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Four Great Ways to Annoy and Confuse Users

In the olden days, when television broadcasting ended for the day before midnight, a posh BBC person would remind you to switch off your set and a piercing note would sound to make sure.  I remember one of the anarchical comedy shows copying this rather patronising tone of voice with an announcer adding “and please note that slamming car doors late at night can annoy your neighbours”…before going on to add… “another good way to annoy your neighbours late at night is to bang dustbin lids”.

I was reminded of this recently when I came across some usability examples which were so bad that it was hard to believe that their intention hadn’t been to annoy and confuse their users – hence the title of this article.  So if you really want to annoy and confuse users, why don’t you:

1. Hide really important stuff below the fold

It can be a problem dealing with the wide range of screen resolutions out there but this website managed to make it nearly impossible for me to spot the ‘next’  button – well done!Next button below the fold


Or do they mean this ‘next’?

Next button below the fold

2. Use computer speak

There was a great article on the e-consultancy website about how one hotel chain spent $18M on a new website only to find that it was lambasted for poor usability and accessibility.  I found myself unable to resist joining in the debate when I got the following message telling me that ‘there was no room at the inn’.

Too much computer jargon 

In my view, they must have spent all their money on the photos as even a simple user test with their target high-end traveller customers would have shown that this was not a good way to communicate.

3. Make sure images contain critical information

Even though I like Amazon, I find their emails without images (my Outlook mail is set to not download pictures automatically) distinctly un-informative.  
Amazon email without images

Of course, it does look a lot better with images downloaded:
Amazon email with images

But relying on images for showing the prices is not very helpful for those using screen readers.

4. Fill the screen with flashing graphics the user can't switch off

And finally, a reminder that flashing images in our field of view attract attention – very successfully.  But once our attention has been attracted, continuing to flash is a big distraction.  I’ve not included a static screen shot of this one but I am sure you can find your own examples!

However if you don't intend to annoy and confuse your customers, avoid all these traps and test your site with real users before launch – it is really that simple.

By Tom Stewart


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