Failed UX and the proliferation of forced user engagement

Failed UX and the proliferation of forced user engagement
August 30, 2016 Ben Shapira

So you go to a website and shortly after arriving, a modal box greets you to subscribe to a newsletter or get a discount. Alternatively, you go to a news site, open articles of interest in new tabs so they load in the background, only to have videos auto-play, interrupting your experience.

These types of forced consumer interaction are currently favoured among online marketers. Yes, in many cases they are successful at their immediate task, but in the grater context, how are they damaging your brand and user experience? How are your consumers reacting to this forced engagement?

Marketers will show you high success rates for newsletter subscriptions and video clicks to show that their tactics are effective – and in many cases they are, but users are becoming more and more turned off by this intrusive behaviour.

Website owners need to be clear on their total objectives and measure results as part of an entire strategy – not just measure specific items in isolation. Yes, you may be driving massive newsletter subscriptions, but how are these behaviours affecting your site bounce rates or your rate of return/repeat visitors?

You may be winning a marketing battle but losing the war.

A recent study by SurveyMonkey (US statistics) showed some rather dramatic results:

  • 68% of respondents would block a site from future searches because of too many or intrusive ads
  • 34% of respondents said they would go back to Google if the destination did not have the expected information
  • 25% of respondents said they would go back to Google and change the terms of their search

The Nielson Norman Group has shown that giving users direct access and control over content reduces cognitive load thereby driving a better user experience. Increasing cognitive load by forcing users to find audio or video content that is auto-playing can distract users from vital content, leading to abandonment of your site.

So how can we fix this?

Google is hinting that the next versions of their search algorithm will drive lower page scores and therefore lower page rankings for sites that deliberately obscure content from users on-load.

Here is a diagram of Google’s objects to:

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 2.22.58 PM

While these proposed changes do not specifically address the auto-play of content on page-load, I suspect that this won’t be far in Google thoughts as they take a serious look at site usability.

Google remains focussed on mobile device UX, however this will obviously cascade to desktop and tablet usability.

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