15 Annoying Website Designs You Must Avoid

They capture your attention immediately, but not in the way they should; instead of impressing you, they tend to annoy.

Bad web designs are not just irritants to your aesthetic sense, they also spell the death knell of the websites they characterize – with the sheer numbers of competitors out there and the rat race to see who can make it to the top ranks of the search engines, if you have a site that annoys, you can bet it’s going down the drain in terms of popularity and usefulness. So if you’re looking for a checklist of annoying website designs to avoid, ensure that the below 15 don’t ever make it to your site:


No one likes these intrusive pages that seem to be preventing you from getting to the content you really want. It may be a marketing technique, but believe me, most people hardly ever read what’s in the pop-up – they’re just in a hurry to get rid of it.


This is another way of forcing visitors to read something; however, it’s best to let them get to this information when they’re ready for it instead of shoving it down their throats.

Background music

Most people are baffled by the sounds that emerge from their speakers when they open a website, especially if there is no useful need for the music. It may be music to your ears, but to the majority that matters, it’s just noise.

Large files and videos

Many websites use Flash just to make their sites flashier, not knowing that this does not optimize the site for search engines. Also, large photos and videos that take forever to load are annoyances that send visitors off to competing sites.

Surveys and questions

You may be interested in getting to know your visitors, but ask them one too many questions (even one is too many), and they’re off in a flash.

Horizontal scrolling

If you don’t know how to position the text in one page and end up having to include a horizontal scrollbar, you don’t know the first thing about web design. Horizontal scrolling is ok for sites that feature photos or blocks of information and use the scrollbar to move from one to the other, but for stretches of text and in combination with the vertical scrollbar, they’re just a nuisance.

Fonts and colors that don’t make for easy reading and which hurt the eye

Forget the fancy fonts, leave behind the large ones and say Sayonara to the small, and use fonts that are easy to read. Don’t capitalize all your text or write completely in small letters; follow grammatical conventions and check for spelling errors. Use background colors and themes that are not jarring to the eye and which make for a pleasant browsing experience.


That hula dancer gif file may tickle your funny bone, but it sure annoys your visitors no end. Animations that serve no purpose are out of place in any website.

Flashing text

Come on people, anyone should know that blinking text is just plain annoying, in any context.

Long stretches of text

Use white space judiciously and at the right places to make your text easier to read, else your site becomes hard to stay on.

Entry pages

Your link should take visitors straight to your content, not to a front page that has some fancy text and images and a link that says “Click here to Enter” or something similar.

Bad navigation

Visitors don’t want to get lost inside your site, so include clear directions, provide accurate links, and make sure everything works as it should to prevent annoyances.

Pages that expire when you click the Back button

Ever filled in forms and lost your connection only to find that the Back button has terminated your session? It’s best to provide Back-button friendly websites, especially if security is not a key concern (when clicking back can lead to the capture of sensitive information).

Keyword stuffing

Black hat and even gray hat SEO techniques are not appreciated by those who’re looking for genuine content and instead find keywords stuffed randomly into the text just so the site gets pushed up to the top of the search engine results. Use white hat SEO techniques to achieve your objectives, because only they last in the long run.

Links that open into new pages

In this day and age of tabbed browsing, if you’re still opening links in new pages (or even new tabs), you certainly need to go back and relearn your design principles.
So there you have it – 15 designs that are sure to annoy; I’m sure there are many more, and if you come across any, just add it to this list and remember never to include it in your designs.

  • Thanks for the tips. I do have a question about the last item, links that open into new pages. Is this referring to external links only? I never want to take people away from my site so I open external links in new pages. What should I be doing here?

    I have been on websites where every link opened in a new window. I mean, if you were on the homepage and clicked on the contact us link, a new window would open. That is utterly stupid imho.

  • @Brian – I totally agree I think there are times where opening a new page is better. I liked everything else on this article just had that little tidbit about the last one too.

  • alex

    agree with Mark

  • External links should always open in a new window, right? Who would make their site nav open in a new window?

  • Alex

    So basically, the same things that have been listed every year for the last six-or-more years? OK.

  • Amen on the background music…SO annoying!

  • Steph

    Ya don’t agree with the last one, I think when your redirecting visitors to a different site it should open in a new tab/window.

    But I agree with you on the other 14 things. Great article!

  • This is so true. ‘Captcha’ is also irritating sometimes. However, horizontal strolling can sometimes be inspiring, especially for portfolios. For me a good site is the one with good quality content (depending on what niche), usability, easy navigation and readability.

  • Nicely compiled list… especially for adding in the horizontal scrolling… , but i am not sure about external links as they should be used in some scenarios.

  • Steve

    Every image link opens to a new page in this article

  • I agree with Angelee. I’ve seen some really cool sites where horizontal scrolling is the focal point of the design.

  • I agree with Brian. Sometimes links that open up in a new window are quite beneficial.

  • Yes I agree with everyone here – I love links opening in new windows…. I prefer that time of browsing…

    I am sure Bailey Digger has a good explanation for it. I think it comes down to personal preference.

    @Angelee – I agree with Horizontal scrolling – a designer can make good use of it, but when you are on a site that clearly is not a horizontal based site, and you see the horizontal bar – that just really urks me!

    @Steve – good catch – as I said before I love opening in new windows – like the irony

  • Matt

    About the use of fonts. Your point “Fonts and colors that don’t make for easy reading and which hurt the eye”. Have you seen your site on Windows platform? I’m a mac user and I’m sure it looks fine, but looking at this site in Windows the use of “HelveticaNeue-Light”,”Helvetica Neue Light”,”Helvetica Neue”,Helvetica,Arial,”Lucida Grande”,sans-serif.. just doesn’t work at some sizes…

  • Bert

    Bailey, your own page (http://webdesigndegree.com/) has “long stretches of text” (just scroll down a bit) and links that inconsistently open either in a new window while remaining on the same domain, or opening in the same while directing to and external site. You might want to fix this.

  • Marja

    I have a #16: Putting an ad over the bottom of EVERY DARN PHOTO on a photo post blog. I visit a lot of blog sites that do stuff like “Ten Craziest Photos of Something Funny” and they just started putting a small ad, like they do on Youtube videos, on every photo. When I see that, I just leave the page.

    They did it on my favourite blog site, but people complained and next day, they were gone. Others in the network still have them, grrrrr.

  • Angel

    While I agree with most of these, it’s nothing that hasn’t been said and listed a bazillion times before.

    And after seeing the author’s own website, I could never take anything she has to say on web design seriously. Her site is horrendous and looks/reads like a crappy content farm.

  • Angel

    P.S. Funny, I made up a name/email to post anonymously and it has a photo attached! That’s not me –>

  • Mark

    Totally agree with Angel. Talk about long stretches of text.

    How about adding giant header graphics that push the content beneath the fold, even on backpages of blogs. It’s an interesting illustration, but better left in a gallery than in an informational blog header. Probably has a lot to do with why this page loads so slowly. I read articles on three other sites while this one was loading on another tab.

    And – as Angel said – really – why would any designer blog that wants to be taken seriously have an article by an author with that horrible looking site, complaining about other site designs.

    Bad decisions all around.

  • Mike

    I disagree on the last one – I usually open links in new tabs on my own anyway and that’s how I program web pages. The rest make sense but in many cases seem to state the obvious. but I guess they need to be said because they continue to happen.

  • Great feedback folks!
    I think we might have to put together another post on this, so start throwing your pet peeves out there! (providing examples can be great)

    Appreciate the feedback Mark, we’re currently looking into some server fixes to help with load times. (it makes us mad too)

    And nice pic Angel lol

  • I actually agree with the last one. I find it annoying to have control taken away from me. On most modern mouses you have a middle mouse button/third mouse button/scroll wheel. That is the button you use to open pages in a new tab. Now, if the links are set to open in a new tab that will happen when you press both the left button and middle button. It’s really egoistical to assume that you know what your user wants to do. If I want to leave your page that should be my choice. Also, it is now impossible for me to backspace my way to your web site. I have to locate it on my tabs, which takes more time if you have a large amount of tabs open. I also have to this to close your site, because if I don’t I end up with more open tabs to scan through.

  • .. I think you forgot a very important factor here, what about loading speed? This blog needs 20+ seconds to load!

    BTW: The rest of your points are valid, so thanks for sharing. Cheers & Ciao ..

  • bonersimpson

    Rules are for suckas.

  • Hello! Sorry, but i’m not agree with horizontal scrolling, flashing text, entry pages and links in new tab. Why it’s annoy? Horizontal scrolling using in creative websites, such as portfolio, gallerry and etc, whaen more picts than information. I think it’s normal and sometimes have really cool look.
    Flashing text too could be great ant created by professionals, so it’s very nice.
    Entry pages are usefull, whaen I want to divide some websites chapters.
    he links in new tab I often use for open pages from flash. I think it’s comfortably for users.

    Am I wrong?

  • bruce

    think you’re just a hater!
    let me make another weak wp theme.

  • dennis

    Most annoying thing about a website is background music imao.

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