User experience (UX) has come a long way in the past decade. Websites and apps have become slicker and better designed, multimedia now sits comfortably and seamlessly into pages, and mobile has developed from a medium well and truly in its infancy to the primary way users access content. Anyone can create well-organized, slick sites with tools like Squarespace and Wix on relatively modest budgets, and there is now very little excuse for websites or apps that look dated or don't flow as users have come to expect.
Having said that, there are still a number of common UX and UI elements that should be long gone by now, many of which are used by even the most digitally proficient companies and publishers. They are design elements that we are accustomed to seeing, but the world of web pages and apps would be infinitely better off without them. With that in mind, we took a look at some of the most irritating UX features that should been phased out long ago.
Few things are more annoying than landing on a web page or an app only to have a full-screen advert immediately interrupting your experience. Worse still is reading or watching some content for a period of time before a pop up appears and completely blocks the session. If ads are a detriment to the user experience generally, then ads that completely interrupt a user's navigation of the site or app is disastrous.
Yes, these ads are a sure-fire way to get a brand right into the eye-line of a user, but this does not guarantee engagement any more than a marketing email does. 'Banner blindness' extends to pop up ads, and users have become desensitized to invasive marketing efforts, approaching closing them as just another step in the process of consuming the content. They are even more of an annoyance on mobile, particularly for users with wider fingers, and it's about time advertising moved on to more user-friendly approaches like native.
Any web user will be familiar with advertisements that range from implausible to downright ridiculous. Often hidden among genuine links to other content, these 'promoted links' will sit at the bottom or to the side of pieces of content, and will contain clickbait so excessive that almost anyone can immediately see through them. Some will promise 'miracle diet techniques that personal trainers don't want you to see', some will 'reveal how to earn $375/hr from home!', and 'you won't believe the outcome' of some others.
It's difficult to imagine many people actually being duped by the fantastical ads, yet they appear on the websites of almost any major publisher without a paywall. These kind of promoted links are a symptom of a difficult digital publishing landscape, and they clearly offer enough revenue to counteract the indignity of having them as a feature on a publisher's pages. As long as digital publishing struggles to monetize effectively, they will be a necessary evil in the effort to keep publishers open, but they shouldn't be seen as an additional revenue source for already profitable brands. Some are far worse than others, but generally they're ugly and they offer no real value at all to users. Advertising alongside content is necessary and wholly forgivable, acting like your visitors are gullible enough to click on fantastical clickbait is not.
Calamitous back buttons
Due to the complexity of modern webpages, there is often a disconnect between what was actually the last page and what the user perceived to be the last page - elements like overlays, lightboxes, accordions, form submits, pagination, etc, can make page changes less clear. Even so, the back button is so ingrained into the way people interact with digital products that both novice and expert users will use it extensively when on a browser. It's important, then, that UX designers ensure that using the back button doesn't ruin an experience or have users bumped back to a place they perceived to be multiple stages earlier in their journey.
Banks are particularly bad at this. Of course, security of information is paramount and banks are careful to avoid mistakes like duplicate payments, but to completely end users' sessions when they use the most basic of browser features if unnecessarily irritating. Ideally, if a site's UX is fluid enough, users wouldn't have to use the external back button at all. For instances in which they have made a mistake on the previous page, though, or simply missed a piece of information, it should not destroy the process to simply return to the previous page.
One quite common technique publishers will use to put more ads in front of audiences is to break articles up into multiple pages. Having users break up their visits across multiple pages looks good for the site's visitors and impressions, which in turn aids their bargaining position with advertisers. Most arguments regarding broken up pieces being easier to digest are bogus - they're another symptom of a digital publishing landscape driven by advertising.
The worst instances of this are sites that will have something that resembles a slideshow, which triggers a reloading of the page every time the user clicks on the button to view the next slide or section. The experience of reading the content becomes so disjointed and interrupted by load times that it becomes redundant. This is the worst end of the spectrum, but even huge publishers like Forbes regularly break up their articles across two or three pages.
Ultimately, user experience should be rigorously tested by the kinds of people that will actually be using the end product, rather than tech-enthusiast developers or those too concerned with advertising revenue. Of course, ads are an important part of digital publishing and even app development in their current form, but there is a balance to be struck between revenue and usability or credibility. It's time we waved goodbye to these design elements and made webpages and apps more user-friendly places.