The five worst things you could do to your website

Filling your website with hard-to-find information is the most annoying design decision a business could ever make, according to research compiled by an Australian web research firm.

The most successful websites are those that are most intuitive, using attractive design and simple functionality so users can understand how to operate them in just a few seconds, according to the research.

Webreep, which is run by University of Melbourne psychologist Dr Brent Coker, compiled feedback from more than 36,000 respondents across the world to come up with a list of the top five things that annoy people on the internet.

Having a website filled with hard-to-find information came out on top. Coker says users expect to find what they need within a matter of seconds – and businesses will damage their reputation if they can’t make it easy for users to find answers.

“It’s become the fastest route to frustration,” he told SmartCompany this morning. “Most of the time, we’re on a website for a specific reason with a specific goal. If we can’t find that information within an expected time period, we get frustrated really quickly.”

“Many government websites are classic for this and, for me personally, it’s university websites. You can spend 40 minutes trying to figure out how to do one simple task.”

Coker says this ease of use is directly tied into brand loyalty and word-of-mouth, which he points out “is essential for marketing these days”.

“If you’re operating a commercial website, and it’s difficult to navigate or search, then you’re essentially just pushing customers away.”

“And once you frustrate your customers online, it’s really, really difficult to get them back.”

The five worst things users complained about websites:

1. Hard-to-find information

2. Slow download speeds

3. Slow responds to emails

4. Poor-quality information

5. Bad design practices

Coker emphasises design as an important element, as users will identify elegant design with trustworthiness. This is also related to the fact internet design has taken on more “conventions” in the past five years or so, including the move towards stripped-back, simplistic websites.

“It’s very clear to us that people trust beautiful looking websites more than ugly websites,” he says.

“Attractiveness is symmetry. Over time, we’ve seen websites take on more expectations about conventions: so logo in the top left, search box in the top right, that sort of thing. Even five years ago there was more experimentation in this area.”

Most of the more successful websites now gear towards using less on the page, and Coker says this is a construct businesses should consider.

“You need to have trust before you can even think about anything else like quality of information. If someone doesn’t trust it, they won’t stick around. And trust is related to design.”

Webreep has also collected more data on what successful companies are doing. And what’s their secret weapon?

Ease of use. Coker says the most successful websites right now, including social networks such as Pinterest, are intuitive. Users don’t need more than a few seconds to figure out how to use them.

“It’s deceptively simple to use,” he says. “But it’s incredibly successful, and the reason it is, is because you can pretty much use it straight away. You don’t even have to think.”

This article first appeared at SmartCompany.

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