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What do people find most annoying when using a web site?

By Sofie Kaiser and Richard Whitehand, January 2006

We have all at some point been annoyed when using the Internet. Maybe by links that don’t work, an advert that unexpectedly creates a noise or a complex form that requires several attempts to fill in correctly.

In November/December 2005 Usability Partners conducted an online survey to investigate what people find most annoying web using a web site. The survey was sent out via email to 250 internet users between the age of 16 and 66 years old. All lived in or near Stockholm. A little over half (140 people) responded.

Survey respondents were asked which of 23 suggested factors they found the most annoying when using web sites today. Each respondent could choose a maximum of 5 alternatives. The table below shows the number of responses to those alternatives that were selected by at least 25% of respondents.

Pop-up windows 64%
Slow loading of pages 59%
Unnecessary requirement to register or login 37%
Links that don’t work 37%
Moving and/or blinking graphics 36%
Content that requires installation of special software/plug-ins 34%
Adverts 30%
Misleading content 25%

Of the 22 potentially irritating factors that respondents rated, it was quite clear that pop-up windows and slow-loading web pages were the most annoying – over half the respondents selected these. However, naturally all of the above issues should be avoided!

In the light such findings it is perhaps unsurprising that ‘pop-up blockers’ are included in newer versions of web browsers. However, many of the other factors are more difficult for browser developers to address. User annoyance can in most cases only be reduced through a better understanding of the user perspective on the part of web designers.

What annoys you when you’re using web sites?

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