Webtips: Gauging The Annoyance Factor

    March 26, 2007

It should go without saying that functionality issues that hamper usability are a major stumbling block for users, and will discourage them from coming back to the site in the future. The big things are easier to catch, of course, but it might be the small things in the long run – the annoying little bugs – that drive users away as well.

I’m sure you’ve all experienced the annoyance factor before. You find an online antique store that has vintage rocking chair you’ve been after for so long, and in your dizzy elation, you choose “Kansas” instead of “Kentucky” from the drop down list of states when entering your shipping address.

Some of your better online retailers would recognize this kind of error immediately by checking the state against the zip code, and wouldn’t allow you to continue with your order until you corrected it. Others, however, aren’t as quick on the draw. Consequently, said rocking chair makes its way to Jayhawk country rather than your living room.

Because of the debacle, that store has now lost all hope of your future business.

Okay, so that might be an extreme example. The truth, however, isn’t as far away as you might think, at least according to Jakob Nielsen. In his post on user annoyance, Nielsen weighs the risks that are associated with letting small annoyances like these pile up across the breadth of the user experience:

Even if no single annoyance stops users in their tracks or makes them leave the site, the combined negative impact of the annoyances will make users feel less satisfied. Next time they have business to conduct, users are more likely to go to other sites that make them feel better.

So while it’s important to make sure all the links work, the forms are functioning, and all the bells and whistles are functioning properly, webmasters should take careful consideration of the user experience as a whole as well.

In short, don’t annoy your users; it will be much more beneficial in the long run for everyone involved.