Most Common Digital Design Distractions

With just seconds to capture a Web visitor's attention and guide them to complete the task they came to the site to do, Web designers often rely on elements they think will help conversions. All too often, however, these elements do the exact opposite, failing to capture the conversion because they are too distracting to the user.


Website Magazine enlisted the help of 30-plus Web professions to see what common Web design elements are distracting customers, visitors, users, subscribers from completing their tasks on a company's website - and what should a brand do instead. Note, respondents had word-count restrictions or they likely would have elaborated.



"The biggest mistake I see business owners making is keeping an outdated site for years and years on end. If you've not got a responsive website that can be used appropriately on any device, you're losing ground against your competition."
+ Travis Bennett, Founder of Studio Digita


"As much as metrics may suggest otherwise, websites lose and frustrate users when they continue to barrage with popup lightboxes that block content to subscribe or advertise. This includes the bottom right pop up which impedes on scrolling down.


Solution: If subscribing is truly the only way the company can convert a customer to purchasing, then add it as a sticky bottom menu. This means it is present all of the time but allows the user to scroll and read content without interruptions."
+ Emma Moore, Owner of Fundamental, LLC


"Forms that have a cancel/reset button. If a visitor accidentally clicks that rather than submit they will often leave the site rather than start all over."
+ Stoney G deGeyter, CEO & Project Manager of Pole Position Marketing


"Sliders, especially sliders with footer content, are problematic and most Web design experts strongly advise against them. Even more problematic are infinite scroll websites that load the rest automatically once when you get to the bottom of the page as many customers will find it intuitive to have contact info at the bottom of the page if there is no contact info somewhere on top. Instead of sliders, use well-organized dropdown menus whenever possible."
+ Alex Bar, Owner at Third Temple Digital


"Avoid any type of 'notify on first visit' entity. With content now so app oriented, websites are increasingly accessed via native app Web-views (e.g., via Twitter, Reddit, etc.), which means no cookies or persistent logins. Ironically, a good example of this mistake is the Euro Cookie notice law - I don't think they realized those would show so persistently."
+ Peter Holmes, Creative Director at Barefoot Solutions


"Many things can get in the way of people completing the intended task - on ecommerce, discount codes can be a big one where customers will see 'discount code' within the checkout and then drop out to hunt one down. Keep a small text link in the basket asking if they have a code which expands out a form field."
+ Ed Baxter, Search Manager at Evoluted


"Poor performance is a big point of friction causing customers to leave websites.


Web pages have gotten too large, causing them to load slowly and react poorly to user interaction. This creates frustration and customers just leave."
+ Chris Love, Owner of Love2Dev


"Social sharing can have a negative impact on a website's user experience (UX) and conversions, especially on ecommerce product pages. Its inclusion can slow load times, distract users from a page's central goal and create distrust in content or products if they include counters with low numbers. Social sharing should be used sparingly on key content or after conversions and sales."


+ Sara Novak, Associate Creative Director of Elevate


"One of the biggest distractions for new visitors is too many calls-to-action (CTAs). Especially if your website targets very specific users, bombarding them with several CTAs will not be helpful. Instead, have a clear path that the user should take and guide them through your website one page at a time. A good place to start is only one CTA per page."
+ Sacha Ferrandi, Founder and CMO of Source Capital Funding, Inc.


"First and foremost, keep it clean. Nothing is more of an eyesore than a clutter of different fonts, widgets, and buttons. Additionally, stay away from stock photos! They look tacky and unprofessional, and won't represent your brand--visitors will immediately leave. Choose colors that evoke your desired emotional response. Finally, stay consistent. It's important that every visual detail aligns with your brand personality in order to create trust and credibility."
+ Laura Casanova, Creative Director of ONTRAPORT


"Pop-up promotions are becoming popular on websites and can be counterproductive if the user isn't interested in what you are promoting. Users can get frustrated and increase your bounce rate. Brands should be cognizant of how large the ad is and how quickly and frequently it pop-up. When done properly pop-up ads can be very effective." 
+ Kara Jensen, Creative Principal of Bop Design


"Pop-over videos that obscure content and auto-play."
+Stephan Roussan, President of ICVM Group


"While there are many website distractions now a days, one that irks me is the floating sidebar box. People often place an ad, a notification, or a signup box that follows you till the end. It comes into action as soon as you scroll the page and often breaks the rhythm of the reader."
+ Sumit Bansal, Founder of Productivity Spot


"Some colors just hurt your eyes. For example, neon colors are usually considered as fun and cool, but only from a certain distance. If you have to see the website on your smartphone or on your 32-inch screen, it just hurts. It creates serious readability concerns and the brightness of the colors distract your users often overpowering your main content."
+ Jitesh Keswani, CEO of e intelligence


"The biggest distraction for a website is a lacking understanding of our users and business goals. Funny right? That's not a design element at all,yet too often we spend time, money and effort making design choices that don't provide any value to our customers, nor impact our business goals because we don't have a clear understanding of either."
+ Zack Naylor, Co-Founder and CEO of Aurelius


"You might laugh at this, but the pages themselves. Internet surfers have short attention spans, and if your cart or ordering form is buried more than about two levels deep, they just don't use your service! Cure: reduce average number of clicks from home page (or touch down pages) to your core business pages."
+ Woody Stanford, Owner of Stanford Systems


"Value proposition carousels are the worst. If you don't know what value your company provides, how is a visitor supposed to figure it out? A large hero section with several headlines and calls to action looks impressive, but makes it harder for visitors to understand what your website does - and more importantly, why they should care."
+ Tyler Moore, Marketing Director at App Press


"One of worst offenders, a sure-fire way to annoy site visitors, is auto-play video. Visitors make snap judgments about your brand upon their first visit. Auto-play video is annoying (especially if a user's speakers are on and turned up). Plus, forcing your brand on someone smells of desperation. Embedded video and background (masthead video or animation) are equal opportunity offenders."
+ Tony Mariotti, Owner of RubyHome


"Carousels or sliders are still overused on newly designed sites. Carousels take up too much space, add distracting motion and provide too many different options for the user. We've moved to large Hero images with call-to-action text and a colorful button overlaid. In my experience this converts better."
+ Tim Knol, Director of Digital Marketing at The Mayors Agency LLC 


"Common distracting elements on websites include multiple font and type colors, too many boxes with contents, complex background textures, wrong alignment of fields, high-contrast colors, barely visible call-to-action buttons and a few others. For getting into the mindsets of the prospects, conversion rate optimization models can be used to help you minimize the barriers to cognition followed by A/B testing."
+ Swapnil Bhagwat, Senior Manager of Design & Digital Media at Orchestrate 


"The biggest distraction that website visitors face is the overwhelming amount of outbound links on the website they are visiting. Whether the link is through an ad - in the sidebar or in-between paragraphs - or a link in the content itself, these links are taking the visitor off the website they are visiting, removing them from the content they are reading, and leading them to another business's website. Even if these links open up in a new tab, the chance that the visitor will return to finish reading the article or complete the original website's call-to-action, is very small."
+ Mindy Iannelli, CEO of Mindy Iannelli, LLC


"Your entry point to a website is NOT always your home page. Search engines like Google will display any page of a website in the search results, therefore, a visitor can enter through an inside page. Brands tend to not have the appropriate calls-to-action on their inside pages in order to guide a visitor through their website, to make contact them, or make a sale."
+ Melih Oztalay is CEO of SmartFinds Marketing


"The worst distractions of a website design include automatic pop-up windows, and animated characters that launch into a pre-recording welcome message. The unexpected audio of animated greeters scare the user; most sites do not have audio you land on them. Second, the pop-ups and animated figures literally block the user from recovering the information he or she clicked to get from your website."
+ Angela Zade, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Hawaiian Inn


"Advertisements are a leading cause of experience disruption on a website. Particularly advertisements that are out of context and unrelated to content that someone is inclined to find. By using them, businesses sacrifice user happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task completion at the expense of clicks. Alternatively, consider leveraging digital to deliver effective content and innovate business models."
+ Casey Kaplan, Principal UX Designer at The Nerdery


"When everything is competing for attention on your Web page, your Web form needs to be as simple and easy to navigate as possible. In this day and age of distracting content on every inch of your Web page, users with only a few seconds of focus will not be pulled in by a form with a hundred mundane questions. All these questions are distracting from where you're trying to direct them to! By using less questions on your web form, you're getting enough content from them to reach out for follow up and to answer the other questions you'd like to have from them."
+ April Davis, Wwner and Founder of LUMA


"Videos that queue automatically on a website are a huge distraction and even a turnoff to site visitors. They require the visitor to proactively turn them off in order for them to view the site and locate the information that they are seeking. If you have auto-queue videos on your site, you are almost certainly lowering your overall conversion rate."
+ Jennifer M. Poole, J.D. at


"Popups on phones are the bane of everyone's existence. Most of the time you cannot close them, rendering the site unusable—recipe sites are very guilty of this. Instead, a small, unobtrusive, bottom slide-in would let people keep scrolling while still promoting your material. This leads to a better overall user experience (and I actually get to make your recipe)."
+ Justin Kalaskey, Web/UX Designer at WebMechanix


"Popups can be an effective lead generator if used wisely. I advise to have them appear after a user has been on your site for a specific amount of time, scrolled down on the page, or clicked to view a couple of pages. Always offer something of value in exchange for their contact information."
+ James Sacci, Web Developer at ProWeb Innovations


"Probably the worst offender in terms of distraction are email newsletter/deal sign-up forms that pop-up before you've even had a chance to look around the website. Instead, brands should be more restrained in having pop-ups or consider removing them all the same."
+ Ian Wright, Founder of Merchant Machine


"If you're trying to capture leads or get a site visitor to complete a certain goal, having too many calls-to-action on a landing page can distract people from clicking the button that leads to your desired conversion/action. Use less enticing text links for other CTA's or remove them from a page completely, you can display them on a thank-you page once the main goal has been completed."
+ Grace Howlett, Junior Product Manager at Moonfruit


"A slow website - if each of your website's pages are not snappy, loading in less than 3 seconds, the slow loading time will get tedious, distracting and eventually drive the user away. This is especially true for users who are not yet familiar with the brand."
+ David Attard, Founder of DART Creations


"One element that I find distracting on websites are text link ads. When users normally click on a link they expect to be directed to a page with relevant information. Instead, when they hover over a link, they're getting a distracting pop-up that leads them nowhere."
+ Chelsey Moter, Digital Analyst at seoWorks


"One of the biggest mistakes I see is having too many links pointing from sales pages to non-sales pages. Any time you give a website user something to interact with it is a distraction, and the last thing you want them to do is curiously click a link that sends them away from your sales page. You should eliminate all unnecessary interactive options from the page leaving them with basically one option - to buy."
+ Brandon Howard, Owner of All My Web Needs


"As designers we need to be aware of common web design elements which can be distracting for users. Some of these include multiple CTAs, navigation with multiple layers of information and PPC advertising.


However, many of these common elements have important roles when used is the correct way. Brands should recognize the correct use case for common Web design elements."
+ Rohan Woodward, Art Director at Delphic Digital