6 Ways To Subliminally Tell Users “Don’t Come Back”

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There are many practices that I can't believe are still on the internet. Here are a few ways to tell the user to never come back to your website.

Resize The Main Browser Window

If you want to make the user open a new window to view your website, fine. It's not the worst thing you could do, but it sucks. Even worse, however, is when the user's main browser is resized. Resizing my browser pisses me off more than anything else. If I wanted my browser to be smaller, I would size it myself.

Require Login for Non-Unique Content

Why do I need a username and password to see your content? I know why -- so you can get my email address and viewing habits. I don't care to tell you that information, so good day -- I'm outta here.

Hide the Login Box / Page Link

So you do have dynamic/unique content for me? Where the hell am I supposed to log in? Don't make users search for the login box -- put it clear in view so I get to the unique content.

Require Obscure Plugins

There's no way I'm going to download "SugarSplitter" plugin to get into your website. Put your media in MPEG, Flash, or Quicktime format. No one wants to download your rubbish plugin.

Don't Resize / Optimize Images

Ugh, there's nothing like a website that uses a WYSIWYG to allow its amateur editors to insert 2MB pictures and resize them down to 100 pixels. If you want me to download your pics, take the time to resize and optimize your photos using Photoshop.

Use Unnecessary AJAX

There's no reason to use AJAX in your navigation menu. I mean, does it really change that often? Make as much content as possible static, then use AJAX to enhance the page. I don't want to see the same AJAX calls made over and over again.

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  1. JP

    No, do not put your media in WMV format. That will make me leave faster than most of the rest of the stuff on your list (which I agree with).

  2. @JP: Linux and/or Mac allows for playing WMVs, don’t they? Some fanboy of both has to have rigged something together. I will agree that Flash is the most attractive option, but playing numbers, WMV’s will probably work in most cases.

  3. Another point – requires the browser to use a specific browser or a specific resolution. If I see ‘This websites works best in IE’, I’m out.

  4. Marie F

    Thankfully it’s not too incredibly common, but, the worst thing ever is when a website has background music playing on their site. Especially if there’s no clear and easy way to turn it off. I have my iTunes playing on shuffle 90% of the time that I’m browsing sites, and I do not need some other site’s music clashing with it!

  5. @Marie: Good call. The worst is when it’s in a Flash animation that doesn’t let you turn it off. Kill me now.

  6. Zach LeBar

    i agree with Binny VA, if they say ‘best viewed in…’ it shows me they didn’t take the time to check and make sure it looks the same in all the browsers. instead they were lazy and only want me to use one browser. if it says ‘best viewed in IE’ then I know they aren’t even a real web designer, since IE is the bane of web designers everywhere.

  7. Ugh, background music. Yeah, speaking of Ajax, I should really get to learning that one day soon…

  8. Reason #6 is the worst because I see this more often than the others. Good one!

  9. Nice list. No-right click scripts make me frown too… “copyright content – do not copy”. Hm right! I love my right-click menu.

  10. JP

    @david: Why choose WMV when there are much better, open, alternatives like MPEG or AVI? WMV players for non-Windows platforms do exist, sure, but I don’t like playing WMVs even when I am using a Windows box.

  11. Tristan

    nothing pisses me off more than the “I use firefox so i am superior to you” messages. Sure the best viewed in IE message says their lazy, but the this site redirects you to get firefox shows me that you are a pretentious asshole. personally i do not like firefox, i find its ui to be ugly an unituitive.

    Seriously, if I wanted a sermon I’d go to church.

  12. @JP: MPEG works for me!

  13. I don’t know if this is typically regarded as grounds to not come back, but I personally despise splash screens. I like getting what I want out of a website in as few steps possible.

  14. Niala


    I agree with your comments but I don’t understand the point about Ajax navigation menu. Do you mean that there are frequent request to the server to see if the content of the menu changed? Why do you bother about Ajax calls?

  15. @Niala: Exactly.

  16. I personally don’t have a preference of one browser over another, but I agree with the “nothing pisses me off more than the I use firefox so i am superior to you” messages. ” comment. Especially the one where they try to make a dollar if they get you to download it.

  17. As webdesigners we should all pay close attention to these badboys. My own pet hate? PDF’s instead of HTML content, and dont allow me to resize my text.

  18. @Tristan

    One of the things that drives me away from reading comments is people that have nothing nice to say. You are not forced to read this article.

    Did you have a bad day today? Do you always write negative comments and not give the author praise for things he did well?

  19. Put video as ogg, or mp4 at the very least.

    AJAX can be an enhancement for quick retrieval of data amongst a sea of data…but 50% of the time it just sucks, is unnecessary, and tends to crash the browser (ie: gmail + firebug plugin active).

    Flash is another one of those technologies that simply sucks from a usability perspective.

  20. Auto-play anything.

    Even a slideshow of pictures of feathers and baby seals that slowly fade into each other, if it auto-plays, it pisses me off.

  21. Resizing the browserwindow is the worst of all. But i must admit: I did it, too, because my employers wanted it. I tried to convince them. It didn’t work. Sorry for everyone I bothered with that. I hate it.

  22. Stellaris

    Splash pages and then having the “main site” open up in a smallish pop-up. Bah.

  23. Moppe

    Autoplay music!
    You’re just listening to good music while surfing the net and than a webpage starts to play the favorite song of it’s webdesigner. It’s so pretentious. I hate it.

  24. Martel Wishbone

    If you provide email accounts, put news feeds (propaganda feeds) on the users main mail page and make it impossible for them to remove it.

  25. Signup forms, seriously? I gotta “Sign Up” for that.

    Then password restrictions are a PITA — “sorry, must be at least 12 characters” — ahh, forget it. Who wants to learn a new password?

  26. I hate those stupid in-line advertisements that masquerade as links but when you hover over them (especially on a slower connection) you get a stupid box that gets in the way of reading the content you came there to see… damn that infuriates me!!

  27. I second that. Guilty as usual of trying that on my forum. It really just p*sses people off to the point where they leave.

  28. You are awesome!! I am a newbee Web Designer, looking at becoming a specialist eventually in accessible websites. Everything you said here I always thought myself. Thanks, now I have a reason NOT to add this stuff in my projects. That makes me happy!!

  29. Germán

    Websites opening the main site in a new browser window…. Arghhhh…. obviously with an eternal flash loading time… goodbye!

  30. How can u forget about popups… Comming to a site and browser nearly crashes because some ashole put in 20 flash advertisement popups -_-

  31. “Resize The Main Browser Window” – I totally agree with this. For me, this is the most annoying effect a website can have. Although, there are still many professional websites (of designers and freelancers) that use this “effect”.

  32. Andrea

    Mark, huh? Care to read Tristan’s comment once more and consider whether there is anything you’d like to add to your own?

  33. Josh

    Someone said this earlier, but I hate hate HATE having to click multiple pages just to get to the page I want. I worked as a Web Developer for a computer manufacturer/seller that would do this to force potential buyers to read/see things before getting to the content they were searching for. Digg.com has started doing this again – they link to a page which sounds interesting, but your served a page that describes the page you are about to click on. Nonesense. Sidenote – I totally agree with the the required login for non-unique content. Sadly, I still read MSN.com for entertainment news, and they started forcing people to login prior to serving serving content that I could get elsewhere. So long, MSN.com!

  34. Germán

    Another one… the nonsense pagination to get more pageviews.. I mean.. c’mon people… we’re grown ups…. :)

  35. 555FBI

    Personnaly, I like splash pages… Having a splash on “some” websites can help in filtering/redirecting depending on the browser/js/flash of the client. A splash is a minimalist presentation of your big website, and thus gives the user a unconscious info about your design, link presentation, menu structure, etc… I’ve used a splash on a website that had the menu a the bottom… Since this was unusual, I was in fear that visitors (who you must consider uber-dumb when creating a website) wouldn’t find the menu… So I’ve designed the splash page with a single Enter button in similar design as the real menu, and positionned it at the bottom of my minimalist splash design…

    A splash page is also like the front door of your company, commerce… Saying you don’t need a splash is almost like saying every building shouldn’t have a front door… after all, it’s useless to have to open a door, why not have it open alsway… “opening the door = click the enter button”

    But still, I don’t always put splash pages… I just like them sometimes, it just makes everything pretty and clean. I think it depends on who makes it, and in the long run, it depends on the customer for whom you are making the website.

  36. Hey guys,I don’t know if you’ll agree with me but if there is something that bugs me is when someone designs a website and they do everything in Photoshop and then just wham “save to web” and viola they have a website. All images and no text for the search engines to index.

    This just tells me that the designer or developer has no clue…

  37. bret mcdanel

    You forgot the ones that play some background music or have a flash animation that instantly starts spewing noise. Sometimes people surf the web at work, *gasp*. It is bothersome, even if its work related, to have noise just come spewing out of your computer, it bothers coworkers, it bothers me as a user of the page. Sadly I have seen this more with business sites than “for fun” sites, ensuring that neither me nor my company will purchase products from that company.

    I do highly agree with the resizing thing, its as if the web designer is saying “you are too stupid to resize your browser, here let me do it for you” and often they resize it to take up the entire display yet sometimes they dont have enough content to warrant that (such as with my 30 inch 2560×1600 monitor). Largely its a marketing thing so users will forget what is under their browser and focus on advertisements or whatever, and that makes it worse.

  38. What about when there is a HTML popup window (eg. to show an image slideshow or something like that) with size set smaller than the actual content and resizing is turned off. Sometimes the scrollbars are turned off too. Extremely annoying.

  39. Just thought of more… :)
    – Flashing ads next to articles
    – Non-selectable email and/or contact info
    – Links that don’t lead to where you think they should and loop around the site

  40. Pet peave: having to explain all of the above to un-educated co-workers :)

  41. Flash

  42. Jake

    A splash page is aweful, it’s one extra click to get where you want and worst of all it’s the index page, probably the keypoint for SEO as innevitably this page is spidered the most.

  43. Alvin

    Trying to talk for others and in general is pretty much, easy. we often forget for ourself, like you for example… everything is tooltiped on this page. I think that everybody and his mother now that search in a form is just search, there is no need to specify (what are you looking for) , also because i dont like your search form please can you tell me where should i click to get the results.

  44. @Alvin: Sorry to hear you don’t like my tooltips. As for the search box, clicking [enter] submits the form. Do you honestly click into a search box, type your search, and reach for your mouse to click a submit button? My mom does that — I don’t see my demographic doing a lot of that.

  45. Alvin

    lol i know that clicking enter submit the form but when its so why you have added that search icon on the end of the imput box, why google dont take you opinion and hide their buttons too. You have broke a usability guideline, just admit it. Also your inputbox for the search is just one line that seams like an underline for sth not an imput box.

    Remeber that users are not you or all web developer and pros with 10+ years of Internet experience

    I dont usually speak in this way… sorry no offense just some bit of critic :)

  46. Alvin

    because i reread your comment if your demographic users are pros why you have put an tooltip on the search?!

  47. Germán

    Maybe the solution is a “Turn off tooltips” (or similar) button… :)

  48. @Alvin: I don’t mind your critique but I don’t take a lot of stock in it either. Why don’t we all make our sites look plain like Google? I styled my search box and made it function the way it does because I wanted to be “artistic” and show some personality. Same with my tooltips. Those wont be changing soon.

  49. Speaking of forms, I hate it when multi box Phone number field jumps ahead with javascript. Using ctrl+ breaks it…always jumping back to where I just came from.

  50. I agree with most of this. I have people I work with though, that still swear by splash pages. I’ve been in meetings where they’ve said that the homepage should have little text or information. Ugh!! I might have to send a link to this page around. Oh and I LOVE your search bar, I thought it was creative and very intuitive.

  51. There is a distinction between a “splash page” and a trimmed down “user friendly” homepage. The difference being splash pages usually serve no general purpose after the first “ooohhh….ahhh” reaction.

    Information overload is a problem as well when the homepage has Too Much Information. I hate that — I have enough BS to weed through on a daily basis — one more site with more “blah blah blah, here, there and over there too” becomes a turn off rather quickly.

    As for the search bar, I didn’t notice it until just now (having overlooked it). I too am surprised the image is not clickable, and the hover takes over the cursor which is an indicator to me that I’m in the right place to type my phrase — currently lost with this search field.

    The tooltip is cool, but at the expense of usability as it stands now. A simple fix would be to apply:

    input:hover, input:focus { background-color: #eef; border: 1px solid #336; }
  52. I have one thats is a little different, it is with Clients. Show up at the meeting to sign the contract, with a list of pages they want that was not agree upon before the meeting, and then tell you that they bounced the last two mortgage checks and that they can’t pay the deposit till next week. Still they just keep on sending their pictures for you to keep building their pages, with no money down.

  53. Bruce

    This week I visited 2 corporation websites and when gone to their “contact us” page there were only land addresses! no e-mail, contact form or whatever! I do hate it!

  54. Taylor

    My problems with websites are the pdf pages, the Ajax (not only in the navigation but everywhere), and the contact us pages.

    When I view a website where the only HTML is the homepage, and every page after that is a pdf file that needs to be downloaded onto my computer, I see a website that is incomplete, unorganized, and really has no respect for the user visiting the website. Pdf files are great to use for a website, but they should be used in moderation and not as a substitute for a webpage.

    I often see the AJAX rule being broken constantly. Web designers seem to assume that because they know how to work AJAX that they can make their entire site in nothing but Ajax; thus, they create web pages that are very user unfriendly (users can’t go to a specific url, users without Javascript are without a website, security issues to the maximum).

    Another big issue is an unclear contact us link. The purpose of a website is mostly to communicate with a public audience. If there is a problem with your communication to your audience, you need to be informed of it. When I cannot find a contact us form or web page right away, it makes the owner of the website look arrogant to think that he/she is without need for changes to his/her website.

  55. Some time ago I went to a museum web site that had a Flash animation in the middle of the home page. I suppose that would been okay except that I was using Linux at the time and the available support for Flash was pretty poor. Since I couldn’t see the script, I saw a rectangular blank area on the page. My thinking was ‘what brain-donor designed that?’.

    Thus, I never saw the box to pre-order tickets for the exhibition I was interested in.

    That led to my driving from Detroit to Grand Rapids only to be turned around at the gate due to a ‘sold out’ show.

    Never, never, never put critical information in a 3rd party script!

  56. calenlas

    One that ticks me off every time…
    Three column layout where the ads and navigation columns are fixed size (usually quite large) and the content you actually want to read is given whatever is left over. Unless my browser window is taking up the majority of my screen the content I want to read is squished into a little ten character wide column surrounded by colorful, often animated, distracting ads. As an example, look at just about any newspaper or magazine website and shrink your window a bit.

    A similar problem is text blocks that are unnecessarily given a very wide minimum width so that unless the browser’s maximized you’ve got to scroll to read the content.

    Sometimes it’s so bad, I just go straight for the print-friendly version and skip their ill-executed layout altogether.

  57. Tails2

    Well I too agree with most that has been said so far. One thing that I find ironic, to say the least, is that in my wanting to reply to this article you have kinda broken one of the rules you said you hate.

    Rule 2.

    Require Login for Non-Unique Content

    Why do I need a username and password to see your content? I know why — so you can get my email address and viewing habits. I don’t care to tell you that information, so good day — I’m outta here.

    Now while I didn’t essentially have to log in, I did have to supply my email address as it was marked with the infamous * and therefore my comment could not be posted until I gave it to you. So in conclusion, you could either remove ‘Rule 2’, remove the need for my email address when posting a comment, or do nothing like most unprofessional web-developers. I for one hope you do option 1 or 2.

  58. What I am not crazy about is when you post something, then you later want to edit or delete it, but there is no way of doing that, or at least it is not obvious. How do you delete a comment? There should be some warning here saying “comments are carved in stone.”

    But I like this site, none the less and I am a regular on it now, so it doesn’t stop me from coming back. Thanks for all your hard work at giving us this website.

  59. 1) Lightbox JS

    Something I’ve recently run into, overuse of the Lightbox JS. If I want to look through a lot of pictures and my only options are squinting at a 100px thumbnail or waiting 4.5 seconds for each large image to pop up in Lightbox, I’m going elsewhere.

    2) Opening Email Addresses In My Email Client

    I hate it when mailto commands are linked directly to an anchor named “Contact”. I expect to load a new page with a contact form but instead it launches my mail client.

    3) News Articles Spanned Over Multiple Pages

    I know it’s good for SEO and you can display more banner ads over 3 pages than 1, but it would be nice to just scroll down some more to read that last paragraph.

  60. Liz

    Any (flash) home page that takes more than a couple of seconds to load. Goodbye, pretentious twits.

    Ditto to the previous poster who talked about windows where you can’t see all the content NOR can you control the size of the box. Bye-bye.

    “View larger image” links that make the picture only slightly or not at all larger. Grrrrr.

    Misspellings and bad grammar on a professional site. Isn’t this somebody’s job? Not all web designers are also great proofreaders, and the copy should be someone else’s job to check.

    Tiny jpegs or jpegs with artifacts. Come on, this is not 1997. My computer can handle loading your photos. Really. And stop interlacing them. It’s just wrong.

    Make me give you any information before finding out the price of what I might want to buy. I will never, never buy anything from you. Not a cup of water if I were dying of thirst in the desert. Never.

    Thanks for the cathartic release!

  61. Liz

    Oh, one I forgot, related to the above: “next” link to view pics without returning to the thumbnail page every single time. Oy.

  62. I’m confused. My WYSIWYG editor offers to create a thumbnail of whatever size I want. What are the downsides of doing this as opposed to doing it in PhotoShop?

  63. Owen Smith

    @Rich Owings

    The functionality of that is different between the editors. The peeve mentioned in the article was when the thumbnail was simply re-sized of the large image, continuing to take up it’s 6.7MB of bandwidth for its 80x80px real estate.

    The proper way to do a thumbnail is for it to be saved separately so it can result in a much quicker page load, one of the reasons for having a thumbnail in the first place.

    Also, to extend on this; in some cases there isn’t reason to save your large file as 100% Quality, taking up 1MB in space, when you can save at 75%, with little visual difference, and a much smaller file.

    One of the bigger problems I have with sites is when they require cookies even though I do not need to login or set preferences. I browse the web with cookies disabled, adding exceptions as I see fit, and when I went to post this comment I was told I needed to enable cookies. This is in no way your fault, it is the wordpress system, but can be a slight nuisance.

  64. Flash Menu systems – why oh why would you put the entire site navigation in a 3rd party plugin system? So many corporate visitors won’t have Flash allowed on their machine by their IT department, so this approach is immediately killing off a certain % of site visitors.

    Most annoying thing though IMHO, is sites with content pasted from Word – complete with ugly Microsoft CSS styling and long hyphens, angled apostrophes and quotemarks and the dreaded …
    When these are used in a title, it can completely screw up a Google Sitemap or RSS feed!

    Also, poorly chosen text encoding which makes £ signs appear as ? drives me nuts.

  65. One thing that really annoys me about a website, is when they force affiliated advertising on you. Say for example in the form of a pop up or splash screen, usually animated, that you HAVE to sit through/watch, in order to be able to click through or get redirected to the page containing the content you really want to view. Very annoying, especially when the advert has absolutely nothing to do with what you are looking for!

  66. Well done David, i think my website just passed your list examination :D

  67. The only plugins I accept are Flash. At a push, Silverlight. But thats about it.

  68. I think when you said no AJAX in the menu you must have been HIIII..lol.
    Anyone who does not use AJAX for naviagation would either be in the stone age or have to much time on their hands.

    Let me ask you, do you like waiting around for each page to load when click on it?
    Sorry, once a site is loaded each click should only load the content the user wants not the whole damn site each and every time…very annoying when this happens.

  69. Click my name — if this ain’t the epitome of DON”T COME BACK….I don’t know what is.

    It took me 5 tries to get through to page 2 (and there are 5 total).
    I gave up after that.

  70. the reason #5 is the worst IMO, I discovered one day that a website I have to maintain was very slow because it was serving 3.5Mb per image displayed at 100×100 pixels.
    the thing I did to solve did was to write a plugin that scan html for images and then resize them if any dimension is defined.

  71. @Tristan: The best thing to do, is not optimize for you IE kids, and just let the site suck when viewed in IE. I like the Youtube dropped ie6.

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