December 15, 2020

Ask IH: What do you hate most about modern websites?

Gustavo @gpires

My top 3 are:

  • Cookie consent popup

  • Excess animations

  • Menu overlay

  1. 19
    • content that jumps while the page renders
    • GIFs
    • thumbnails that remain stamp-sized when clicked instead of displaying the image at full size
    • autoplay
    • tutorials and documentation available only as video and not text
    • dark themes
    • stock photos
    • blogs with no RSS feeds
    • pages with a footer and infinite scrolling
    • links to Medium
    • sites with Facebook as the only social sign-in option
    • sites with communities hosted as Facebook groups
    1. 4

      Agreed. Footer + infinite scrolling is the worst. Someone wasn't thinking when they implemented that page.

    2. 3

      Oh man you don't like dark themes? My whole website is in dark theme..

      1. 2

        Even I don't like dark themes. Generally they don't give a positive feeling for me.

        Also back of my mind, I have a feeling that dark website generally have suspicious things going in background

        Generally don't trust dark theme website at first visit.

          1. 1

            Yep. It took me months to get adjusted with indiehackers.com

            Eventually no feel comfortable to be on the site for long time.

        1. 1

          What an interesting point of view: I think I should not go with "dark mode only" after all!!

      2. 2

        I'm afraid yes. The reason is simple: dark themes uncomfortably dazzle me the same way light themes dazzle those who prefer dark ones, but in reverse. Same effect, but opposite outcomes.

      3. 1

        I think dark themes can be very good, but many are too dark i.e not enough contrast and therefore hard to read. Like this:
        https://blog.karenying.com/posts/github-darkmode-sucks

        I think when it comes to light/dark it's best to give the user a choice.

        1. 1

          I always use auto-theme if it is possible in sites and apps (except development IDE that is always dark).
          And yeah Github is so dark and it sucks!!!

          1. 1

            What is auto-theme?

            1. 1

              I mean themes that sync with os or browser.

    3. 2

      A good website will adhere to the Browser/OS setting for light/dark themes.

  2. 11

    The uniformity of it all. There are so few fun, quirky websites. You would think 4G, advanced browsers and powerful handheld smartphones would result in a more diverse web. Somehow we got the opposite.

    Does anyone know of a list of fun websites? things like spacejam.com, turntable fm and https://poolside.fm?

    Edit: found one list https://github.com/syxanash/awesome-web-desktops

    1. 5

      yes, but at least it let's you get a quick overview and find information quickly

    2. 2

      I love poolside.fm and plaza.one so much that I made my own website inspired by them called viberad.io. Was fun making something a little different.

    3. 2

      I've found that "fun" websites tend not to be that usable.

      Websites look the same for the same reason most modern cars look roughly the same... we've hit peak optimisation.

  3. 8

    Pop-ups. Pop-ups everywhere.

    1. 4

      +1, for me the same! Just been to an article on techradar, needed to close 5 popups to start/keep on reading

    2. 3

      uBlock Origin solves this problem for me.

  4. 8

    They all look the same. I hate it.

    1. 3

      Hate this too. I think because of the proliferation of frameworks like Tailwind and Bootstrap. Looks nice, but pretty similar.

      1. 1

        Bootstrap can be used for layout pretty neatly, but if people start applying standard styles for production, it's pretty bad taste. Just tweak colours / borders a little bit...

    2. 1

      On the other side I love it, means I can find information quickly and it allows the company to focus on product.

      I built a company around it https://versoly.com/ :)

  5. 6

    Thanks for this post / question!!

    • cookie banners with dark pattern
    • pop ups
    • meaningless gifs
    • autoplay
    • infinite scrolling (I hate it when I'm never done with the news feed; I even unfollowed many many people on Twitter just to get rid of infinite scrolling)
    • newsletter pop ups that ask me to sign for newsletter after spending 2 seconds on the website (I hate that so much, prove to be valuable for me first. prove it again by letting me come back to your site when I think there could be something interesting again. and then give me a visible place where I can see the newsletter offer. Once I've decided to sign up don't let me search for it, you get 3 seconds)
    • meaningless stock photos
    • clickbait headlines, I hate them so much!!!
  6. 6

    Taking so much time to load

  7. 5

    Conversion funnels that are A/B tested within an inch of their life by distracting you as much as possible. The WPEngine "/plans" page is a good example of this - a chat widget that pops in later, a fake notification badge appears somewhere else, and then a fake multi-option conversation that starts with "Walter." Why would I subject myself to the rest of the product? My attention matters to me, and they don't respect it. Obviously it makes them a ton of money, otherwise they wouldn't triple down on it, but it unsettles me on an emotional level.

    On a similar note, fake signals designed to increase urgency or distract you. Countdown timers that countdown to nothing, numbers that increment when you load the page, that sorta thing.

    Infinite scrolling when there's a footer with important links.

    Banners and cookie consent popups that break page-down. The partial overlays should reduce (by their own height) the size of the scrollable area. Without them, it's impossible to read an article entirely with page-up and page-down, which breaks those buttons.

    I have even more disdain for websites that I make. Why won't that guy just stop making them, and why is his writing so awkward and verbose?

    1. 3

      I really agree with the pricing remarks. I hate fake deals and fake countdowns, or even real deal countdowns to make you buy now something you don't actually need. I am also selling digital products myself, this is why I promised that I will never use such psychological triggers. Customers should only buy my product because it brings them actual value, not because of FOMO.

      1. 2

        I watched a lot of user research sessions about these types of signals. The thing that most surprised me was that people appreciated them, but only when they were 100% truthful. I assumed they'd always find them spammy, but they actually wanted the information. If they truly might miss out, they wanted to know.

        In one case, I watched a designer begrudgingly design a countdown timer for when a sale ended. She thought it was a bad idea. To prove it, she was like "I'm going to design the best possible version of this, and then I'll show you in user research that everyone hates these things"

        So she sat down in the first research session, and showed it to the user. The user said, "I appreciate seeing these things. I'm not always ready to buy right now, but if I know I only have a few hours, I want to know that. I hate coming back later and seeing that the price went up. Some sites have these things and they don't count down to anything, and I hate them. You refresh the page, and they're the same." The designer couldn't believe it.

        Anyways, just know that sometimes users view the information as a better experience, but only if the information is truly accurate.

        1. 1

          I agree, that's why my solution was to have as little discounts as possible, mostly because:

          • Users who already bought the product feel cheated if it's now available at a lower price
          • If a discount is really needed for the sale it means that the product doesn't provide enough value for the mentioned price. See the new PS5 or Nvidia graphics cards, they are so good and provide such a good value that users buy them even if the price is drastically increased compared to suggested retail price. If the client says "I would buy this, but it's too expensive" it actually means "I would buy this, but it's not providing enough value to me to justify the price"

          Imagine a world where people buy only what they really need and only purchase because they really want that product. Not only customers will be happier but this would lead to much better products, products that users can't resist buying.

    2. 2

      Also, the fake "Tony from California just bought this package" messages that keep appearing and disappearing in the bottom left corner. I looked into it, it's actually a third-party "service", not real live data - I wasn't 100 %sure. Basically, all the slimy marketing stuff you pretty much covered in your first paragraphs.

  8. 5

    Popup and overlays overflow: cookies & GDPR (even if it's a good thing, the UIs to set the permissions are full of dark patterns to make you "accept all"), "signup for the newsletter", yada yada.

    Also, even worse for me because there's no good reason for this: all websites breaking the default behaviour of ctrl/cmd-clicking to open a link in a new tab. It happens very often and always drives me mad.

  9. 3

    Intercom style popups with bots that pretend like they're human beings.

  10. 3

    I find it kind of hilarious just how incredibly uncreative SaaS companies are with their landing pages.

    White horizontal navbar. Logo on the left, nav items on the right. Call to action in sans serif font below in big letters below on the left, stock illustration on the right. And everyone, for whatever reason, has the same exact blue color palette. Maybe some blobs, maybe some wavy transitions.

    It's as though no one who makes a SasS company cares about branding, no one cares about actually standing out. You don't need to be completely goofy or ridiculous, just like... don't use the same exact formula as literally everyone else. No wonder all these startups fail.

  11. 3

    Two chrome extensions that I love:
    uBlock Origin for blocking popups, tracking, ads
    I don't care about cookies to block cookie consent banners

  12. 3
    • Pop up (making a sound) asking me to chat, go away! Why not just have a passive button? Does it really increase conversion?
    • Endless scrolling and having information in the footer (how am I supposed to get there?)
    • Pricing hidden
    • Dark patterns in general, often seen with cookies
    • Full screen modal asking me to sign up to a newsletter or whatever - I have literally never engaged with one.
    • Lots of bloat of Javascript (looking at you Firebase auth+friends). Or using using react/vue/svelte/gatsby/next/whatever for a non-webapp website. Why?
    • Default Tailwind, Material or Bootstrap theming

    All of these I dislike, but I also understand that us indie developers are not the average user! I'm sure a non-technical audience has a different list.

    1. 2

      Your list is very spot on, and I think it applies to regular users as well, not only developers.

  13. 3

    You can't do without consent, it's GDPR my friend. There was a movement of anti-cookie law back in a day but that law wasn't even as strong as GDPR. It's a European Regulation, highest level of you can get, I'm sorry there isn't anything you can do about that. The good thing is that you can actually consent out, i.e., just press the button to not let them install any cookies.

    I hate Gatsby. I -hate- Gatsby. I don't like the idea of service workers installing a ton of data on my computer. It's meant to install application shell like styles and fonts, but they just load the whole website onto my machine and store it permanently, without ever asking me. My hard drive is not a place for every single page forever. There should be a law against that just like cookie one.

    1. 4

      The good thing is that you can actually consent out, i.e., just press the button to not let them install any cookies.

      Yes, but I would like an option like this: I only accept essential cookies, ever. I can't think of a single case where I would like to consent to any other cookie. I think everyone has the same feeling. This is so odd. The answer is always the same, but I need to press a button every time. It's really a bad experience.

      I don't like the idea of service workers installing a ton of data on my computer.

      This is so spot on. This goes against the very nature of browsing. Sometimes you are just a few minutes on a website.

      1. 4

        yeah that's a pain. perhaps it'd be nice if there was a uniform way to press the button, like with a browser extension. or if the EU is all about unification, they should have come up with a protocol how the user can implement giving consent once and for all. But as far as I remember from my Law course, there was a case where it was defined that using default browser settings is actually enough to qualify as consent. I'll have a look again because that's an interesting one.

    2. 3

      You absolutely can do without consent. In two ways: 1) don't track. People act like tracking the webtraffic is the most important thing and there is no value without it, which is simply not tru for many products, even SaaS.
      2) You can absolutely do server side analytics, if you don't share the data without a third party, you don't need consent.

      So there are ways, but people are so accustomed to just defaulting to Google Analytics they don't even consider any alternatives.

  14. 2

    Popups for support/sales chatbots with "Let's chat". Those are fine on the bottom corner of the page as a button or icon, but the ones that open automatically covering the page are annoying.

  15. 2

    When will the illustrations era end???
    Once upon a time there used to be other designs

  16. 2
    • Links that don't act like links. If I cmd+click a link, I expect it to open in a new tab.
    • Unhighlightable text. If it looks like a header or paragraph, I want to able to select it with my mouse.
    • Marketing pages that have images/photographs fly in as you scroll. Why do things have to move on two axis while I am scrolling??
  17. 2

    Interesting to notice that every complaint in this post is an opportunity to improve our own websites or create new products!

  18. 2

    My top 3 are:

    • Unnecesarily slow: Websites that are mostly static use up CPU/bandwidth for no reason
    • "Enable notifications" popups
    • Messing up with how scroll works
  19. 2

    Hate is a strong word, more like strongly dislike ;)

    • Autoplay videos
    • Exit intent pop ups (unless with a cool promo)
    • Clickbait
  20. 2

    They're constantly pushing advertising or things they are selling. Popups asking you to join an email list, prompts asking you if you need help in the purchase process, too tall banners at the top or bottom of the screen you can't get rid of.

    1. 1

      Yes. So annoying, so unnecessary. It feels like I'm not in control of my scrolling.

  21. 2

    too much javascript

    1. 1

      What about too much JS do you not like? Is it certain aspects or all JS?

      1. 2

        developers have started using it in places when it i not even needed

        1. 1

          What harm does JS impose? Why should users care about the website's internals, if it works fine?

  22. 2

    Excess animations for sure! The cleanest, the better :)

  23. 1

    God, I hate when a website starts autoplaying a video, you pause it scroll down and it starts again as a popup! No means no!

  24. 1
    • Long, meaningless permalinks
    • Accounts which you can't delete, at least easily (see https://justdeleteme.xyz/)
    • Email notifications which you can't easily opt-out of
    • Wordpress, when the costs outweigh the benefits
  25. 1

    SPA that don't account for back buttons

  26. 1

    15MB of javascript + >10-second loading times.

  27. 1

    I would say all of the above. :)
    That's why I wanted https://midnight.pub to have none of those!

  28. 1

    The annoying Intercom pop ups :).

  29. 1

    The fact that they all look the same

  30. 1
    • poor use of whitespace
    • blatant upsells/subscribe dialogues
    • slow UI dashboards (looking at you gcp)
    • sites going into tablet mode despite being on desktop
    • sidebar clutter. IH and even reddit get this right - scrolling should only navigate through one stream of content. anything on the sides not related to that content stream is a distraction
  31. 1
    • Anything that causes page content to move without interaction
    • pop-up marketing: "allow notifications", "signup for our newsletter", cookie-consent
    • dark patterns: techniques to fool users into unwanted actions
    • distracting animations on articles
    • hover effects on non-clickable elements
  32. 1
    • sensless animations.
    • any unclosable or difficult to find popup
    • complicated layouts
  33. 1

    Newsletter popup
    video background
    audio autoplay
    ... and everything on neilpatel.com

  34. 1
    • One page site
    • Infinite scrolling
    • "Responsive" sites that make it so that when I use my vertical monitor it gives me the mobile version of the website.
    • Also: the "accept cookie" pop-over that stays in a sticky position, preventing you mostly from reading unless you accept their tracking.
    1. 1

      Infinite scrolling! What if I am a completionist and want to see the bottom of the page? Especially on sites that actually have a footer with links. Drives me crazy that they don't stay long enough for me to click them.

      What parts of one page sites do you not like? I don't like the ones that don't properly update the URL or are slow. But if they are fast and properly update the url, I don't really have a problem with them personally.

      1. 3

        Among other things, some of them don't have a top-fixed nav bar, and don't populate the anchor (#) based on "location", so you email or bookmark only to get the landing view!

    2. 1

      zoom out to see the desktop version ;)

      1. 1

        It works, but then graphics are pixelated!!

  35. 1

    Apart from all the technical stuff mentioned (consent pop-ups, newsletter pop-ups, bloated, etc.) I find it to be too commercial. It feels like at every point someone is trying to sell me something.

  36. 1

    These are the stuff I personally don't like in websites in recent times.

    1. GDPR consent: extremely frustrating
    2. Popup the moment I open the site.
    3. Slow loading times
  37. 1

    Endless scrolling...

    Gimme a menu and shorter pages - especially on a phone.

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