Are you annoying your repeat users?

Paul Boag

What are you doing to make existing users feel special? For that matter what are you doing just to make their lives a little bit easier?

What are you doing to make existing users feel special? For that matter what are you doing just to make their lives a little bit easier?

There seems to be an interesting divide when it comes to repeat users. Those of us building web apps are obsessed with making tasks a little bit easier for returning users. We understand that when a user is continually completing the same task on our apps, the slightest bump in the journey can be annoying. This is because the user is repeatedly encountering the same pain point.

However, for those of us primarily working on content websites our attention is often overly focused on new users. We don’t believe that people are repeating tasks on our sites in the same way they are with a web app. Unfortunately that is not necessarily true.

In fact there are loads of instances where the experience for returning users can become very annoying, very quickly.

Login headaches

Take for example logging in. Too many sites seem to have a ‘remember me’ option that doesn’t actually work! Having to enter your password every time can get frustrating. This is particularly true when you do not have an option to view the password you’re typing.

Example remember me option

CAPTCHA is evil

Also, when you dare to get your password wrong, it demands you complete a CAPTCHA field. Not that CAPTCHA is limited to passwords. As web designers we love to make our problems those of our repeat users. We have a problem with spam so we frustrate our return users by making them fill in a field that is near impossible to read!

Example of an impossible to read CAPTCHA

Broken bookmarking

Things don’t always get better once return users have logged in. For example if they have bookmarked a page that lies behind a login screen, are they redirected to that page once login has been completed? On many websites I use, this is not the case. Whenever I login I find myself unceremoniously dumped at a default post login page.

This of course presumes I can bookmark the page I want to in the first place. With AJAX and Javascript being increasingly prevalent on websites it is often impossible to bookmark the state of a page you want. As a return user you can often be forced to make several clicks before getting to the state of a page you interact with regularly.

Twitter new post dialogue box

Annoying repeat purchasers

One of the worst offenders when it comes to annoying returning users are ecommerce sites. These task orientated sites often seem to go out of their way to annoy repeat purchasers.

They fail to remember key details about the user (such as delivery address), automatically assign passwords that are impossible to remember and make it really hard to reorder a previously placed order.

Email showing an automatically generated password

What about your experiences?

To be frank I could continue this rant forever. Instead I want to open it up to you. What bad experiences have you had as a returning user? Share them in the comments below.

More importantly, take the time to think about your own site and ask yourself, how could you make things easier for returning users.