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6 Anti-Patterns Designers Should Avoid

Every once in a while, I’ll come across a site with an incredibly frustrating UI feature. I’m sure the designers are well-intentioned and had no plans to make me jump up and down and curse, but that’s the effect their work has. Sometimes the design choices are just plain wrong-headed and sometimes they’re the result of overlooked quirks caused by a combination of choices that just don’t work well together.

Frequently, these annoyances can be categorized into anti-patterns — an abstract description of what web designers should not do, lest they risk irritating their users. Irritated users lead to high bounce rates and low conversion rates, so it’s usually something we’d want to avoid.

In this article, I’m going to look at 6 anti-patterns that I find particularly frustrating.

Moving Page Elements

You arrive on a web page and find the link you want to click. You click it, but in the meantime, other page elements have loaded, shifting the link you wanted and putting another element in its place, so you end up navigating to a page other than the intended one.

The culprit is usually late-loading scripts, particularly those that add advertising or social widgets. Sometimes it’s done deliberately, so that a prominent link is pushed out of the way in favor of an ad. Then it’s worse than an anti-pattern – it’s a dark pattern.

Cluttered Homepages

Business sites can look as if they were designed by committee, with each department’s manager insisting that their fiefdom is represented on the homepage. Websites exist to represent the company, but they also have a job to do. Filling a page with excess clutter confuses users and lowers conversion rates. If a page element doesn’t contribute to conversions, ditch it.

Top-Heavy Sites

Contrary to design dogma, web users are perfectly capable of scrolling — they’ve been doing it for years and know how it works. There is no need to cram all of a page’s information “above the fold”. Trust users to scroll.

Confusingly Non-clickable Elements

Convention leads users to expect some elements to always be clickable. One example is a site’s logo. Conventionally, clicking or touching the logo will take the user to the home page. Break those conventions at your peril.
It goes without saying that if text is styled to look like a link, then it should be a link — to do otherwise would be perverse.

Blanking Forms On User Error

Ok, I know I entered my zip code in the wrong format, but did you really have to empty all of the other fields in the address form? Are you trying to punish me for being careless?

Forgetting A User’s Destination

This one drives me nuts. Company A has some awesome content that I’d like to read, and in return they’d like me to create an account. Quid pro quo — I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is them bouncing me back to the homepage after I’ve filled in their form so I have to navigate back to the content I wanted.

If you want me to create an account to access content, have the decency to remember the content I wanted and take me there after I’ve given my details. Otherwise it looks like you just want to harvest my email so you can spam me and couldn’t care less about my experience.

These are the six anti-patterns that get to me, but there are far more than six online irritations that we all have to deal with daily. Which anti-patterns particularly get your goat?

About Rachel Gillevet – Rachel is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and vps hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like them on Facebook and check out more of their articles on their web hosting blog, http://www.wiredtree.com/blog.

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