always slow down how the rest of the page loads, which is frustrating. I have to wait until it has fully loaded, then there's another delay before a “close” button shows up so I can close it. I also get ad banners that show at the bottom of my small mobile phone screen, and I have to hunt for the button to close the banner carefully.
It can be so hard to find the real content on many of these sites, and I end up closing the window. I never get to find out if there was any value because I felt like I was bombarded with:
SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD – SIGNUP – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – BUY NOW – SIGNUP – AD – AD
That looks annoying, right? I know! When ads take up more than half of a screen, or may appear even larger than the article content, I often leave the site as fast as I can.
Don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate businesses that want to optimize and monetize websites. I just feel like the audience doesn't get taken into consideration in the process.
I’m aware of how annoying the above example is, but I intentionally displayed it that way to make my point more clear. When you see and experience this type of thing on ANY website, do you wonder if these experiences are going to end? Do you think the overwhelming number of ads and banners are going to increase or decrease?
I do. However, just when I think I’ve seen everything the site is going to throw at me, ANOTHER pop-up takes over my screen. At this point, I STILL haven’t gotten to the content I want to read! Good grief, the madness!
All I feel when visiting these sites is frustration. When I search and click a link for a site and the second it loads I get bitch slapped with these pop-ups and ad banners, I want to scream!
SOLUTION: Adjust your code, so full-size desktop ads do not show up too large on sites. Think about reducing the number of ads that appear on your mobile site. Add styles to resize your ad banners or eliminate some of them, especially for mobile. If you have duplicate ads (and yes, many sites have them), GET RID OF THEM! What is the purpose of having the same ad show up over and over on the same page within 30 seconds?
Studies may show you have to get in people's faces multiple times to get them to take action, but there's a difference between seeing the same ad on a different page, and seeing that same ad (sometimes in the form of a pop-up). Nothing irritates users more than seeing the same ad showing up repeatedly when a visitor is not interested, has not clicked it the first time, or if it isn't relevant to the content on the page.
Keep in mind when selling ad space or placing ads on your site: your audience may have no interest in what you’re promoting, so do what you can to eliminate irritating your audience and potential customers.
5. Outdated Design
Be honest with yourself. You can spot an outdated looking design no matter what it is, right? Imagine your readers instantly experiencing feelings of frustration or annoyance because they can’t find they want on an old-looking layout, poorly organized content, and use black-hat SEO tactics only to increase traffic.
You know the kind of sites I’m talking about and why. They are usually sites that tend not to deliver what the page or article title shows.
If your goal is to annoy people, lose visitors, or be penalized by Google, resulting in lost traffic, fantastic! Go right ahead and continue using these tactics. Otherwise: STOP!
No matter how much time goes by, I am still repeatedly getting duped. Often, I am so frustrated I leave that site, and sometimes I stop browsing.
Losing visitors because they are so annoyed or confused when they land on your page is the worst result imaginable.
SOLUTION: Keep up to date with the latest web trends. Make sure you take time and pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Track which web standards have changed and employ those changes in your site to make sure your site is up to date, relevant, and provides the most desirable experience your visitors expect.
6. Confusing Navigation
If your visitors leave your site and never come back because of poorly planned and confusing navigation, you lose credibility and trust. Your audience forgets you. Your brand becomes associated with negative emotions, which is not what you want or why you created your site.
SOLUTION: Carefully plan an easy to use navigation menu so visitors can access all parts of your website from anywhere else on the site without getting confused, frustrated, or leaving.
7. Websites that load slower than molasses
It’s hard to believe I have to address this topic. Since the creation of high-speed internet, we have become accustomed to fast speed on the web. No matter how tech-savvy a person is, they still want a site to load quickly.
As a consumer and a user of computers and smart devices to browse the internet, you want the site to load fast, right? You are busy and probably don't have time and patience to wait.
I should note, things CAN and DO happen which are out of our control. There may be times a website loads abnormally slow for a user than usual. But overall, fast websites are generally going to be fast all the time.
SOLUTION: Always monitor your website's performance and speed. And do not just check from your computer or phone when you're on your super high-speed wi-fi internet at home. Turn wi-fi off and check using an LTE connection. Check with a different internet connection. Try using different devices and browsers.
When you encounter problems, your visitors may also experience the problem. Fix the problems as quickly as you can. If you don't know how to fix your website problems yourself, find a good web developer who can help. Many experienced designers and developers can fix things and even work with you to get on a regular maintenance plan, so these problems don't happen.
If Other Sites Frustrate You, Should Your Site be Different?
Unless you have an incredibly high amount of traffic, an existing broad audience, and incredibly popular content, you may already be on top of most of the topics I covered. You might be the one who can identify problems fast or have someone on hand who can help fix problems with your site's performance or conversation rates.
When your website is your primary source of income and the foundation of your business, it’s crucial to pay attention to the way it works and if you have problems. It's no different than ignoring a broken lock on the door of your house, a leaky roof, or incorrect pricing on products. All of these things would typically get addressed, but quick.
What experiences have you had visiting websites?
- Are you frequently annoyed by many of the websites you visit? If so, why?
- What are your biggest pet peeves regarding experiences on different websites?
- What do you love the most about your favorite websites?
- If you could change anything about the internet, websites in particular, what would you change?