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9 User Experience Pitfalls That Repel Website Visitors

As a business owner, what can be worse than having a visitor leave your site due to an annoyance that you can control? You may lose sales due to numerous factors that are out of your control. But what about the ones that you can control? Wouldn’t it be great to have a nice, clean website so that you can focus on optimizing the things that matter?

In this blog post I’m going to share some things that send users away from your website – all of which you have the power to reverse!

1. Center of Page Advertisement

These are the ads that takeover webpages and make the user navigate around the ad.

msn takeover ad

new york times takeover ad


Now, if the sole purpose of your website is to generate ad revenue, it’s understandable that you’re either trying to leave a lasting impression or maximize your click-throughs. But ask yourself: what is it costing in terms of visitor loyalty and experience? Are you ruining it for them?

In general, do not have advertisements that interrupt the visitor’s time on your site. They can be viewed as the equivalent of a salesman popping out of nowhere and giving you a sales message an inch away from your face.

Websites should be facilitating intuitive navigation and respecting the visitor’s time on your site. Instead these ads do everything they can to get a user to click on the ad and not read the websites content.


Opt for graphics that don’t interrupt the visitor’s time on your site; in many cases this means re-thinking your advertisement strategy (if you are using one). We highly recommend staying away from advertising as a secondary income source. If your primary income source derives from subscriptions or e-commerce sales, then it’s probably a better idea to focus on getting more visitors to buy your service or your product, rather than having them click away to a competitor.

2. Stock Photos

Generic, one size fits all stock photos do not help your website convert. These are all too common on ecommerce sites and don’t add any genuine authenticity to your site. Here’s one from a local bank:

top banner stock images

Other websites will have stock photos of meetings, or people behind their computers:

annoying stock photo meeting

istock team meeting photo

unconvincing stock photo

stock photo of casual man working on computer and smiling

These images tell me nothing about the business.

Stock photos have been around for a long time and they certainly have their place. However, they are now too common and can make a website look poorly designed. Ultimately it just looks careless and could be damaging to the perception of your business.

They don’t help tell the unique story of your business. Photos provide an opportunity to showcase your product — Apple does a great job with this.

Don’t gloss over any part of your website. Every pixel, every word, every color and every picture matters. Stock photos can ruin an otherwise well-designed website.


Go for pictures of your product or your customers. This will add authenticity to your site. In the case of a franchise or a business with multiple locations, it may be useful to use a geo-location service to show the visitor what the building that is nearest to the location looks like.

3. A Hard To Use Site

Visitors of all ages and technical acumen are visiting your website. Making a complicated website with lots of options may satisfy the techies, but sends novices away. Easy to use websites will have fewer options, but often are more visually appealing and will work for more people.

Visitors should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly. If you have too many options, they may just leave your site.


Websites need to adapt to the user, not have the user adapt to the website. Users shouldn’t have to learn how to navigate your site – it should come naturally (this includes error pages).

The thing to remember is that everyone going to your website will come with a different goal in mind. Some may want to see your pricing, others may want to see your About page, others may want to see your help section, others your contact information. Try to come up with a list (or see what your most active pages are) and prioritize them. Then focus on making them really easy to find from any page on your site.

And one of the best ways to come up with this list is to look at your website analytics and survey your visitors.

4. A Slow Site

What’s better: finding a page you’re looking for in 30 seconds or finding it in 38 seconds? It may sound insignificant, but when you’re a business, every second counts.

Speed can impact the bottom line and decreasing page load time improves conversions. According to CacheFly, “E-commerce sales losses may be as high as $4.35 billion due to slow download user frustration”.

Further, “Visitors who consider a website ‘fast’ will visit an average of 1.6x more pages than on a site they consider slow. That’s 60% more chances to close a sale, or a 60% revenue boost for advertising based sites.”

You can see how fast your speed is using a free tool like Page Speed.


You’ll want to talk to your web host to see if any speed issue is resolvable. If not, look into switching web hosting providers.

If you have a traffic heavy site, you may want to look into getting a content delivery network (CDN).

Probably the lowest hanging fruit you can go after to improve page loading time is to decrease the size of your images.

We recommend checking out this Unbounce article that has some very practical tips on reducing page loading time.

5. Auto-Play Videos

Here’s a quick way to send someone away from your page:

  1. An interested prospect comes to your site.
  2. A video starts playing a few seconds after they enter.
  3. Their speakers are turned up, the visitor becomes startled and cannot find the mute button.
  4. Visitor leaves your site never to return again. They go and buy from your competitor that offered a quiet, non-forceful shopping experience.

Videos are not a bad thing to have on your website. Videos that play automatically are. There’s a lot of unknowns that the website creator has – they don’t know how loud it will be for the visitor, they don’t know if the visitor wants or needs to see a video, they don’t know if the visitor knows where the mute button is, and they don’t know if the visitor even has their speakers on.

One of the great benefits of shopping online is that there is no salesman to bother you (generally). Why introduce this into your customer’s online experience?


Have a video on your site, but don’t force it on the visitor by playing it as soon as the page loads. Let the user control how they want to use and view your site.

6. Pop-Ups

It’s 2012, why does your website still have annoying pop-up advertisements?

Even if they’re promotions from your company, they still get in the way of the visitor. Remember that pop-up blockers exist for a reason: people don’t like to be interrupted while browsing the web.


Don’t allow pop-up advertisements on your page. Save pop-ups for the spam sites.

If you want to promote, but don’t know the best way to do it without a pop-up, consider putting the promotion on the side of your pages. For example:

free shipping banner

free shipping newegg

These banners are clickable links and are very visible on the page. If a user wants more information, they can just click the banner. These websites are putting their users in control. Consider doing the same.

7. Ad Copy Doesn’t Match Website

Your ad on Google says “Save 15% on Tools!.” The visitor clicks your ad and gets to your site and you give them a landing page talking about 10% off Refrigerators.

The visitor clicked on your ad because of the sale or value prop that you were making. This makes it very important that you are clear in your website copy. They should find matching text on your landing page from the ad they clicked on within a few seconds.


Having a consistent message from ad to landing page has been shown to increase conversion rates. If your ad says “Free Shipping on all orders” your landing page should show the exact same text in the headline or sub-headline.

8. It’s Not Clear What You Do

You may know every aspect of your business, but don’t assume that your visitors do. Your visitors should know within the first few seconds of visiting your website what you do. This can be done with a clear and concise headline, video or both. Failure to do this could result in an increased bounce rate and ultimately lost sales.

Some websites will have an easier time showing what they do. More unconventional businesses will struggle a bit more.


Your headline should be clear and above-the-fold. It should also be no more than a sentence long.

Here are a few good examples of businesses clearly telling the user what they do in less than a sentence:

yipit value proposition

sonalight value proposition

gazelle value proposition

resumonk value proposition

pinwords value proposition

Many businesses will also have a 1-2 minute video on the homepage that gives a brief overview of their business and their unique value proposition. A great example of a combination of great headline with a video is Gumroad:

Gumroad nice design

The headline and sub-headline tell what the business is and they include a supporting video for people who don’t like to read (which is most of the internet population).

9. Long Sign Up Forms

The fact that someone wants to sign up for your product or service should make you ecstatic. You should do everything in your power to make it as painless as possible.

Instead, many sign up forms are like this:

long signup form

This form should not have any of the field labeled under “Personal Info”. Depending on your business, you shouldn’t even need a username, as an email address is sufficient enough.

Check out this sign up form from Picplum:

PicPlum signup

Picplum is a service that will need a mailing address, but they don’t ask for it up front. They only ask for it when it’s needed.

Many businesses now use Facebook Connect. Check out this form from Airbnb:

Airbnb signup form

Whatever you prefer to use, just make sure it’s simple and painless. Don’t create a problem when someone is so close to signing up. Long sign up forms present problems, short sign up forms generally don’t.

There is an exception to this rule – if you are doing lead generation, sometimes it’s smarter to ask for more information that will help you define the quality of your lead. In some cases, it has been shown that more form fields convert higher. This all boils down to: Always test your form fields to see what converts better!


In general, a sign up form should take no longer than 20 seconds to fill out. Only ask for information that is absolutely necessary and remove the nice-to-haves. It may not work out best for you, but it will for the visitor – and that’s all that matters.

Over To You…

Do you have any tips that you would like to share with our readers? Please leave them in the comments below.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo is a blogger for Kissmetrics, you can find him on Twitter here.

  1. I’d expand video to any movement – scrolling thru slides is as distracting as video

    • Yeah, I find that to be quite annoying and time consuming. It increases the websites number of page views, which gets more ad revenue, which gets them more money. The visitor is the one who gets the raw end of the deal.

  2. I don’t have a tip, but I do have a compliment. Thanks for the great tips. I’m going to seriously rethink and make my website simpler to navigate.

  3. Patrick Duffek Jun 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Hey Neil and crew – Thanks for the pointed and informative words here. Always great to hear from you guys.

  4. Maybe these are obvious but important nonetheless. Don’t make people have to think about what to do. And try to reduce the amount of clicks someone has to make!

    • Yes, websites should be making it easy for visitors to get the information they need. There should be little searching for the visitor.

  5. What an excellent article!

  6. Thanks for useful tip

  7. Great stuff Zach, I am always trying to pound my client into telling their story on their website. The other part is that I tell them that with photos of their employees & business help the potential clients feel comfortable with working with them. Mike J.

    • Yeah–it’s time for websites to throw away their stock photos and be much more genuine. Use photos to your advantage by showing off your product. As I’ve mentioned, look at how Apple uses images on their website.

  8. Great article! I definitely agree with the photos. I used to use stock photos but for client sites I do the photography myself to use on the site or just get a freelancer. Definitely makes the image more personable.


  9. The Center of Page Advertisement is a big gripe for me. We had a client that insisted on having one a few years back and although we tried to talk them out of it, they put their foot down so we had to sort. We eventually talked them out of it when we did a poll across their own Twitter and Facebook pages and 90% of people said they book marked a page further into the site or just closed it before it even loaded.

    We now do some subtle in-content advertising now and they get more clicks :)

    Also had a chuckle at the stock photography as you see it everywhere, but it does make the site look very impersonal.

  10. On stock photography, I’d agree with Sarah that it has it’s place and can be used quite effectively (I would say that, I’ve used it on!) but! when it comes to images of people, I think personalised images can be better – like avatar images it can help with building connections too.
    That aside, I totally agree with the pitfall of ‘not making it clear what you do’, and it’s possibly more about ‘making it clear what you can do for me’ – often people talk endlessly about what they do, but don’t quite get to answering what I call the ‘so what’ factor – how will what you do benefit me? Having said that, it’s often really difficult to get that right when you’re looking at your own business – if you can find someone who’s willing to pitch in, an objective pair of eyes can really help.

    • Good point—websites should focus more on benefits than features. It’s not enough to just say what you do.

      All your points are valid, however I don’t see any stock images on your homepage.

  11. Dennis McDonald Jun 23, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Also: don’t assume visitors use Facebook.

    • Fair point—especially for the baby boomers. There are also some less tech-savvy Gen Y people who don’t use Facebook either.

      However, Facebook Connect can be great for people who use Facebook. Good way to save the user time.

      A website should have both options available–to signin with Facebook or to create a separate account.

  12. Great advice! I’d add two things: (1) Yes, analytics can tell you where your visitors are spending time, but it’s much harder for analytics to tell you what visitors may have been wishing for on your site. So try to keep seeing your site as if for the first time, and imagine how it works for your newbies. One thing you can do is examine the search terms that led visitors to your site, and look for very short visits that, given the search term, seem like they could’ve had more traction. (2) My pet peeve: if you’re going to use social bookmarking/sharing on your site, for heaven’s sake put it at the *top* of the page (like this page does)! I’ll never understand why so many sites have their “like” button buried in the footer content. Anyway, this is a really good list, Zach, and anyone contemplating a new site or a redesign should keep it for reference. :-)

    • Wow, great tips!

      For number one, I would also add that you can use a tool like KISSinsights & ask users what they’re looking for.

      Thanks for taking the time to add your voice!

  13. Great tips… I sooooooo agree with #5…. If a video starts playing I start looking for either the mute button or the exit page. Most of them are waaaaay too loud. If I want to hear what you have to say, give me an option to do so. “Click here for audio”

    The rest of the tips were really interesting too. I will retweet your tweet.

  14. Scott Calderwood Jun 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Good article – especially about short forms, which I advocate test, test, test. Sometimes depending on audience and industry, slightly longer forms convert better and weed out weak leads. Quality first, then quantity.

    • Agreed. Testing is super important. What some people hate others will love. It’s all a matter of understanding user behavior.

  15. Ted Rheingold Jun 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Yeah that bit about Ad copy not matching website it so key. Oftentimes it can also be newsletter or even homepage copy. When teams work in silos it happens so easily, and if no one demands messaging and navigation is homogenized it can go on sub-optimally for year. Copy gets such short shrift if the whole desgin-first or mvp-first methodologies.

  16. What an excellent article

  17. Helpful. Concise. Efficient. Not a word wasted. Lots of minutes saved. Thanks.

  18. Chelsey Siltanen Oct 05, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Greqt article. Thanks for the wisdom. Regarding Facebook connect, may want to consider the new analysis performed by the folks at Mail Chimp who noted a loss in conversion as a result of the Facebook connect buttons being present. In their case, they were showing too many options (email password field and connects), however it raises an interesting point about perceived value of the connect button.

  19. Thanks for all your tips. I found them really interesting. As a Internet user, I have little tolerance for slow loading sites and when I can’t find what I want, when I want it.

    Many thanks


  20. I’ve wondered a few times what it must be like to be a stock photo model. Your fake smile is everywhere.

  21. Practice what you preach Nov 06, 2012 at 1:09 am

    No pop ups? Then why the popup when opened this page?
    Another annopting thing, facebook widget. And even more annoying other stationary objects. That stupid nav bar at the top- of the screen.

  22. The opinions are so awesome, I really like viewing all over the globe so much.

  23. The funniest thing about this post, is that a center page ad pops up every time i come to this page. I agree, it’s very annoying =)

  24. Good points with great examples Zach!
    One thing which I have observed is most of the websites don’t let their visitors know what to do, and the order in which to do it. This can be done by having relevant call to action on each step of the conversion process. Additionally, every link or call to action button should be a waypoint that emphasizes the conversion goal and leads the user through the conversion funnel. This would surely help to reduce the bounce rate of the website.

  25. A great webpage that shows everything you SHOULD NOT do is ; their site includes probably 90% of content that has nothing to do with weather, especially on their home page. Then, they have internal teaser links every paragraph on the site, auto-play videos on nearly every page and some of the most intrusive advertising for a well known website. Without advertisement blocking software, the site is almost unusable and even then their internal teaser links are everywhere.

  26. Great article. However, just as I was about to consider sharing it with a friend, one of the WORST UX trends happened. A colossal, page-covering popup that I was forced to interact with about a newsletter signup, or something. I don’t know, I didn’t read it. I just laughed at the irony and closed it, and am now going to close the browser tab never to return to this site. Which is a shame, because until that loud, intrusive popup, you were doing well.

    Jack, UX specialist, United Kingdom

  27. And your website has a very loud autoplaying video. So you said yourself in points 5 and 6 of this article, that Pop-ups and Autoplaying videos are bad. And then you use them yourself. Hmm, ok.

    You were right in this though, from point 6:

    – An interested prospect comes to your site.
    – A video starts playing a few seconds after they enter.
    – Their speakers are turned up, the visitor becomes startled and cannot find the mute button.
    – Visitor leaves your site never to return again. They go and buy from your competitor that offered a quiet, non-forceful shopping experience.

    Even if you’re not selling things on your site, that’s not an excuse to use the very things you suggest not to use. Hypocrisy is a terrible thing.

    • Hey Jack,
      Thanks for the feedback.

      That loud, intrusive popup may be colossal and page-covering, but it gets results for us. We’ve considered removing it, but have held off because it delivers a lot of signups.

      Also, if you don’t like it, you can exit out of it pretty easily and it will never show again.

      I’m not sure what you’re referring to with “”. That is a video site similar to YouTube, so it *should* autoplay when you load the page, the same way YouTube pages do.


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