13 Ways To Generate Customer Hate

Ian Lurie

Mullet Baby!!!!!!Let’s face it. Customers are a pain in the ass.
Always asking for annoying things like service, honesty, quality. Always whining if they don’t get what they want.
Well, you’re in luck. Here’s my 13-step process for making sure your customers hate you. Just build these features into your web site. They’re like an internet marketing mullet:

1: The Flash Intro

I’ve written about this three times now. Somehow people still argue with me, saying that 120 seconds of totally pointless dancing raisins, spinning squares and cheesy, porn-inspired music loops is a good marketing tactic.
It’s not. It’s. Just. Not.
How do you feel when they show commercials at the movie theater? They get in the way, right?
So does that nasty, pointless flash intro. It’s like a sleezy sales guy standing outside The Ritz.
Even worse, it drives away the search engines, too.
If you want your customers to hate you, put a nice, long Flash intro on your home page. Even better, make sure there’s no way to skip it.

2: Mouse Trails

Duuuuuuudde. The mouse has, like, a trail and stuff…
I can’t think of any purpose for mouse trails except to:

  1. Drive me into a mindless rage, so that I turn green, rush through the brick wall in my office and run around the city throwing tanks and stuff.
  2. Make your customers wish they didn’t know you.

3: The Blink Tag

If this works, then you need no further explanation.
If it didn’t, count yourself lucky, and never, ever use this tag. If you do, your customers will, I promise, detest you.
(suggested by Deege)

4: The Every Page Link

You don’t really have to link back to your webmaster/designer from every single page of your site. I swear.
Although I probably have a few of those out there somewhere. Cough.
(suggested by Maniactive)

5: Animated Buttons

Use any of these on your site and I will find your server, pour a milkshake into the power supply and then run down the street shrieking with laughter.
And Seanmag just sent me this beaut:
Which, by the way, is repeated about 40 times on the guilty home page.
And don’t tell me these “catch the customer’s eye”, either. It doesn’t catch their eye. It makes them want to poke it out.
If you want your customers to despise you, use lots and lots of animated buttons.

6: Take Over My Browser, Why Dontcha?

Gotta love this one. You go to a web site. Then your browser blinks, goes into a kind of fit, and suddenly fills your whole screen.
What the hell?!
Someone suddenly decided you needed a ‘cinematic’ experience, so they used a javascript to maximize your browser window.
That’s actually OK, unless you’re like me and have a 24″ monitor. Then:

  1. Your browser suddenly explodes in your face like you’ve entered hyperspace.
  2. The web site you visited appears as a tiny little rectangle in the middle of the screen
  3. OR your computer crashes because it can’t handle drawing an animation at 5x normal size.

If you want your customers to find sticks with rusty nails in them and then find you, take over their browser and make it really big.

7: Have a Soundtrack

Some sites might deserve a soundtrack.
But if you’re a Realtor, I don’t want to hear the first ten bars of the Star Spangled Banner, converted to tinny MIDI format, played over and over.
Want everyone to wish a pox on both your houses? Have an annoying, repetitious soundtrack.

8: Write Really Long Sentences With No Punctuation and Then Use Bad Grammar Too So That I can’t Tell What the Hell You’re Saying

Please, just hire a copywriter, OK?
Or, just keep writing crappy copy. So that your customers can hate you.

9: Have An Incomprehensible Tag Cloud

Mikefj40 sent me this one. I don’t hate all tag clouds. But every now and then I see one with 250+ terms in 4 colors and almost infinite different sizes.
It’s like the blogger wants me to run away.
Obstacle-oriented design. I love it.
‘Hate’ might be too strong a word for this one, but trust me, folks won’t like you if you use a horrifically large, impossible to read tag cloud.

10: Make Me Register

Oh, no you didn’t! You did not just sell me on your product, get me all happy to buy it, and then ask me to fill out an entire registration form for the honor of giving you my money!
Actually, at least 1/2 the e-commerce sites I see still do exactly that.
“We want to make sure we can contact them,” is what I hear a lot. I also get “We want them to be able to order more quickly next time.”
Then give them the option of saving their information, at the end of the checkout process. Gasp.
If you want your customers to really, truly, eternally wish you damned to the deepest, darkest corner of a wormhole-infested collapsing galaxy, then by all means, make them register and log in to buy stuff.

11: Creating Your Own Currency

You have a cute dot bomb idea. You want to put your unique stamp on it.
You could execute really well, have great service, and offer something that enhances people’s lives.
Or you could force your customers to convert real currency into some ridiculous branded currency like ‘fooz bucks’ or some such.
Guess what? Do this, and your customers will hate you.

12: Make a Popup Appear When I (try to) Leave

I visit your site. I don’t like you, or I’m not ready to buy right now.
Do you really think that popping up a window when I try to leave is going to make me change my mind?
Let’s see: “Hmmm. I didn’t really need what you have to sell me. But since you’re being unbelievably annoying, I’ll think I’ll buy something.”
If you want your customers outside your house with pitchforks, have a popup window that appears when they try to leave your site.

13: Use Images That Make Me Feel Dirty

Images like this really win my confidence:
The good news is, with an image like this on your home page you can make your customers hate you in mere seconds, saving lots of pageviews and bandwidth.

It’s Easy!

There you go. You can now reduce your workload with 13 easy steps. Get out there and generate some customer hate!!!!

I polled my Twitter friends to get some of the ideas in this post, and gave credit where credit was due. If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find my profile at www.twitter.com/portentint.

Did you know I wrote a book? I did. You can buy or read it here.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Great post, well done. Sorry I missed the original conversation in Twitter. If we can eliminate all pages subscribing to these practices I wonder how many would be left on the internet. I would also suggest a few more, maybe these got filtered out as ‘not as good’ in your twitter conversation:
    14) Masquarade ads to look like the content on the site
    15) Send customers to a temporary ad page that they have to sit and wait through to get to the content they were looking for
    16) Install malware on your customer’s PC
    17) Have images that don’t load or display(red x syndrome) (did anyone test the site?)
    18) Load a disturbing background image that doesn’t move when your scroll on the site. We all want to see that tie-dye pattern freeze while we scroll endlessly through content.
    Thanks again Ian, spot on.

  2. @adam I could write a whole POST on #14. In fact, I just might.
    Thanks for the great comment and additional points.

  3. “Use any of these on your site and I will find your server, pour a milkshake into the power supply and then run down the street shrieking with laughter.”
    I’ll be looking you up at the next conference we jointly attend. Dinner and drinks are on me. You crack me up.

  4. Jeez – I almost forgot.
    The dreaded 4×4 ad that follows you like a border collie tracking a frisbee as you scroll up and down the page. Up and down…up and down…
    where’s that hatchet!

  5. Excellent post! I felt deeply for #10, and laughed nice and hard for #13.
    I wanted to piggyback off of #18 and add, “I don’t need to see the stars twinkling as a background for your site. I want to read, not break into seizure.”
    If I had to submit one, it would definitely be
    19) Having ridiculous color scheme choices. Light grey text on medium grey background might feel sexy to you, but that’s enough to make some visitors roll their eyes… and subsequently get into ass-kicking mode.

  6. @sean You’re on! I’m missing SMX Advanced ’cause I spent my allowance getting my whole team there, of course…

  7. Brilliant stuff Ian πŸ™‚ I thought I’d add a few of my current peeves. See most videogame related websites for a leisurely tour of these crimes…
    1) Site that are stuffed with ads, so much so that the volume of requests to various ad networks creates a huge slow down on the page load.
    2) Flash ads that obscure content and are difficult to close. I especially hate the ones with sound.
    3) Sites that make you load a slow, clunky image gallery interface just to look at a product shot.
    4) Sites with video content that (despite the year being 2008) makes you go through media player / codec hell. In my book, this is one of the few purposes for which Flash *is* ideally suited.

  8. @Alex I have a new one, too: The site that uses a pagecurl and simulated page turn.
    I don’t even like that in a book. Why the hell would I want it online?!

  9. I automatically navigate away from any site that has an auto-playing movie, flash intro, music, etc. I also recently opted not to buy from a vendor because they made me register before purchasing.

  10. “Congratulations, you have just won an iPod Nano (iPhone, etc…)” hid away in a stupid ad at half way down the page

  11. Is that a Shakespeare reference? “A pox on both your houses”? Good post. It cracked me up, it’s funny that many designers and like minded people detest the same shoddy practices that muck up the interwebs. Alas, the battle continues.

  12. What I dislike is when I join a sites newsletter I’m then sent the most horrendous emails – all graphics, no text and no ability to see a text version. It seems the days of asking if people want html or plain text emails is gone.
    I hate sites that make me install some bizarre plugin to view an essential bit of their website. Why? 90% of the time I leave!
    I dislike those links that turn out to be pdf files! Warn me first before you decide to take out my browser!

  13. Sorry if folks are having a hard time making comments. I got 15,000+ visitors to this page in the last 12 hours…

  14. Good points. I feel one more deserves to be mentioned, though, which is Start Several Consecutive Words With A Capital Letter. It’s just really annoying to read and brings to mind cheesy infomercials and get-rich-quick scams.

  15. OK. I think this is my favorite post to date. We joke about some of these things at work since there are those in my office who secretly wish we had a few pop ups when trying to leave and a blink tag or two.
    Keep up the great work.

  16. @Rulle I Have Never Seen That Problem. Or! People! Using! Too! Many! Exclamation! Points!!!!!!!

  17. Oh man. Most of those things will make me run away from a site. I hate flash. I HATE music. Especially when I am at work (yes, I am a slacker). And when they take over my screen and blow up the browser…I’m usually at work and have my internet shrunk to a small window. How am I supposed to browse online without being obvious if they blow up my browser?!? Grrr!
    I don’t like the trailing mouse either. It’s distracting.
    But the sign up for checkout is one that I don’t know about. I don’t think my shopping cart lets me do it any other way so people have to create an account. It helps for repeat customers but I agree is a pain for one off sales. Since I don’t know any technical stuff I’m stuck for that one. πŸ™‚

  18. Hey, isn’t that Corey Haim on #13? It’s like The Lost Boys meets Men in Black!

  19. Besides being kinda a clichΓ©d list, the title isn’t very accurate. At the very best, these things annoy customers but what truly generates hate isn’t even on this list. A company could have the most annoying site in the world but if they treated me fairly and provided good value, I would get over their annoying site.

  20. The nice thing about getting rid of all those pesky customers is that all the resources you’ll save by reducing the daily level of business activity . . . your business will be very Green. And we all know that’s all the rage these days.

  21. I absolutely LOVE this post! I couldn’t agree more with any of them. A pet peave of mine has always been “too much crap” on a web page. Kudos and thanks for the laugh.
    “When you can’t be there, bVisual.”

  22. How about the Girl that walks out and tells you what the site is about when you can already see what the site is about and then you have to find the x to delete her before really losing it.
    They must hate traffic to their site.

  23. Funny, too true. But, it’s way easier to make an eyesore of a website than to build something of quality. There are many things you could add to this list – not making your site accessible, having BIG images that load slowly, etc.
    Stumbled this

  24. Ian, this was a great post! I loved it so much that I followed you on Twitter immediately so I don’t miss future great conversations. You hit on all of my pet peeves. I hope that many will listen and stop the insanity! The only flash intro I haven’t skipped was one an official film site. I had to watch it as part of a client project but found it was the only time that a flash intro made sense as it was for an actual movie and functioned as a trailer. Exit pop-ups or the ones that pop up on entry and cover the content asking me to sign up, register or buy when I haven’t read the copy yet oh and by the way have an insanely difficult to find close button, oh yeah smart marketing (NOT!).I hope EVERY webdesigner on planet earth will read and heed this advice.
    P.S. I also have a personal dislike for LOOOOOONNNNG sales pages, the highlight and red text just add extra lemons to my haterade.Yea, yea, I know the stats on conversion, but I still personally do not like them.

  25. @Karen thanks! I’ve come around on the long sales page over the last 4-5 years. If it’s well written it can be pretty enjoyable. The problem is there are so many of ’em covered with RED BOLD ALL CAPS text…

  26. (please ignore lowercase: i do this because i’m lazy and because i’m in a comment box.)
    great post. too tired to add much, but one that’s bugging me most lately is the proliferation of all the stuff actually competing with blog posts themselves. this is what i wrote this morning regarding one site i stumbled on at SU:
    …However, I visited that site ~ which has great content and a great concept ~ but the format is freaking annoying. They have only a few photos per page, and there are all these fairly large “Email it” and “Digg it”, etc. icons and some “post to your blog!” code plastered across the bottom of each item, not to mention an RSS feed icon bigger than some premature babies. Nothing makes me less inclined to “stumble it!” or “email it!” than having all that crap in my face instead of a cleanly-arranged and easily-navigated page, so I stumbled the knock-off instead.
    that said, my other biggest pet peeve is the spelling issue. granted, many people can’t spell words like “onomatopoeia” without losing a bunch of brain cells so i cut them some slack. but omitting the apostrophe in “don’t”? and doing so in a page TITLE? that is *not* high-quality stuff, my friends. πŸ˜‰
    okay, well back to the grind. thanks for the post!

  27. This gave me the Friday morning laugh I needed! Spot on. Now if there was just some easier way to make clients BELIEVE us when we tell them these things…

  28. Ha ha, you have hit the nail on the head! Well, for me the flash intro and the sound track tops the list.
    Nothing annoys me like the Flash intro! I still don’t know why they use it!

  29. I’ll give you three seconds to make your flash animation ‘do something’. After that, I’ll give you forever to wish that it had … while I go somewhere else. THREE seconds … not four. And then, you’d better bloody well make it worth the wait.
    Flash sucks. On a good day — and it doesn’t have many. I will deal with it AFTER I’ve asked for a video … but not before.
    A number of times I’ve encountered some coding that totally seizes control of the browser. Can’t go forward, can’t go backward, can’t close the browser — must reboot to regain control.
    I’m all in favor of drowning those guys slowly. Anchor their feet to the floor and fill the room from a stopped-up toilet.

  30. This has to be one of the stupidest posts I’ve read…I can think of several times and sites (don’t feel like sitting here listing them all) that do what you say not to do and they are huge, popular, and people LOVE them, not hate them!
    Some of these are true, but for the most part, seems like you just tried to fluff out the post with stupid stuff…

  31. Great list – they all infuriate me too.
    The one I might take issue with is the popup one. Peronally I hate them and I don’t use them – I feel they don’t fit with the sort of image I’m trying to project on my site. But I’ve also seen a number of test results that show that popups increase signups on things like internet marketing or “get rich quick” sites. For the demographic they’re targeting, they seem to work. Not sure of the details of exit popup vs entry popups – but suspect they will be similar.

  32. Oh my goodness…just freakin’ hilarious! Ha ha ha
    I loved it. You know my pet peeves about sites are poorly written sentences. There is nothing wrong with complex sentences if you know how to write them properly. I detest sentences that end in prepositions, must be my english background.
    And oh those pop-ups, be they exit, entry, hoovers I HATE being disrupted while I am trying to get into what is being relayed!
    And the flash, arrrgh! I don’t like to be distracted and when I am distracted I leave the site never to return.
    This was wonderful, very well done friend :)!

  33. Hi Ian –
    A question on an entirely different subject from those above: you said on another page that no one can make money–or good money–on AdSense or the other types of ads. I am putting up a news site on a particular type of news that gets large numbers of users on the Internet. The site will grow much bigger in scope, I hope. I want to get a reputation as an expert in this field, but I also want to make money. I want to have private ads for products in this field, but also, I will probably want other types of ads. How am I going to make money after the site starts getting large numbers of users, if those types of ads don’t pay?

  34. This is great. I love your style of writing. It is funny because it is real.
    Another when I don’t like as a customer is a “free” or “incredibly cheap” offer that leads to 20 more offers as I try to checkout with my free stuff.

  35. I was going through a list of Top 100 Social Media and Internet Marketing from Cisionblog when I came across your blog. This is one of the funniest but true column I have read in a long time.

  36. Sites that have “review” in the title but when you get there find that there is no review.

  37. Very funny! You make a few web 1.0 references here.
    “The Flash Intro”
    The sad part is, many people think flash intros are cool. I love flash, but not on the homepage, especially if you cannot skip the intro. I see a lot of lawyer sites that use this poor tactic. These lawyers who have no clue about marketing, just think it is “cool”.
    “Mouse Trails”
    Mouse trails are only amusing the first 5 seconds of a visit. But if you have a website with a low bounce rate (meaning you visit it every day since it is useful), it can be quite annoying. I am not sure what the point of a mouse trail is, other than for the fun factor. Has anyone ever visited a site that uses java to make the background look like it is snowing?
    “The Blink Tag”
    I actually think this “could” be useful in some instances. For example, if you are looking to advertise a part of your website or encourage a registration, a blinking tagline could be used to capture attention, if you have a resourceful website.
    “Animated Buttons”
    This is a web 1.0 feature. Anyone still using animated buttons is still stuck in the 90’s.
    “Make Me Register”
    If you are going to make someone register, make sure you let them know they must register BEFORE going through the checkout process, otherwise…well, the article pretty much sums it up for ya!

  38. Spell check isn’t enough.
    Poor grammar will make them hate you, too.
    If you don’t know the difference between
    there, their, and they’re you need to go back to elementary school.
    One more thing:
    Two = 2
    Too = excessive (as in “too much”), or also (as in “me too”)
    To = used for everything else.

  39. Ok, I’ll ‘fess up: I’m guilty of number 4. However, I think I’ve redeemed myself by talking folks out of the other items on the list many times over.

  40. Please can I add one?
    The site which, immediately you click onto it, throws up a pop-up asking you to rate the site and won’t let you get at the content underneath until you choose an option. How the **** do I know how good your site is if you won’t let me use it!?!!
    Brilliant article.

  41. # 12: I so agree! I hate pop-ups that ask a stupid question, trying to trick you in to staying when you want to exit their nauseating webpage.
    They usually switch the typical exit command by making (amazingly enough)’Cancel’ become the “I-want-to stay-f**kd-up-in-this-website-forever-and-lose-all-my-money” button….man, it drives me INSANE!!!!!!!!! (Worth everyone of those exclamation marks)
    I know this is stereotypical, but when I see this type of pop-up….I get a visualization of some evil, creepy, greedy, Caucasian(not sure why…I’m also Caucasian), slick-willy, marketing/scamming expert, who looks like “Dr. P” (“School for Scoundrels”)…cackling while ordering his clients to insert this little crap-trap trick to get their customers stuck indefinitely in their worthless website, until they give up their precious cash or sign up for some yearly, monthly-milking cash scheme.
    Damn them I say, [email protected]$#@@#$% damn them all!

  42. Ha HA I just love your writing style ian, you are so funny.. but SO spot on!
    I too hate pretty much ALL of the above especially not being able to exit a browser due to excessive
    “Are You Sure You Want To Leave?!!!!”
    windows popping up.. i’m damn sure I want to leave now!
    Thanks for shaaring your pet peeves, Its no suprise that this post is one of the most popular.
    Thanks again

  43. I’ve recently learned that there IS an appropriate use for the HTML tag – but only one.
    Write the following sentence:
    Schrodinger’s cat is not dead.
    Put a blink tag around the word “not”.

  44. Way number 14 to make your users hate you: sneak additional information in the copy routine so that you paste a link when you copy a quote the blog post to tell your friends how awesome it is.
    Great post btw. And I don’t hate you, you’re too good a writer πŸ˜€

  45. Brilliant stuff Ian πŸ™‚ I thought I’d add a few of my current peeves. See most videogame related websites for a leisurely tour of these crimes…
    1) Site that are stuffed with ads, so much so that the volume of requests to various ad networks creates a huge slow down on the page load.
    2) Flash ads that obscure content and are difficult to close. I especially hate the ones with sound.
    3) Sites that make you load a slow, clunky image gallery interface just to look at a product shot.
    4) Sites with video content that (despite the year being 2008) makes you go through media player / codec hell. In my book, this is one of the few purposes for which Flash *is* ideally suited.

  46. On number 10: I think alot of the times if people are using a pre-packaged solutions like Zencart, they have no other choice. Maybe that is a plus for paypal payments? If you can totally control the way its set then yep you are defeintely right. Get em in and out ASAP.

  47. I would like to see a movie where a SEAL team is dispatched to execute people who put those, “Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?” pop-ups on websites.
    I think it would be hugely popular, both in real life and as a regular program on TV.
    There could even be an America’s Most Wanted style version, where real hit squads are dispatched to behead the perpetrators of malicious code, and to just severely spank those who insert stupid features on their websites.
    Do I want to navigate away from your page? Well, do you want me to twist the K-bar that I slammed into your gut, a little more? Well, do ya…punk?

  48. Thank you thank you thank you for the laugh. One of my websites is related to real estate appraisal – talk about tough stuff to make interesting to readers. I don’t do any of this crap, except maybe the ever-growing tag cloud. When I find a site with blinking stuff, I’m gone before I even start reading!!!

  49. Love it, humorous with a serious sting in the tail as usual. I wonder if some of the things we like nowadays such as a jquery image slider, may one day be considered a contender for your list of death?

  50. I really really hate flash intro pages, by the time its half loaded Im off onto another site, gone.
    #10 makes me mad too… why force me to write my life history just to store my details, on the off chance that I MIGHT come back again one year!
    I could rant for hours – nice article by the way, glad im not alone.

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