September 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

What offends site visitors

Online retailers spend a lot of time and resources polishing their web sites to please their visitors and keep them coming back as customers, but too much whiz-bang technology may repel rather than attract shoppers, a new survey from Hostway Inc. says.

Online retailers spend a lot of time and resources polishing their web sites to please their visitors and keep them coming back as customers, but too much whiz-bang technology may repel rather than attract shoppers, a new survey from Hostway Inc. says.

In other words, keep it simple. “The Internet has matured to the point where consumers demand an easy online experience,” says John Lee, vice president of marketing at web site hosting company Hostway. “Quite simply, consumers are warning companies, ‘You’re going to lose my business if your web site experience is annoying.’”

Site aesthetics were important to more than half of respondents. 59% cited moving text as bothersome; 55% said they were annoyed by certain colors, type fonts and page formats.

But the survey of 2,500 adult consumers, conducted for Hostway by researchers TNS in July, found that pop-up ads annoy the most consumers, 93%, and that several other issues also irk high percentages of them:

- the need to install extra software to use site features, 89%;

- dead links, 86%

- confusing navigation, 84%;

- registration log-on pages that block access to content, 83%

- slow-loading pages, 83%;

l ineffective site search, 80%.

Most troubling to retailers, meanwhile, may be the survey’s findings that 74% of consumers who encounter their top pet peeves on web sites are likely to unsubscribe from promotions and messages, and 71% are likely to view the retailer in a negative way. And more than half, or 55%, are likely to complain about a web site to their friends.

“In an increasingly Internet-focused world, consumers have many choices,” Lee says. “These results clearly show that consumers will make a behavioral change if they encounter a web site that annoys them.” m

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