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What do people find most annoying when using a web site? (2009 update!)

By Sofie Kaiser, February 2009

In the Autumn of 200 we conducted a survey of what things people found most irritating when using web sites (previous article). The results have on many occasions been discussed with our clients and recently during seminar presentations there has been an interest to know whether internet users have changed their options regarding what they find irritating or not.

In January 2009 we sent out a new survey to 569 internet users, of which a little over half (327) responded. Survey respondents, exactly as previously, 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 alternatives that were selected by at least 25% of respondents, together with how they were rated in 2006.


Slow loading of pages 61%
Pop-up windows 50%
Unnecessary requirement to register or login 46%
Content that requires installation of special software/plug-ins 39%
Moving and/or blinking graphics 39%
Links that don’t work 34%
Adverts 32%
Web pages that unexpectedly begin playing music 25%

These ‘Top 8’ are similar to the previous survey. However “Misleading content” in the previous results has been replaced by “Web pages that unexpectedly begin playing music”.

“Slow loading of pages” and “Pop-up windows” are still at the top, though the number of respondents voting for “Pop-up windows” has reduced from 64% (2006) to 50% (2009). This is may be due to today’s web browsers being more effective at blocking pop-ups.

“Unnecessary requirement to register or login” is still in third place, though the percentage of users voting for this has increased. One theory behind this increase could be ‘Web 2.0’ – that users are more and more expected to interact and create/adapt content, which often means that users must be logged in.

After participants had made their choices they were also able to leave their own comments. One factor that was often mentioned as irritating was the difficulty in finding contact/support details on web sites. Another interesting comment concerned links where once the user has clicked on them it is not possible to go back using the browser’s back button. This problem is becoming more common, for example, with flash-based web content.

There are many factors that can irritate users, and sometimes they can even prevent users from interacting with a web site at all. So, try and avoid these on your site!

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