5 Ways You Might Be Driving Your Readers Crazy (Without Realizing It!)

DriveYourReadersCrazy

You may be guilty of driving your readers crazy without even realizing it.

And unless you’ve got thousands of “spare readers” just waiting to fill in the spots by the ones you’re driving away, (I sure don’t!  I want every reader who lands here to stick around.) you might want to run down this quick checklist to be sure you’re not accidentally making them so crazy they go elsewhere.

1.  Design Like a Visual Assault

Taste is an individual thing.  But some design rules exist for very good reasons.

Just because you love a black background and neon green text does not make that the right color choice.  It’s your website… but please, design it with your reader in mind.  Simple is good.  Less is more.

Be careful with things that blink, move, or otherwise distract.

Include lots of white space in your layout.

Don’t use 1,000 different fonts and colors.

Shoot for a peaceful, easy to read page unless you are very, very sure of what you’re doing and how your target readers will react to it.

2. ContentContentContentContentContent

Wasn’t that lovely to read?  Yeah… eyes don’t like it when content is all squished together!

Watch how popular blogs, news sites, magazines, and other content-heavy websites format their content.  They use:

  • short paragraphs
  • bulleted lists
  • numbered lists
  • images
  • bold and italics
  • subheads

Please model their style.  It will make your content easier to read, understand, and take action on.

3. Crop Circles = Interesting; Browsing in Circles = Not Interesting

Imagine landing in a brand new city you’ve never been to, and walking around town in circles trying to find simple things like water, coffee, or a bathroom because there are no signs anywhere and no one’s offered you a map.

For many of your readers, it may be a first visit to the land of your blog.  Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.  Use categories to logically organize your posts.  Include clear links to get in touch, return to your home page, etc.

4. Let’s Play Comment Roulette

When people want to engage with you and share their thoughts, this is not the time to make them play comment roulette where, if they try enough times, eventually they might successfully get a comment onto your blog.

Don’t force them to create an account, login, figure out a captcha, etc.  You’ll lose a lot of commenters if you insist on keeping those features.  Just deal with the spam, okay?  Try something like GASP (it’s built into CommentLuv Premium).

If you absolutely must require login then consider a system such as Disqus or IntenseDebate that allows one login for thousands of sites, or a plugin like Social that allows users to login with their accounts at Facebook or Twitter.

Also, be sure that your comment box is easy to find!

5. No, You May Not Share

This is one of my biggest pet peeves with websites and blogs, personally.  I love to share content I find that’s helpful or interesting.  But I want easy to click buttons that let me do it.

Here I’m using currently using SexyBookmarks (the icons at the bottom of this post) and GetSocial (it’s the floating bar on the left, like Digg Digg or Sharebar).

Please, choose one and install it.  If you don’t have many shares happening yet you can turn off the number counters in most plugins.  Don’t let that stop you from making it easy for your readers to share.

What drives YOU (as a reader) crazy on blogs or websites?

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Michelle,

    Having to login drives me crazy. Those optin links that are in your face and force you to click out of them before you can read the screen. I find that really annoying.

    • says

      Opt-ins should be used carefully because they can be annoying. It’s interesting though, studies have shown we put our info into them, and they don’t negatively affect traffic–even though most people dislike them. I find that interesting and I think one of the keys is that whatever you use it for should be extremely well targeted to your readers and it shouldn’t keep popping up like a whack-a-mole game you can’t win. ;)

  2. Alyssa says

    My biggest one is having to login to comment especially when it wants me to login to WordPress.com. Why??? I never get that so I end up NOT being able to comment.

    • says

      That drives me crazy, too. The only time I’ll jump through that hoop is when I’m commenting on a blog for the challenge, but even then it’s a toss up as to whether I will… And it’s so simple to turn that off and not drive our readers bonkers. ;)

      • says

        And that’s exactly what we’ve got to always keep in mind as blog owners — our readers matter more than deleting a few spam comments and we WANT them to stick around and share their thoughts!

        • says

          I hate captcha, there are so many other anti spam plug ins you can use! I use the free version of CommentLuv – I have been thinking of upgrading to the premium version!

          • says

            That’s my perspective exactly, Diane. If we’ve got choices we should go for the *least* annoying to our readers.

            And I’m a huge fan of CommentLuv premium. Such great features!

  3. Denys Kelley says

    You are right on with your suggestions. As I have been doing the blog challenge, it is so nice to leave comments when it’s easy. I’ll be installing comment luv.
    I’ll need to bookmark this post to come back and make sure I’m doing anything crazy.

    • says

      Yep. I love when I can just put in my info, add my thoughts, and click the comment button! So simple. I’m much more likely to not only comment, but to come back and comment again in the future.

  4. says

    I try very hard to remember short paragraphs, but I DO tend to ramble at times. The editing process for me is really difficult. *sigh*

    When I go to a site, I really hate seeing long paragraphs in posts that go on forever. I leave sites with great walls of text and long paragraphs before I even get past the first sentence.

    And I do not return to blogs that make it difficult to comment. Why even bother having comments open if you have to jump through five minutes’ worth of hoops just to post one line of text?

    • says

      Editing took me a while to learn, Angie. :) I still struggle with it on any posts that are more personal/emotional vs. instructional.

      Totally agree on text walls and hoops for commenting!

  5. says

    What drives me crazy is a website that has music or is very busy as I close them out. I with you about the colors as some sites are so hard to read and I won’t waste my time on them either. Great post!

    • says

      Oh, very true. I have my notebook muted 99% of the time when I’m surfing and only unmute when I’m intentionally listening to something–partially because when I’m working, it stuns me if really loud music suddenly starts playing. I know a lot of people have their own music playing while they surf/work, too, so best not to compete with that. If people must have background music, a “click here too play my awesome music” button would be a good option I think.

  6. says

    I don’t like blog posts that are broken up with Adsense (and similar) ads in the middle of the blog copy. It’s an unwelcome interruption while you’re reading, and it feels to me like monetization is more important to the site owner than a comfortable experience for the reader/site visitor.

    • says

      Hmm… now that you mention that, I do tend not to browse multiple pages on sites that do that with adsense. It does feel like an interruption and the reader isn’t the priority. I have to wonder how much money sites like that make from adsense. There have got to be smarter, and more lucrative monetization strategies. :)

  7. says

    I have to agree with both Alyssa and Madonna. Having to log in to leave a comment is frustrating. WP.Com is notorious for that but I don’t always have to do it, so I am wondering if that is an option the blog owner can turn on or off?

    Websites that have not been updated since … well lets just say you know they have not been updated in at least 7 years or so. I can’t do the zen or oscomm shopping cart sites. Also a HUGE turn off for me.

    Let’s see … OH my favorite. Sites/shopping carts that still have all the keywords visible in the footer of each page! Worse … they were told by their “fabulous” web designer that it was the best thing to do. >_< Yeah, wonder how well they are doing with google now! ooops ..

    I can't stand the cursor trails either … UGH. and I really am not a fan of the animated bubbles, snowflakes, confettie, etc that slowly flows down the web pages. For some, this crashes people's browsers, for others it slows the connection and for others (like me) it's just annoying …

    OMG I could go on forever, but I will stop there! LOL thanks for giving up the space to share! :D

    • says

      I believe it’s an option but I haven’t looked recently since I’m a big fan of self-hosted and don’t work with the wp.com version.

      Yup, important to keep our websites up to date!

      Totally laughing on the SEO/keywords. I have to admit I felt pretty vindicated when the last major changes at Google didn’t affect my traffic. I’ve taken a much different approach with SEO and had quite a few people tell me I was wrong. Turns out, long term, I wasn’t so crazy. ;)

      I haven’t seen cursor trails in forever!! That’s like < blink >! ha ha

  8. Malika Bourne says

    I love to geive my twoo cents worth. As you wrote about making peoplejoin in order to comment I may or may not.. My time is valuable. I don’t have time to play games. Besides I amput off if I am not good enoughto be in an elite group.
    Please forgive my typos. Larger prints helps me to be able to actually see if I reversed letters or just messesd up. Most of the time wordslook the same to me. Larger print,please. some of us can relevant things to say, but can not always read what the writer wrote.

  9. says

    I am so with you on the black background with bright green text! I love, love CommentLuv Premium it and Gravity Forms are my two favorite premium plugins.

    One thing I love about the world of blogging is not one single person knows everything! You learn so much from other bloggers, and can improve on it all the time.

    • says

      I adore CommentLuv Premium. I think they’ve got quite the fan club. ;)

      Yep — one of my favorite things about writing posts like this one is that so much more comes out in the comments that’s thought-provoking and makes me consider more elements of my own blog and design that can be improved. Always something more to learn!

  10. says

    First, a late Happy New Year to you Michelle.

    Very nice post with good reminders of what to keep in mind when writing and posting. Esp the part of not just squishing the text together but putting images in, bullets etc.

    Too many opt-ins popping up that you have to click on to get to go away can be annoying. It can be efficient when used once.

    And a few places I still see that people don’t have share or comment options; that’s a bit disappointing if you come to a place where the content is great and you want to show your appreciation.

  11. says

    A big thank you Michelle for all the information coming out of the blog challenge. I suppose we all learn through experience. I have only been blogging for about ten months so still many stepping stones to stumble over.
    Dawn Alice

  12. says

    Remember that TV commercial that had an angry bird singing, “I’ve got 6 seconds to say . . . ” and then went on to sing in a very loud, obnoxious voice, “Buy Kraft …” I feel that way about blogs/web sites that do not follow your very helpful advice! Pages that are too cluttered or too long, missing navigation, and, perhaps worst for me, no place to comment at all or the link to comments is so subtle that I cannot find it! Some suggest fewer images because people with lower band width cannot quickly load your pages, but I’m so in love with the visual image, I use photos often anyway. But another issue may be about content that focuses too much on the writer, with little outreach to the reader. I struggle with that. What do you think?

    • says

      I’d be curious what current stats are on internet connections, by geographic areas. I think smart optimization of images is important (I use the smush.it plugin here to reduce image size of any I upload so they load quickly).

      Learning to write for readers is a change if we’re used to writing in journals or as more of a personal exercise. It’s a bit of an art to bring readers into our world and be able to share that well. I’m still learning as well.

  13. twitter_MelanieKissell says

    I’m all in favor of linking to helpful resources, previous posts, or addendum articles, etc., within a post, Michelle. However, it drives me CRAZY when bloggers include a truck load of links in their posts!! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have all day to spend checking all that stuff out. In all fairness, it may be really cool stuff I’d love to soak in but I don’t appreciate being “enticed” to head off into a dozen different directions from one single post. Not my cup of tea.

  14. says

    No. 4—making people jump through hoops in order to comment—is a special pet peeve of mine. And even Disqus seems to make me log in again every time I use it. I have friends whose blogs use Disqus, and if they weren’t friends, I wouldn’t bother to comment!

    • says

      With Disqus you can set it to require login or not. I did temporarily test it out here, with required login turned off so people could still comment without it, but my comments went down and several of my regular commenters emailed me to let me know they couldn’t make comments — not good! I like the idea behind it, but it didn’t work well for me.

  15. says

    #4 and #5 are my biggest pet peeves. WordPress (the non self hosted one) makes it difficult to comment unless you use your Twitter log in but then you don’t see replies. I do not like when folks have share buttons but do not set them up properly so they don’t know who is sharing what. Excellent points Michelle! Keeping it simple is best.

    • says

      Oooooh great addition, Lisa! It drives me crazy when I have to go searching for someone’s twitter ID so I can add it to a tweet–especially when it’s not easy to find. That’s an important setting since knowing who is tweeting your content is super helpful in knowing who your “super fans” are so to speak and being able to better target your content and readers. :)

  16. says

    This is a great post Michelle, to help keep us focused on what others want to hear rather than what we want to say! I believe less is more as we lose their attention very quickly.
    Also, I am going to be initiating video blog posts because I believe they will boost my SEO and intrigue my readers more. thank you again!

    • says

      Focus on our readers is so important. And yes, their attention is fickle!

      I’ve had great results from doing video as far as getting additional traffic and opt-ins from YouTube. :) I’d definitely recommend it (and need to get busy doing more of my own!).

  17. says

    Michelle, I saw several stats last year that suggested having share buttons at the top and bottom of your post gets more action. I had only placed them at the bottom for years, but included above the post about six months ago and am getting a few more shares, especially on Pinterest.

    Do you think your floating one helps you get more shares? (I’m viewing your site on iPad and the floating share bar does not cover up your content on your mobile-friendly theme, as it does on so many sites that have a mobile-optimized or fully responsive theme.)

    • says

      I don’t think, I know. ;) I’ve tested multiple setups and plugins for the social sharing and the floating side bar beat out top sharing buttons, which beat out only bottom sharing. So for my particular blog/audience, the floating definitely works.

      For Pinterest, the best thing I’ve found is the plugin I’m currently using that adds the “pin this” overlay to my images.

      I tested out three options for my floating side bar and this particular one was the only one I found that played nicely in Firefox, IE and Chrome, and with mobile.

  18. says

    Hi Michelle,
    This is a really good topic. The thing that drives me away from a site and ensures that I’ll never return again (if I remember) is that pop-up that asks me if I’m sure I want to leave or is telling me I’m leaving or begs me not to leave. Once is okay I suppose, but when it happens twice, I’m outta there for good. That’s what bugs me.

    You make a lot of good points here too. I’m learning, and every time I see one of your posts I’m reading it! There are always some good reminders in them. Happy New Years and thanks!

    • says

      Thanks Rich, Happy New Year to you, too!

      Oh those are crazy aren’t they? I think what gets me about them is I click to leave the $50 offer, and then get a pop up with an offer for it for $40 and click no to that and get an pop up with an offer for it for $30… and I’m thinking, if you were willing to sell it to me for $30 just because I clicked away I’d have been a little cranky if I’d paid $50 and then noticed that… I’ve got nothing against great deals or sales, but that one kind of gets to me. I’d rather see maybe one pop up exit offer that gives me a different option instead of the same offer at a lower price.

  19. says

    The things that drive me to leave a blog are:

    1. Long posts with very few breaks and no subtitles; I like to be able to skim a post and delve deeper in sections that interest me.

    2. Pop ups for advertising. I was so excited to read this article about possible tax deductions for dog lovers and as I was reading a pop up for a commercial started and I couldn’t close or minimize it. I was stunned that the site would allow such a distraction.

    3. Captcha that I can’t read.

    4. Being required to sign in to leave a comment.

    • says

      Those commercials that start if your mouse touches them make me crazy… I close windows when those start because I accidentally moused over them.

      I think a lot of bloggers aren’t familiar with the idea of dual readership paths that need to be included in their posts. It’s more a copywriting/sales page thing, but the concept is so very applicable to our blogs!

      Great points, Kimberly.

  20. says

    I’m with you Michelle on:

    Black backgrounds with white (or some other light colored type) are SO difficult to read. Studies have been done about it so I know it’s not just for my tired eyes. A headline or subhead in reverse type (what this phenomenon is called) is fine, but not the whole blog post. Please.

    Don’t cram all that info into long paragraphs without spacing. Make it easy on the readers eyes with short paragraphs, lots of white space and/or bullet points.

    And, please make it easy to comment. There are many times I try to comment on someone’s blog and it asks me to register or it won’t take my password, etc. So, I leave without commenting. If it’s someone in the UBC, I let them know in the Facebook group.

    Thanks. ~Debra

    • says

      Exactly. I’m all for personality, but it’s worth listening to the numbers. ;)

      I appreciate that you’re letting people in UBC know, Debra. We’ve got a lot of newer bloggers who aren’t very familiar with their software and don’t realize they’ve got to consider some changes. So it’s helpful to be sure they’re aware. :)

      • says

        I once messaged someone privately about their dark background and light type. They replied that their audience liked that style.

        I hope some of the newbies do consider a shift to CommentLuv, it seems to work seamlessly and it’s nice to share others posts – especially for those participating in UBC.

        Thanks my friend.
        ~Debra

  21. says

    The commenting is a big one for me – don’t make me log in anything and no I won’t comment with Facebook either!
    All the others I agree with too – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Keep things simple :)

  22. says

    Music. Use of captcha (especially because it is hard for a near-senior to see.) Color or font use that makes posts hard to see. In your face opt-ins. Asking me to log into WordPress. All of these have been mentioned above. Also, one more – blogs that aren’t optimized for smartphone use. I wasn’t sensitive to this until I got an iPhone – nothing is worse than a teeny blog that isn’t formatted for mobile use.

    • says

      It’s interesting how just a short list of changes can have such a huge impact on making 99% of our readers happier, isn’t it? :)

      Mobile formatting is important–and with plugins like WPTouch and Mobile Pack, there are simple options for making it work.

  23. says

    I really appreciate the info. I’m trying to build my own WP self-hosted site and need all the help I can get. Of course, my biggest issue right now is that my host keeps going down…

  24. says

    Your #4 is my pet peeve: I hate it when I take the time to write out a comment on someone’s blog and then am unable to save and submit it because I have to login to some account or create an account if I don’t have one. So frustrating!

    But your #5 is one that I’m guilty of so I’m commiting to getting the social share buttons on my blog this week!

  25. says

    another great post, Michelle. I agree, comments need to be easy. Another one is when I need to fill in a contact form and the site asks me for my phone number, address, job title and my pet’s name ;-) Drives me mad… If you want me to contact you, just ask for a name and e-mail, the rest can be dealt with later…

    • says

      Thanks, Sarah.

      Oh, that’s a crazy one, isn’t it? Personally if phone number is required 99% of the time I won’t fill out the form. I’m not willing to give that out just to be int ouch with someone.

  26. says

    OMG It’s a put off when you have to deal with captchas, especially when you’re on someone’s site that you really want to promote and that floating thing a ma jig that follows you and interferes with commenting and posting. YIKES!!! And let’s not forget the site that will not allow you to copy your own comment. It gets worse; you can’t backspace to delete your mistakes. Then I tried highlighting to delete, that wasn’t allowed either. Who does that? OK, I’ve vented. Thanks for the opportunity. Now I’m off to help my client.

    • says

      It sure is. Oh, I’ve been on sites that wouldn’t let me edit my comment — that drives me CRAZY! I’ve found that in some browsers it works and others it doesn’t. Just a reminder of how important it is to test our websites in multiple browsers and make sure everyone is able to navigate and comment.

  27. says

    Thanks for writing this post. I have to admit I read it with an eye toward making sure my site doesn’t drive people nuts. Ironically, you mentioned using Disquss, and I have to say that’s one of my number one pieves with some websites. It’s an accessibility nightmare when it comes to browsing the web using a screenreader. If a site’s using Disquss, I usually end up having to email the author with my comment directly, because nine times out of ten my browser or screenreader crashes when Disquss gets involved.

    • says

      I heard similar comments from some of my readers when I tested it out, Amanda. I wanted to like it, and I liked it in theory, but it just had some weird issues for enough of my readers that I wasn’t willing to stick with it. Thank you for sharing your experience. Accessibility is important for us to keep in mind.

  28. says

    So true a number of the things you’ve mentioned. I absolutely hate to login or otherwise create some kind of an account when I go to leave a comment. Sure-fire way to get me to move off your website. I just don’t want to be bothered when I go to leave a comment. Great article letting people know. We need it for sure.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Barbara

    • says

      And that’s the thing so many bloggers miss–that their readers just don’t want to create another account, or even be forced to login. If we can remove that barrier, we get a lot more comments. ;)

  29. says

    Michelle,

    I know I keep asking questions about these images you’re making, but I simply love them. DId you use Pixlr or something else to make this one? I’m just not getting the hang of these.

    Also what plug in is it that says – If you’re a human, please check this box?

    • says

      The plugin is CommentLuv Premium. It’s a feature of GASP (growmap anti-spam bot plugin) which is part of CL. :) I’ve found it works MUCH better than Akismet for me and there’s no monthly fee like Akismet has for business blogs.

      Sometimes I do them in Pixlr, sometimes I do them in Photoshop, depending on which computer I’m working from and what mood I’m in. :)

  30. says

    Right now my blog is hosted free on WordPress so I don’t have to worry about crazy graphics and ads. But I do need to check my spacing and edit better because I can ramble in my writing and since I’m still a newbie I have a lot to learn. I do constantly go back to edit and try to properly categorize my posts, which can seem difficult since I don’t have a fully single purpose blog yet. Thanks for all your great advice.

    • says

      Blogging can be a journey and I think it’s sort of a living thing that evolves as changes as we go. :) My categories have changed a lot since I started (as has my ability to edit better!). Thanks for commenting, Kaye.

  31. Lee says

    To me the main thing I try to do is to keep things simple. Basically because that is the way I like it when I am on someone else’s site. When it comes to user friendly simplicity is definatly king. Sometimes you feel people don’t want you to comment or they come across as they think they are ona higher plain than you and that just makes you feel like saying stuff you.

    Great post lee

  32. says

    Awesome post Michelle, I especially agree with your points regarding making it easy for people to comment. I refuse to jump through hoops to add my 5c worth. I also agree that bloggers must make it easy for readers to share content. That is the lifeblood of quality traffic in my opinion.

  33. says

    @MichelleShaeffr, okay. I’m going to change any blogs I have running, any current blogs I’m building, and any future blogs I may be building so they conform to the criteria you’ve set out in your article. Right my most active blog is suspended until I can resume payments. All my blogs are new, but I like them and I like WordPress. It is true that I too am somewhat bothered by having to sign up with yet another user name and a password, even if I might decide to use the same one over and over. I’m not that big a blogger, yet. Signing in with facebook on a blog I’m building was painless as far as I’m concerned.

    Thanks for writing an honest article.
    chris

  34. says

    Ii absolutely hate hunting for the comment section. Especially the ones that are just a little bubble in the top corner that says nothing but has a number in it. Took me a while to figure that out and I passed on posting in several blogs till I figured that out.

  35. says

    Yr site is great and I love everything you write! Only thing that I can think of is having to scroll down a million comments before I can get a chance to comment.. I didn’t realize that until I decided to comment on the headlines post. But I love the “recently posted” option, the tweet/like/+1 & “if you make 3 comments on this site..” to have more options to choose from!! Love it! How do you do that???

    xoxo

    • says

      You’re totally right, that’s something I’ve been meaning to find a way to modify in my theme. I’ll move it closer to the top of my “to do” list. :)

      And that feature is in the CommentLuv Premium plugin. One of my favorite plugins!

  36. says

    Ok so this answered my q. From the comments above:
    “January 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm
    The plugin is CommentLuv Premium. It’s a feature of GASP (growmap anti-spam bot plugin) which is part of CL. :) I’ve found it works MUCH better than Akismet for me and there’s no monthly fee like Akismet has for business blogs.”

    Thx Michelle
    xoxo

  37. says

    I enjoyed reading your post and think that I’m okay in regards to the points that you’ve mentioned here. At least, I hope that I am.

    The things that drive me crazy, and I’m running into more and more lately, are:

    1. Captcha that has to be deciphered before I can comment. My vision is going and these things are very hard to see and figure out for me. Some have the option of hearing the Captcha, but my hearing isn’t good either. It is very frustrating.

    2. Not being able to find the comment section. I’ve been on several blogs lately that have no comment area, nor any obvious way to get to one. They are usually at the bottom of posts, but not on these blogs. Other times, the comments link is at the top of the post; not on these blogs. How am I supposed to comment on a really great post when there is no comment section?

    3. No way to follow or subscribe to the blog. No follow by e-mail, no Google Friend Connect. Nothing. It is almost like they just started a blog to hear themselves talk and aren’t at all interested in any feedback. What is the point in that? Why put it out there for someone to read if you don’t want to receive someone else’s opinion, feedback, or potential encouragement?

  38. says

    HI Michelle,

    Everything you’ve listed I can’t stand on a website/blog.

    When I comes to design and color on sites I advise clients to imagine they are decorating a room in their house. Normally you would use 1 main color and 1-2 accent colors that match.

    As for captcha – I recently visited a blog that makes you do a mathematics equation before you submit a comment!

    I think my biggest pet peeve are pop-ups that just don’t go away! 1,2,3 sometimes 4 clicks on the right hand X and it’s still trying to sell me something.

    Thanks for read

    Naomi

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