Three rules for not annoying your website visitors
Many websites have elements that we consider to be bad for the user experience and we'll be discussing a few of the most common ones in this article.
User experience (UX) is not exactly the same as user interface (UI), though there is a lot of overlap. While developing our products, we focus more on UX, so things like how many steps a workflow has, whether or not asynchrously loading elements will cause text and buttons to jump down the screen, and ensuring that an attention-grabbing notification banner will either auto-close or allow the user to remove it or both.
When developing a new website, we apply a set of rules to help ensure that its users will have a good experience. Here are a few of those rules:
Be conscious of limited vertical screen real estate
A significant portion of your website visitors will be on their phone or tablet and there are many different screen resolutions in the mobile space. Website owners know this and most make their content responsive based on the width of the viewport, but they forget to take in consideration the limited vertical screen real estate. A sticky header can be useful, but if it doesn't shrink to a minimal height on a mobile device, then it can become a nuisance. Add in a sticky footer and maybe an advertisement and some mobile users may be left trying to view your content with 40%, or less, of their screen.
Below is one of the most egregious examples that we've seen on our internet travels.
No newsletter subscription request popups
Most users that sign up for your newsletter are going to do so because they enjoyed your content or are interested in keeping up-to-date on a product or service that you are working on developing. Too many sites are using popups to ask for a subscription before the user has had a chance to read the content or learn about the upcoming product. In our opinion, newsletter signup forms should be at the end of content or to the side and out of the way. If the user wants to signup you won't need to pester them about it; just make it easy for them.
Never auto-play video and audio content
Many news sites are including a video with their articles, or in some of the most egregious examples making the video the entire article, and then auto-play those videos as soon as they are loaded. Some of them will at least mute the video at first, though if a user is interested in the video, they'll have to rewind it after unmuting it.
There are of course exceptions to this rule, YouTube for instance. When the primary content of a site is videos, then users will expect them to auto-play; however, you still need to think about your page context. For example, at the time of writing, Twitch auto-plays a random stream when visiting the home screen and it is unmuted. There are few things as annoying as getting blasted with dubious quality techno music when you are just trying to pick the streamer you want to watch from your following list.