A Closer Look at the Most Annoying Web Trends

Written in response to a poll that discussed the most annoying web trends in the July edition of net magazine, this blog will look to provide a designer’s point of view on the different areas.

4% Annoyance Rate
Flat Web Design: Trend or Revolution?

Flat design is often criticised as being a fad, yet it came out bottom in the poll. When Apple released iOS7, its flat design attracted most people, immediately making it one of the top trends for 2014. Now, flat design is everywhere.

While very appealing and effectively simple, if done properly, common complaints users have are huge photos or logos instead of content and wasted space in minimalist designs. As smaller devices are increasingly becoming the norm, images and other design effects can be difficult to scale, whereas flat design elements like colour and typography can easily accommodate smaller screens.

The counter argument seems to be concerned with what users come to understand and interact with on a website. For instance, does a flat button have the same recognition to click when we’ve been trained that buttons on the web should look like they have depth? Could this be a trend that passes? Probably - just like most trends do.

7% Annoyance Rate
iOS 7 Colour Schemes

Many users dislike the iOS7 colour palette, but some of the colour world’s most influential experts like the approach as they fit current design trends towards lightness and harmony. A colour trend is usually formed once designers have analysed the current culture and the feelings around them. They can be influenced by politics or art, but when a company as powerful as Apple start to use a kaleidoscope of colours, it is only a matter of time until thousands of others follow in their footsteps.

Copying big companies is easy, but where’s the space for originality? Where’s the potential for innovation? Fortunately, colour schemes tend to advance naturally, but iOS8 is just around the bend. Hopefully the colour screen from the new OS won’t appear on next year’s poll.

8% Annoyance Rate
Parallax Scrolling

Originally, people were falling over themselves to add parallax scrolling to every new presentation site, but has that trend bubble burst? It gained popularity due to the element of intrigue and altered movement when scrolling can be powerful for the user. Besides that, people tend to appreciate web designers who can pull off a well-designed website, especially one that's not been seen before. If done the proper way, usability will not be an issue and the site will be impressive and informative at the same time.

So, why did it fade? Many of the sites with parallax scrolling don’t work on mobile devices. Due to complex scripts, more plugins and slower connection speeds the user often becomes understandably annoyed. It also backfires if it’s not done properly. Scrolling too much may irritate visitors, making them leave the site before your product or service is revealed.

9% Annoyance Rate
Video Instead Of Text

This design trend has been on the horizon for a while. People often don't have the time these days to scroll through lots of text. With videos now being cheap to produce, easier to share not just on websites but social media as well - companies will now be using them to give people information in a fraction of the time it would take for them to read it. Viewers can also be tracked, so there’s no need to compromise on data.

Some may argue that videos don’t belong on a website home page due to the large amount of data they take to load and run - especially on mobile devices and internet with data caps. Videos can be a useful addition to a website, but only if they are done well.

10% Annoyance Rate
Video Backgrounds

Are we seeing the last days of static website design? Video has been one of the most effective tools for communication since its birth. They can be informative, inspiring and create an atmosphere which is key to getting the message across to the first time visitor. As far as backgrounds go, videos are striking and can capture attention, but they can also be distracting and even be a strain on the eyes.

The performance of the site is key, but to quickly load and play a background video also requires a capable internet connection on the viewers end. If it stalls or takes too long to load, the user will likely have left before any information has been shown. The average viewer won’t wait too long for a page to load, so perhaps having an option to skip or stop the video would be best practice.

11% Annoyance Rate
Horizontal Scroll

Horizontal scrolling can be appealing when you come across a piece of content that moves differently to the standard vertical scroll, but it’s not always obvious and visitors can miss the cue to actually use it. As vertical scroll is so ingrained in us from use of the traditional mouse wheel, it can prove awkward to break that pattern. This is especially true for desktop users. Even with the wide adoption of mobile devices, where touch is used to swipe for content, users on desktop websites find horizontal scrolling unnatural and unnecessary.

It's interesting that we have been trained from the beginning to use a mouse for not much more than moving vertically on a page. With devices increasingly liberating visitors to use many different touches and gestures, perhaps we are beginning to feel our way into other, more horizontal territories. For now though, it remains an annoyance.

14% Annoyance Rate
Carousels

Rather than being clear and concise, a homepage can be a confusing fumble if there are too many prominent messages. Testing from various optimization agencies has shown that users consistently fail to register any of the messages displayed via carousels, but they continue to be used. They are often ignored because they are mistaken for adverts, but the reality is they rarely add real value to a page. Web visitors are unlikely to be looking for the kind of information they would find in a carousel, so they pay them little to no attention

Carousels served a purpose once upon a time, but now we can use a dynamic banner or take a more effective and intimate approach with video. Whenever studies and designers both dislike something, it’s usually worth avoiding.

36% Annoyance Rate
Scroll Hijacking

Creating a captivating experience is impressive and effective when done properly. The trend happening right now is to individually animate specific sections of the long scrolling interaction. Slowing a user’s scroll rate can be exciting but it’s important to be careful using this approach as one oversight can cause the experience to fall apart, resulting in irritation.

Scroll hijacking comes out on top as one of the least favourite things in web design these days. Users can be mistaken for thinking they’ve broken their trackpad and grow tired of the 3+ second delays while trying to explore each section. Concert Hotels produced an extreme example of controlling the scroll rate and it’s clear to see why this would annoy users and designers alike. It locks visitors in until the end of the page and denies any attempt to break out of the automatic scroll.

Undermining users' expectations of how a particular control for a web page works will often result in a negative reaction. If you're overtaking the scroll rate of a page, you're rejecting the visitor’s controls to move through the content of the page in their own time and neglecting user experience.

Another bugbear that’s not on the poll
Automatic Video Play

There are many issues surrounding automatic video plays, even if it didn’t make the cut for this poll. Has anybody ever met somebody who likes videos that play automatically once the page has loaded? It can slow down internet speeds or even crash a browser. It’s certainly annoying to have a film trailer or car advert invade your browsing session. If we want videos to play, we will play them. We don’t need a website to decide whether a video should play for us and which do not. It would be better for everyone involved if this was a user-defined or opt-in preference.

To avoid annoying your designers and visitors, it would seem the running message is simple. If you’re going to commit to a design trend, think it through and do it well.