Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to Piss Me Off (Website Design)

Ok, I'll admit, there's any number of things that a website can do wrong to piss me off and make me not want to return, make me add a mapping for your site to my system's hosts file, etc.

Annoyance #1: Making me chase links to get to teaser content. Biggest offenders (and current residents of my hosts file) 2leep.com, zaparena.com, outbrain.com, neatorama.com and wahoha.com. Others will likely follow as this seems to be an increasingly popular method for "driving traffic". Look, when I see an interesting-looking link on a web page, if I bother to click on that link, I want to immediately go to that story. I don't want to be taken to a page full of new links from which I then have to click on the link that takes me to the content I was originally interested in. I just want to get to that content. If you then exacerbate things by causing a new tab to open for each link I chase, it pisses me off further. If you get really obnoxious and cause entirely new windows to open, it makes me absolutely furious. It makes me want to find your servers and take a hatchet to them. Once done with them, I want to find you for similar treatment. Since this isn't exactly "practical", I just blackhole you.

Annoyance #2: Making every link (or even just a significant percentage) I click on open a new window or new tab. If I want a link to open a new tab or window, I'll right-click on the link and tell my browser to do it. You have no business forcing me to browse any differently than I want to. If you try to force me to browse differently, I'm gonna blackhole you. If I am a member of your web site and you've added this annoyance as "an improvement" to your site or through a site redesign, I will either immediately cancel or allow my membership to lapse (mostly, this will depend on whether I had a paid membership or not) - there are many ways to improve or redesign a site, fucking up navigation is not one of them.

Annoyance #3: Disabling or otherwise fucking up my right-click functionality. I get that you're trying to "protect content" or something, but disabling right-click doesn't do it. If you're sending something to my computer, there's any number of ways for me to "steal" it. Right-click is just the most convenient. Disabling right-clicks disables any number of functionality that I find useful - not just easily saving content. When you disable my right-click, you don't protect your content, you just inconvenience me. I really dislike being inconvenienced. I tend not to re-visit sites that inconvenience me.

Annoyance #4: Requiring plugins, especially uncommon ones, so that "designing" your site is easier for you. Trying to dictate to me which software (and associated security vulnerabilities) I have to run on my computer just so you can hire brain-dead site "designers" is not a sound business model. It alienates people. And, if you want to use these gee-whiz plugins, provide a least-common-denominator model for accessing your site. If your site isn't (meaningfully) usable without plugins, your site isn't usable. If a site ain't usable to me, I ain't gonna re-visit. And, again, if you introduce these issues as part of a "redesign", I will drop my membership in your site.

Annoyance #5: Using a site design that could have come from MySpace circa a decade ago. Keep your design clean, simple and easy to navigate. Use things like conformant CSS to achieve good design. Anyone can write HTML. It's really not that hard. All you need is notepad, vi or the like. And, because "anyone" can write HTML, it's really easy for it to look like you let someone who's read "HTML for Dummies" design your site. If I go to your site and it feels like a migraine, seizure or puke-session feel eminent, I'm not coming back. It's (sorta) ok for personal sites to look like amateur-hour, not professional or subscription-based sites. And, it's really not even ok for personal ones, given the number of sites out there like Blogger/BlogSpot that make it dead easy to create a site with canned-templates.

Annoyance #6: Using an obviously templated design. If I go to your site, the only way I want to know you're running a given set of software is by badging. I don't want to go to your site and say, "ah, they're using WordPress Template 'X' to run their site". I don't want to look at your site and be able to guess what you're running. If I can look at your site and make that guess (even if it's wrong), it means you aren't trying very hard. You aren't trying to create a specific experience. Learn enough CSS (etc.) to create your own, unique look.

Above all, if your site is subscription-based, there has to be something about it that makes it worthwhile. A site that looks amateurish, "canned" or otherwise "low-effort" makes it seem like you're more interested in my money than providing me a good experience. At the core, I know that's always the case, but you shouldn't be bald-faced about it.

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