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The Top 5 Ways to Irritate Your Blog/Website Visitors

July 23, 2006 | | Comments 28

So, you want to irritate your website visitors? You say you want to provide a lousy experience for them and practically guarantee they never return? Here are 5 ways to make it happen.

1. Make your off-site links open in a new window.
At one time, this was “convetional wisdom” for websites. The idea is you want people to remain on your site as long as possible, so if you link to an outside site, open that link in a new window, and thereby leave your website alive in the previous window.

That line of thinking is so Web 1.0. The reality is people will leave your site whether you want them to or not. Methods to trap them or keep them there just irritate them. Let them have the option to open links in a new window (or new tab for us Firefox users) if they choose.

As for blogs, some people go so far as to say the best blogs send their visitors away. Kevin O’Keefe, for instance, writes this:

“Some of the best blogs are what Buzz Bruggeman describes as intelligence agents. They post what they believe would be of interest to their target audience. Look at Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion or Dave Winer’s Scripting News. Read their blogs. They cover the globe for their readers by sharing via links what they read and hear. Mixed in you’ll get their strong commentary.”

2. Throw a pop-up box in front of me within 5 seconds of landing on your site.
Have you heard the term “pop-up blocker” before? There’s a reason people want to BLOCK pop-up boxes. They’re irritating. It’s like walking into a grocery store, and as soon as you do, an obnoxious clerk jumps in your face trying to sell you their latest brand of toilet bowl cleaner. He gets your attention, sure, but you’d rather punch him in the head than buy something from him. Websites are the same way. It doesn’t matter if you’re popping up ads, a newsletter sign-up box, photos of your kids or whatever. Pop-ups are irritating. Just don’t do it.

3. Create a cool, trendy Flash-driven site that takes more than 5 seconds to load and/or opens in a new window.
No offense to Flash developers, but most Flash-based sites are the ultimate in pretentiousness. They’re like buying the fancy sports car just to buff up your image. Flash sites are typically more about the site and/or company than they are about me the user. They usually take an inordinate amount if time to load, and if they have to open in a new window … well refer to number 1 above.

4. Make me try to figure out who you are and/or what your site is about. Bloggers are especially notorious for this. When I arrive on a site for the first time, I want to know one thing. What’s here that can improve my life? Unless I can figure that out within 5-10 seconds, I get irritated, and I leave. If it’s a blog, I want to know who the writer is. A picture would be nice, although a simple “about me” page will suffice.

5. Use an opening headline laced with hyperbole and ridiculous promises. Like this one:

“Discover the Amazing Scientific Breakthrough that Leads to Overnight Riches.”

I respect good copywriters for their ability to clearly and quickly communicate the value of a product or service without hype and/or BS. To this day, one of the best headlines I’ve seen on a website is for a product called Blinksale.

“The easiest way to send invoices online.”

Some may argue the word “easiest” is hype, yet for some reason, it’s believable to me as it’s used here.

I have to confess, in fairness, these are the things that irritate me about blogs and websites. Perhaps the best thing to do is ask your visitors what irritates them about blogs or websites. With any luck, you’re not doing any of them.

By the way, what irritates you about blogs and websites?

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  1. Martin says:

    Great stuff Michael,

    I’m currently writing a post on pop-ups so I’ll be quoting your #2 and giving you some link love.

  2. JRG says:

    I couldn’t agree more — especially for no. 4.
    It seems odd that bloggers spend their time and effort blogging and then don’t say who they are how to contact them.

  3. Michael says:

    that is a HUGE bug for me, jennifer. i tried to thank somebody for linking to me the other day. i visited their blog and could NOT find a single way to contact them. they didn’t even have comments turned on.


    thanks for writing jeniffer.

    you too martin.

  4. #1 is an interesting one. I was doing this for awhile on my blog and then decided to change. No one has said anything one way or the other but I feel better about it, and I think it makes more sense to say, “get off with you and enjoy those links!” rather than “pop pop pop pop…”

    My biggest pet peeve with blogs is the lack of contact information on some of them. I think that’s a huge mistake, and I’ve even seen some professional blogging networks do this.

    If I may add another point: #6 — Go Way Off Topic.

  5. Michael says:

    hey ben:

    thanks for writing.

    i hate new windows. it’s really bad when you use Firefox, because you get so used to using the tabs.

    Your #6 doesn’t bother me so much. personally. I can just ignore a post if it’s off topic.

    best – michael

  6. David says:

    Except for #1, I agree with you.

    MOST OF THE TIME I prefer to have a new window appear so I can get back to my original intent for being on the web.

    I think people jumping from Blog to Blog may not want it, but I rarely read blogs!

    Overall, it really is a case by case basis.

  7. Steve George says:

    Not sure how I feel about your first point. In my blog I’ve been trying to have links open in a new window. The thinking being that most users read links while they’re reading my post – so I’m commenting about something in context. In that circumstance I’m trying to allow the reader to click through to whatever I’m talking about, but still continuing to read my post.

    Can see your point though – guess it’s all about intent!


  8. David says:

    With # 1, it seems you’re damned either way.

  9. Michael says:

    I disagree David. That assumes people don’t know how to make off-site links open in a new window or tab. I can’t verify it, but I’d guess most people know how to do that.

  10. David says:

    What I meant was that Users have their own habits and preferences when browsing the web. Some like only one browser window open when jumping through sites and others want multiple windows open of the sites they want to go back to. I definitely prefer the later. There’s different ways to manage your browsing experience (tabs, right-click menus, long history menus, back button, etc) and different people use different ways. I’m proof of that.

  11. Michael says:

    David: It would be interesting to survey a bunch of web surfers to see what the preference is. Hmm … food for thought. Good conversation too. Thanks!

    Best – Michael

  12. David says:

    A survey like that is priceless to people who build sites for a living, like us.

    LOVE the podcasts!

  13. Kathleen says:

    Personally, #1 is a pet peeve of mine too.

    I agree that people have different browser habits, but it seems easier to override open in same window than to override open in new window – you can right-click & select Open in New Window/Tab, but not Open in Same Window!

    I have a Firefox extension (Tab Mix Plus) that lets me choose my preferences. However, that seems to me to be much too advanced for most users – bloggers need to make things as painless as possible.

  14. Emily says:

    I heartily agree on #1 (even though I’ve been guilty of it in the past, I’ve changed my ways). Another consideration for opening new browser windows is it may cause big problems for people with accessibility issues.

  15. milo says:

    “It would be interesting to survey a bunch of web surfers to see what the preference is.”
    That’s a very interesting point, i’d love to hear what web surfers prefer.

  16. web design says:

    Even there could be many ways to irritate visitors but what should we have from such instructions?
    I think satisfaction of ones approach on these points.

  17. I keep reading that Floating Pop Ups supposedly work.

    How this is even remotely possible is beyond me.

    It’s a screaming cry for help as far as I can tell.


  18. Clumsy says:

    Is scrolling a turn off these days, this site scrolls a bit and I dont mind it?.

  19. Ray Renteria says:

    I appreciate the advice! I’m good with all of them except the open-in-a-new-window issue.

    I had no idea that was annoying to visitors.

    (Magazine Theme customer–still my favorite.)

  20. Peggy says:

    I’m extremely curious about the new window / same window question. I studied web usability in University, where they taught us to always make them open in new windows. But this was around 2000-2002, when things were very different.
    I’ve just setup a poll at my own blog about this – click to We’ll see what people say, and I’ll adjust my own stuff as per the poll results.

  21. Michael Pollock says:


    Thanks for the input … I think with modern browsers, the new window issue is largely irrelevant ( I write that article nearly 2 years ago). Now, new windows open in a new tab rather than a whole new window, so it’s really not such a big deal anymore. It used be a problem, because you could be surfing along from site to site, and before you know it, you have 10 windows open.

    Best – Michael

  22. Martin says:

    1. Make your off-site links open in a new window.

    Might be time for me to disable that feature… I have been using a plugin called Zap_NewWindow to make all external links open in a new window.

  23. Larry Annen says:

    Busy videos. I hate busy jumping around flashy hip-hopping visual noise. I’ve sent more hate mail to CNN over the stupid car driving over my screen, the stupid jumping people, ohh look~ I scared myself… EGADS I HATE THEM FOR THAT.

    I will immediately get off a site if I’ve got too much ‘visual noise’, and if I want music, I’ve got an old clock radio…

  24. I feel ALL off site traffic should be in a new window/tab period. Things I hate? Let me count the ways…
    1. videos that autoplay
    2. flash flash FLASH! Wow what a neat thing to build your entire site in flash! SO now if my OS and browser can’t load it then oh well, I miss your site and products or services.
    3. 5 million ads all over the site, I understand you want/need to make a little money with your site but give us a break
    4. People that honestly expect a degreed software engineer to do a freelance theme customization for them in wordpress for $30! Oh wait, sorry that’s one of my personal gripes, not for here :P

  25. I wonder if I’ve failed in the usability of my blog after reading this post. I mean, my tag line at the moment is “things I’m inspired to blog about”, which has to be the most innocuous description ever.

    However, I DO not have any Flash auto play and definitely do not force links to open in a new page.

    I don’t have 5 million ads all over my site either…
    …ok….maybe 4 million. :)

  26. Marj Wyatt says:

    I totally agree with you regarding flash sites and hypie stuff.

    The first time I saw the “lightbox” plugin on a Worpress blog, I was offended by it. Blogs, by definition, are meant to be perused. Enforcing an opt-in, within 5 seconds of landing, seemed counter-intuitive.

    What I can’t agree with is opening links in a new window. I have my browsers set up to do this, by default, as I was weary of the goofy back button. (smile)

    Something you didn’t mention, which will drive me away from a site, is “noisy” banner ads. I don’t mean audio noise. I mean scrambling gif banners that distract me from the content that I’m trying to read. If a page is too busy, it isn’t for me.

    Nice post.

  27. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  28. Andre Kalis says:

    I was actually in search of a new theme for my blog, stumbled upon Vybe (which I think I will get!) and got the bonus info about the irritants. Now I know exactly what route to follow with my blog to do something about the embarrassingly high bounce rate I’m faced with.

    My current theme is a big part of the problem, but the pop-ups will now go out the window with the theme. I hate pop-ups myself. Why did I install them? Must be because I was told it’s more compelling than an opt-in box and serves a purpose resembling a squeeze page… Anyway, I agree. They are horrible and they must go.

    Thanks for the post!

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