The Knight Line

What We Hate on the Web

Dan Knight - 2002.05.29

I'm sure every one of us has things we just hate about the Web, whether it's that flashing $115 shopping spree ad, those X10 pop-unders, small white Times text on a busy background, or those "Best Viewed With" badges. So I launched a poll on May 17 and asked you to tell me what you thought of 34 annoying things on the Web.

A total of 735 people participated in our survey, and each question had between 704 and 735 votes. Votes

  1. Don't mind it
  2. Don't like it
  3. Really dislike it
  4. Hate it
  5. Avoid sites with it

We have ranked the sites based on how many don't mind a feature, how many dislike it somewhat (a 2 or 3 vote), how many strongly dislike it (voting 4 or 5), and how many avoid it. We also include the total number of votes cast as well as the number of votes at each level as well as some percentage breakdowns and the occasional comment.

When the "avoid" rating is below 5%, we don't mention it.

Keep in mind that these results are subjective and self-reported. Much as we might like to avoid sites that have certain annoying features, sometimes there's no alternative and we only wish we could avoid them.

What You Mostly Don't Mind

  • Links that are colored but not underlined
    721 votes (368/138/125/76/14). 51.0% don't mind at all, 35.6% dislike it somewhat, and 12.5% strongly dislike it.
  • Sites that ask for financial support
    727 votes (339/159/113/74/42). 46.6% don't mind, 37.4% dislike it somewhat, and 16.0% hate it. 5.8% say they avoid sites that request donations.
  • Display of current date & time - it's redundant
    725 votes (338/161/121/79/26). 46.6% don't mind, 38.9% dislike it somewhat, 14.5% hate it (4 or 5).
  • Sites that look just like Slashdot but aren't
    704 votes (306/148/118/82/50). 43.5% don't mind the clones, 37.8% dislike it somewhat, 18.7% strongly dislike sites that merely clone Slashdot, and 7.1% see it as enough reason to stay away.
  • White text on a black background
    732 votes (308/161/136/85/42). 42.1% don't mind, 40.6% don't like it, and 17.3% strongly dislike it, including 5.7% who who avoid returning (white on black can be especially hard to read on an LCD)

What Bothers Some, Not Others

  • Lack of a search engine
    727 votes (252/246/140/71/18). 34.7% don't care one way or the other, although few would avoid returning to a site without a search engine. 53.1% dislike the absence of a site search, and 12.2% strongly dislike it.
  • Links that are underlined but not colored
    730 votes (244/232/150/87/17). 33.4% don't mind, 52.3% dislike it somewhat, and 14.3% strongly dislike it.

What You Don't Care For

  • Articles with unidentified authors
    729 votes (164/245/173/111/36). 22.5% don't care, 57.3% dislike it somewhat, and 20.2% hate it when a site doesn't identify its writers.
  • No way to email webmaster or author
    724 votes (161/223/150/149/41). 22.2% don't mind, 51.5% dislike it somewhat, and 26.2% strongly dislike not being able to email the author or webmaster, and 5.7% avoid such sites.
  • Articles without titles
    727 votes (111/240/201/140/35). 15.3% don't mind, 60.7% dislike it somewhat, and 24.1% dislike it strongly
  • Pages that don't print out decently
    728 votes (130/204/198/163/33). 17.9% don't mind, 55.2% dislike it somewhat, and 26.9% strongly dislike it.
  • Email links lead only to webmail; won't use your email client
    720 votes (161/175/155/155/74). 22.4% don't mind, 45.8% dislike it somewhat, and 31.8% dislike it strongly. 10.3% say they avoid returning.
  • Sites "best viewed" at a specific window size
    729 votes (142/147/152/185/103). 19.5% don't mind, 41.0% dislike it somewhat, and 39.5% strongly dislike it. 14.1% say they avoid returning to such sites.
  • Sites that require Flash
    726 votes (190/98/141/146/151). 26.2% don't mind a site requiring Flash, 32.9% dislike it somewhat, 40.9% strongly dislike it, and 20.8% avoid returning.
  • Text that can't be resized
    726 votes (123/144/169/186/104). 16.9% don't mind, 43.1% don't like it, 39.9% strongly dislike it, and 14.3% avoid returning
  • Use of Acrobat PDF files when HTML would do
    729 votes (109/146/169/202/103). 14.9% don't mind PDF. 43.2% dislike it slightly and 41.8% strongly dislike it. 14.1% avoid returning.
  • Single articles that appear on page after page after page
    721 votes (82/155/172/221/91). 11.4% don't mind, 45.3% dislike it somewhat, 43.3% strongly dislike it, and 12.6% avoid returning
  • Pages that don't scale to fit my browser window
    731 votes (76/152/190/233/80). 10.4% don't mind, 46.8% don't care for it, and 42.8% strongly dislike it. 10.9% avoid returning.
  • Text too small to read easily
    733 votes (51/197/192/177/116). 7.0% don't mind, 53.1% don't like it much, 40.0% strongly dislike it, and 15.8% avoid returning
  • Frames that make it impossible to bookmark a page
    727 votes (78/159/154/241/95). 10.7% don't mind, 43.0% don't like it much, and 46.2% strongly dislike it, including 13.1% who avoid returning
  • Sites "best viewed" with a specific browser
    727 votes (108/133/145/213/128). 14.9% don't mind, 38.2% dislike being told what browser they should use to visit a site, 46.9% strongly dislike it, and 17.6% avoid returning.
  • No navigation system or a poor one
    729 votes (24/162/251/206/86). 3.3% aren't bothered by hard-to-navigate sites, 56.6% dislike it somewhat, and 40.0% strongly dislike it. 11.8% avoid returning.
  • Sites that require free user registration
    732 votes (100/144/145/169/174). 13.7% don't mind registering to use a site, 39.5% don't really care for it, and 46.9% strongly dislike it. 23.8% avoid returning.
  • Blinking or flashing banner ads
    735 votes (67/140/178/247/103). The only item to receive votes from every participant. 9.1% don't mind, 43.3% don't care for it, 47.6% really dislike it, and 14.0% avoid returning
  • Bad spelling, poor punctuation, misCapitaLization, etc.
    731 votes (50/159/187/218/117). Your English teacher would be proud - almost everyone is annoyed by these. Only 6.8% don't mind; 93.2% do. 45.7% strongly dislike it, and 16.0% avoid returning to poorly edited sites.

What You Really Hate

  • Text that's hard to read: bad fonts, busy backgrounds, etc.
    730 votes (12/110/200/230/181). Only 1.6% don't mind, 42.3% dislike it somewhat, 56.1% strongly dislike it, and 24.7% avoid returning
  • Pages that take too long to load
    730 votes (31/97/171/234/197). 4.2% don't mind, 36.7% mind somewhat, 59.0% strongly dislike it, and 27.0% avoid returning.
  • So many ads that you have to scroll down for any real content
    730 votes (20/75/147/236/252). 2.7% don't mind it, 97.3% do. 30.4% dislike it somewhat, and 66.8% strongly dislike it. 34.5% say they avoid returning to such sites.
  • Sites that require a paid subscription
    726 votes (56/86/86/81/417). 7.7% don't mind, 92.3% do. 23.7% dislike it somewhat, 68.6% dislike is strongly, and a whopping 57.4% say they don't want to go back to a site that requires a paid subscription.
  • Ads for online gambling
    733 votes (71/60/92/225/285). 9.7% don't mind, 90.3% do. 20.7% dislike it somewhat, while 69.6% strongly dislike it, and 38.9% avoid returning.
  • Sites that automatically play music
    728 votes (32/68/110/213/285). 4.4% don't mind, 95.6% do. 24.4% dislike it somewhat, 71.1% dislike it strongly, and 41.9% avoid returning.
  • Ads for online porn
    730 votes (58/63/81/164/364). 7.9% don't mind, 92.1% do. 19.7% dislike them somewhat, 72.3% strongly dislike them, and 49.9% avoid returning.
  • Pop-up or pop-under ads
    734 votes (10/30/86/355/253). Just 1.4% don't mind, 98.6% do. 82.8% strongly dislike them, and 34.5% avoid returning.
  • Pop-up/under ads that appear when you leave a site/page
    734 votes (6/15/46/306/361). Only 0.8% don't mind pop-after ads, 99.2% do. 90.9% strongly dislike popups, and 49.2% say they avoid returning.

The most hated things - at least one in three people surveyed say they will avoid sites with these.

  • 57.4% will avoid sites that require a paid subscription
  • 49.9% will avoid sites with ads for porn
  • 49.2% will avoid sites that pop up ads when you leave
  • 41.9% will avoid sites that automatically play music
  • 38.9% will avoid sites with ads for online gambling
  • 34.5% will avoid sites with so many ads that they have to scroll for content
  • 34.5% will avoid sites with pop-up or pop-under ads

Now every webmaster can know how to drive visitors away. For more thoughts on the survey findings, see Toward a Less Annoying Web.LEPC

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