Do Customers Want To Punch Your Site In The Face?


That rule also applies to your Web site.

It can be hard to look at your site critically. After all, you created it. You spent months figuring out what you wanted to include, where everything would sit, and how you would move customers through your site and into a sales funnel. To you, your site is a masterpiece. But you’re not your customer. The real question is – do your customers like your site OR do they secretly want to punch it in the face?

If you’re not sure, here are 7 things you may be doing to drive customers away. You should probably stop.

Too many on-page distractions: It’s very tempting to put absolutely everything on a given page. Throw in all the information you have on a topic, include every video you can steal from YouTube, every resource link you can think of, add links that aren’t related but that provide comic relief, etc. But unless you’re installing it for them, giving something the entire kitchen sink isn’t entirely unhelpful. Always consider the goal of each page when deciding which elements should be added and which ones should be nixed. If you give people too many options or too many distractions, all you’re doing is giving them a reason to get off your conversion path. Be conscious of what you’re putting on your page and where you may be directing them. If you want a customer to click on the link at the bottom of your page, then don’t surround it with 15 other links or send them to YouTube to watch someone fall down the stairs.

Unclear navigation: The more intuitive your navigation, the easier people are going to be able to get around on your site. If you’re rocking an all Flash nav that users will have to bob and weave their cursors around to actually use, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice. If you’re linking to every page on your site FROM every page on your site, then you’re probably not helping them get through your site. Despite what people tell you, they don’t want a million different paths to choose from. Less is more in the navigation. Show off your core competencies and get them in a funnel. If they like your best sellers, they’ll seek out the rest of what you offer on their own.

No landing pages: The experience matters, but your Web site’s goal is to get people to perform a desired action. If the search engines bring them to your page on cowboy boots, then the desired action is to buy cowboy boots. If the engines brought them to your page on designer sunglasses, then the desired action is to purchase a pair of $500 shades they’ll regret in the morning. Either way, without creating specific landing pages (you can call it siloing if you want), you miss out on your opportunity to cater your message directly towards what you want a consumer to do. And without that hand leading them in and speaking directly to their need, consumers may get lost, confused and run away angry.

Load-intensive images: You know what your customers really want to do when they land on your site? They want to wait 45 seconds for your giant home page image to load. It’s true. They’re not at all hurried, nor do they have Internet-induced ADD. They just want to sit there. And wait. And wonder what that picture may actually be. It’s like a game! Yeah, of how much you suck. The search engines are paying more attention to page speed, but no more than your users are. Your users expect your site to not only load correctly, but to do it quickly. If you’re throwing up giant images that they have to wait for, expect them to drive down to your brick and mortar and slap you. I would. This applies even more to your mobile Web site.

Not making links visible: I know, you don’t like putting horizontal lines on your page because you think it breaks the flow and makes everything look “ugly”. However, your customers rely on these visual cues to recognize that a link is a link. Suck it up and do it.

Too many generic photos: Does your business have real employees? Yes? Okay, then use them on your Web site. Do you have a real brick and mortar location? Yes? Cool. Then use a photo of that on your Web site. Do you sell real stuff? Yes? Fantastic! Show me the real stuff on your Web site. The more you rely on generic photos, the more people think that you are made up and do not actually exist. I know the iStockPhoto lady is more attractive than the person who actually answers your phone, but good lighting can really do wonders. Invest in professional photos of your staff and company, and then use them. If there’s a way to NOT use a generic photo, take it.

Auto-playing music: I…uh…just WHY? It is 2010. There is no reason why you should still be auto-playing music on your site. This is not Geocities. If you have a mood you’re trying to convey, do that with original images and through words. If you’re not skilled enough with words to set the right mood, then hire a content creation company that is. But, for the love of God, do NOT auto-play music in your site. Because even if you have some of the best bagels & sandwiches in Troy, NY, your site still feels like porn to customers.

Your Web site is your face to customers. It’s often the determining factor in whether they feel like they can trust you enough to do business with you. Are you giving people what they want or was your site created in a sea of you? If it’s the latter, you may unknowingly be sending people away angry.

What are some site elements that make you want to punch somebody?

Your Comments

  • Chad Northrup

    I think this combines several elements you already mentioned, but I’m going to say it anyway: splash pages. Utterly useless and 100% annoying.

    p.s. loved the Geocities reference. Those were the days! :-)

  • netmeg

    Lack of contact and location information, *particularly* for brick and mortar, or even municipal sites.

    I do a lot of searches for events for my sites. I also research local bands for a couple of venues. If I have to hunt seven clicks deep into your site to find out where you are, I get more fed up with every layer.

    You’d be amazed (and horrified) how many municipal (city / village / county) sites don’t bother putting their STATE on the site, or an area code on their phone number. I guess they assume that nobody outside their own bubble is ever going to be looking at the website, so why use the extra bytes?

    There’s a reason why The Simpsons uses “Springfield” and “Shelbyville” in the cartoon – there’s one of each in practically EVERY STATE IN THE US.

    Likewise, if you send me a link to inquire about booking your band, and I spend 15 minutes digging around just to realize that you’re located 1500 miles away, I’m not going to be favorably inclined when you write to tell me you’ll be passing through Detroit on your next tour.

    In my perfect world, complete contact and address location would be REQUIRED BY LAW on every home page.

    • Matthias Hager

      Completely occur. It irks me to no end when a website doesn’t include local area info. It’s a huge trust factor.

      Especially when I was job hunting. How do you expect anyone to apply when they have no idea if you’re located in their hometown or halfway across the country?

    • Carole

      I concur — contact information and hours of operation should be very easy to find. I can’t tell you how many brick & mortar stores have lost my business because I couldn’t darn well figure out whether or not they were still open and where the nearest outlets were located. If you’re quickly trying to choose one of several places, and have to make a quick decision on which direction to drive when you leave work, you need to have this information on the first or second level of the website, not buried so far down that it takes longer to find out their hours and location than it does to actually drive there.

      Phoning also doesn’t help — the automated phone messages have even less thought put into the information architecture than the websites. “To sacrifice your first-born, press one …” etc. By the time you get to the “our operating hours and location are such and such” you’ve already been listening to their auto-bot for five or ten minutes, or have hung up in frustration.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’d definitely agree with that. There’s nothing that angers people more than when they have to HUNT for how to do business with you. You want people to come into your store, yes? That’s why you’re online? Then tell them where the hell you are! On every page! Also, directions. Thanks.

  • David Zemens

    Simplicity is the order of the day.

    There was a time when loading all kinds of shit onto your website was popular and trendy. But – to those who haven’t noticed – those days are gone.

    Simple navigation, good content, proper use of negative space, clean design … these are the hallmarks of a good website in 2010.

    Kind of like your website at Outspoken Media. Clean, professional, easy to navigate, and filled with good content!

    • Lisa Barone

      We’re started the process of redesigning the OSM site but one thing we know we want to keep is how minimal it is. We’re not fans of throwing EVERYTHING we can on the page. The focus is the content and helping you get to know who we are and what we represent. Strong and simple. That’s what we’re always trying to achieve. :)

  • Kristin

    One thing that makes me want to punch a website is the over use of flash, especially flash that makes noise when you roll over parts of it. Drives me INSANE! I understand that flash is okay for a banner or something across the top, but it shouldn’t be your main form of navigation nor should it be your entire page.

    It has its purposes and it has its reasons, but its very 2004.

    • Lisa Barone

      Agreed. I love the folks at Bruce Clay, Inc, but their navigation makes me want to stab myself with a fork. I know there’s complete HTML links at the bottom, but, OMG, STOP MOVING WHEN I TRY TO CLICK ON YOU!

      [Love you, BCI! :) ]

  • kate

    why just today i wanted to punch a site in the face – because nearly every link i was interested in clicking on WAS BROKEN! And there were, approximately, 48319073 designs for each link, navigation was horrible. I wanted to call them and just offer to do it all over for them for free, it was that painful (and i know they are a good company)

    At least have a fun and snappy ‘oops’ page to entertain people when things aren’t working as planned! ;)

    • Lisa Barone

      I think businesses completely undervalue the benefit of a quirky 404 page. It can definitely help people forgive you. However, um, the links on your site should work!

  • Jason

    My two biggest: giant gaps of whitespace and autoplay of videos.

    I’ve destroyed 3 monitors (trying to pinch the site in the face) because of these.

    • Lisa Barone

      Okay, but I’d rather too much whitespace than not enough of it. Otherwise it’s like I’m stuck in a library and can’t get out of it. :)

      • Jason

        Like I always say, if you’re stuck in a library and can’t get out, read. ;)

        I meant coding errors…where an image moves a paragraph down 100 pixels and there’s a giant gap of whitespace or something like that…and people just ignore it! It’s ugly.

  • Merry

    Amen on the auto-play music. I *will* leave your website if you auto-play music or annoying pop-up people who want to “welcome” me… Eff-off.

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    “What are some site elements that make you want to punch somebody?”

    Wow this answer is so easy I almost feel embarrassed: FLASH.
    Get rid of Flash, now.

    • Lisa Barone

      So, um, you wanna talk about it? ;)

      • Gabriele Maidecchi

        Haha ok well quite easy: I surf the web a lot with my iPad or iPhone and they don’t play Flash :p and anyway, every time some flash content plays on any browser I had the chance to try… slowness, hangups, generally poor performance. Is Flash really needed anymore? In my opinion, apart movies (still), no, not really, everything can be done with HTML5 with very similar results and much better performances, what do you think?

  • Mark E

    Lisa, the only thing worse than auto-play music is auto-play videos, and the only thing worse than that is an interactive character that pops up to pretend to be human and talk to you. I’m on the web. If I wanted to talk to a human, I’d be somewhere else! If I wanted to get blasted with videos that I didn’t choose to see, I’d be sitting in front of the TV.

    At least 99% of the time, if I hit a site and it auto-plays anything with audio (music, video, avatar, whatever), I close it immediately and with extreme prejudice.

    Another killer is pop-ups (or pop-unders) of any kind – separate window or built in. No, I do not wish to chat with a representative, or get a coupon, etc.

    It really does seem like some companies try to punish customers through their web site.

  • Jeff Jones

    Yeah, this topic is pretty much endless….

    I’m always surprised to see how many brand new corporate sites are still:
    ….created using table-based layouts
    …or are using basic images to replace text for headings (or any other text in images…there are so many better ways to use real fonts in your HTML these days….)
    …flash or purely javascript for drop-down navs etc. etc…


  • inkodeR

    Awesome title – made me smile.

  • Rosemary ONeill

    I cannot believe no-one has mentioned the popup survey or rolling ads that magically grow to cover the content you were trying to read. I can never be dextrous enough to click the “close” link on those before losing interest in whatever I was doing before. Those are like “Rosemary repellent.”

  • Jessica Nunemaker

    Auto-playing music is THE WORST!

    There is nothing worse than surfing the web in the middle of the night and landing on some page with music! Ack! It makes me want to punch things (after I recover from the shock) and I’m normally pretty non-violent. Normally.

  • netmeg

    I also don’t like those bottom toolbar thingies that are springing up everywhere. Aren’t people *thinking* before they add these annoying elements?

  • Dan Connolly

    I also hate the person that walks across the screen and welcomes me to the site, almost as much as I hate business that expect you to answer their automated voice by speaking back to it. Normally I push 0 over and over until I get a live person or they hang up on me.

  • John Trader

    Great blog post Lisa. The one thing, above all, that annoys me the most is when I click on a site is when one of those splash videos starts playing with an individual doing a narrative “strategically” placed somewhere on the screen about how great their site is and their product. I haven’t even read one line of copy and they are already telling me they rock. Please. Let me make my OWN mind up about that. Here is an example of a company that offers the service…..

  • Martina Iring

    As always Lisa, a lol post :)
    Agree with all your points – especially the generic photos (why people, why???) and the lack of landing pages. Nothing frustrates me more than being drawn into a site for a specific reason, getting to the homepage and not being able to find even a single word relating to why I’m there. If this happens to me, I have a personal rule. To leave immediately. Even if I really wanted what they promised me.
    As for other things that drive me crazy – schizo navigation that changes depending on the page, or disappears completely; opening new pages in new windows (getting rarer and rarer, but still come across it sometimes); links to outside sites that don’t show up in a new window so that I have to click back (are you saying you want me to leave?)

    ahh, that felt good!

  • Jennifer

    I depise those talking animated help people that e-commerce sites (et tu, Ikea!) seem to think are awesome. I’m sure it’s the wrong term for what they are, but these animations are creepy looking, have vacant stares, stalk your cursor, and are usually less helpful than just skimming a couple lines of text. And I’m with you on the auto-play music. It’s good to keep in mind that most people in the world probably do not share your musical tastes!

  • Julia

    I know where the istock photos come from. Committees. “Teams.” If you have to get approvals from a lot of people… the somebody who always has perfect hair can’t accept the photo of a real person doing a real thing who has messy hair (solved by istock!) Someone who thinks you cannot include a photo of an unskinny person anywhere on the site, even in the background, will want a different photo (or you can go to istock!) The graphic designer insists on photos that have that washy soft-focusy background and your actual real ones have an in-focus background (gasp) and the brand images need to be the same for print and web (just go to istock!) …. the best real photos ALWAYS have something “wrong” with them that you “shouldn’t” show (that’s why they ARE real.)

  • mathias

    you are absolutely right, some points really made me laugh. Some websites can be so annoying.

  • Stefan

    Flash intros … all of them! And my latest grape is this trend to have a pop-up screaming “sign up to my newsletter” or “buy my book” or “subscribe to my blog”. Urgh … I thought we left annoying pop-ups behind in the 90s??

  • Alex

    Don’t think you’re really in a position to comment on website design as this blog needs a good face punching.

  • Eric Suesz

    Awesome blog title! And a pretty darn good blog post, too. Thanks!!/supereric/status/25341335950


  • Ari Herzog

    How about the website for a national government relations agency I visited today, that has PDF links for its staff members?

    No response necessary.

  • Christy

    great article. we are still learning, and discovering! thanks!

  • Jason Parker

    Nice post.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the clutter factor.

    I need to figure out a way to get my site to load faster and for some reason my template I’m using has grey links. Thanks for the reminder on that.