10 Ways to Drive Customers Away from your Website

1. Videos or sound bites that start playing the moment someone lands on your site

Not only is this incredibly annoying as most people browsing the web WILL head over to YOUTUBE or hit the PLAY button if they are looking for sound, but it’s also really bad for those people that read your articles ‘incognito’ – meaning at work, or when they should be doing something else. Nothing quite like saying ‘hey, I’m not working, can everyone hear what I’m actually doing?’

When this happens to me – every single time, I hit the browser back button or the little ‘x’ in the corner of my screen.

Don’t do it.

2. Long landing pages that ask for way too much information

Keep your landing pages brief and to the point. Don’t ask for too much information. In my role as a digital marketer, I download a lot of ebooks, whitepapers and guides. Most companies ask a few questions before they allow me to download whatever it is I want – my name, the company I work for, my role – basic information. Naturally, if they’re providing something free they want to get something out of it. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and that’s great. They get something, I get something.

The problem happens when they ask WAY too many questions. Half a page worth. Then, you can bet that I won’t download a single thing from their site. And it doesn’t exactly create a ‘positive’ feeling toward the company. Instead of moving me along the buying cycle or along the path to becoming a brand evangelist, it does the opposite.

If you’re going to ask your users to provide a little bit of information before you let them download your resources, be nice about it – don’t ask for their life history. 6 simple questions is fine (no stories/paragraph answers though. It’s not a job interview).

3. Spread one article out over the space of 15 pages

Tech Radar does this and it drives me up the wall. I like what these guys post but I hate how they do it and sadly, if it means choosing between them and another company, I’ll generally go for the other company (though loads of other technology companies do it too).

If you’ve got a long article, consider making is shorter, or consider breaking it up into multiple posts, or offering it as a download.

If you’ve got 12 different products to review in one article, do us all a favour and don’t’ split it into 12 different pages. Pick the top 5 and keep it simple (I did that with this article which was originally going to be a list of 20).

4. Include pop up ads on hover

It’s obvious – don’t. Never mind the fact that pop ups are annoying enough to have to deal with when you click on something, it’s even worse to have to deal with them on mouseover. If you want to keep people coming back to your site or going deeper into your site, get rid of them and rely on less disruptive advertising methods.

5. Have a website or blog with really small font (or light grey font)

I love web designers, I really do, but I don’t understand why most of them think we can easily read ‘light grey’ size 11 font.

I get that it’s aesthetically pleasing – not as harsh as black, but it’s not mentally pleasing. It really does grate on the nerves and if you’ve got an audience of older readers with far-sighted vision – you’ve lost them. Sorry.

According to Smashing Magazine, the best font size for body copy is 16 pixels. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s true – read the full article because there’s plenty to back it up.

6. Use flash

I’ve probably said this in just about every website best practice guide I’ve ever written, but once again, don’t use it. Apart from it being used to ‘guide’ people through your site (don’t do that either – it’s now all about ‘modular’ content), it’s slow to load and it cuts out those in your audience that don’t have the device to view it (older computers and iPads and iPhones)

Plus, according to Search Engine Journal and Oleg Ishenko of SEOResearcher.com, Flash is evil. Here are their top 5 reasons not to use it:

  1. Flash requires bandwidth
  2. Many people who use Flash also disable the back button, and this according to famous usability expert Jacob Nielsen, is bad : “back button is the second most important navigation element after hyperlinks. People not able to use the back button will click the third most important element – that X button in the top right”
  3. Flash ignores a user’s needs – most Flash intro pages are as good as advertisements. They’re there to tell you something about the company, rather than letting you find out for yourself. They’re also very bad if they start playing sound (see point 1.)
  4. Some Flash developers will code Flash so only they can edit it – pretty bad if you’re not happy with their service and you want to go elsewhere.
  5. And most importantly – search engines don’t like Flash. Many search engines are not able to craw and index the content of Flash pages and those that can, often do so with errors.

The only thing Flash is good for is banners, ads and online games. Don’t fit into that category? Don’t use it.

7. Poor photographs/not being able to zoom in on photographs

If you are selling products that people like to touch or feel in real-life, having photographs that can be zoomed in on are a must. Also, being able to zoom in on something is a sign that the product is of ‘higher quality’. After all, no company wants to let you zoom in on a product that’s been slapped together – glue still showing. Sometimes, being able to see the ‘stitches’ and the texture is a big selling point.

Plus, good photography makes your site look good. Good photography also allows you to keep the design light. And, light design often means a site that’s easy to use and easy to navigate.

8. Page content that covers the width of the page

If we didn’t have the sidebar on our blog, you’d probably find our content a lot harder to read. Each sentence would stretch across the entire width of the page and it would be a whole lot harder for you to skim through if you just wanted to get the gist.

Even real-life book printers don’t format books so that copy covers the width of the page. Either they break it into separate columns, make the book smaller or include pictures and other elements that break the text into more manageable chunks.

9. A website that uses every colour in the rainbow

Don’t overdo your use of colours. Pick a colour scheme and make it simple. I suggest taking a look at ‘colour lovers’ and keeping to a maximum of five colours.

If you have to use every colour (either because you are representing the gay community or the peace flag), do it tastefully. Don’t throw it everywhere. Give it a theme. Colour code the pages perhaps or stick to the core colours – not a pallet of 15.

10. Rely on the mouse-over feature to reveal content

It might be intuitive to you – the web designer and webmaster, but for anyone that doesn’t know your site, it’s simply irritating and potentially confusing. Plus, you stand to lose all those people that could be clicking into an article if they’d been able to read your title. Not everyone is a picture person and for that same reason, not everyone is a word person.