What Makes Someone Leave Your Website?

Exit

Part of having a successful website is attracting visitors. Keeping those visitors on your site, however, is another topic altogether. Of course, once you have the visitor on your site you’ll want to keep them around for a while rather than seeing them quickly leaving to go somewhere else.

In order to do a good job of retaining visitors, increasing pageviews and time on the site, it’s important to think about what could cause visitors to leave. By knowing some of the major reasons that people are leaving your site, you can make adjustments to improve this situation.

Here is a look at 16 common reasons for exiting visitors. If you have other factors in mind that I’ve left off of this list, feel free to leave a comment.

Inaccessibility

Accessibility obviously is a hot buzzword around the world of designers and developers, and for good reason. If a site is inaccessible to a user, he or she will leave regardless of how great the site may be. If the user can’t access the site, what other option do they have besides leaving? With so many different browsers (and versions of browsers), different internet connections, and different needs from users, creating an accessible website that is still attractive and effective can be a challenge.

Frustrating Navigation


If visitors have a hard time navigation through the site to find what they are looking for, many of them will leave. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position of the frustrated visitor. To make things easier, navigation should be given plenty of thought and attention. The pages that are most important or most commonly sought after should be very easy to find, and navigation should be logical and intuitive. Larger sites can use a sitemap and/or a sitewide search to help visitors who want to use them.

Following External Links

Almost every website includes links to other websites, and blogs especially are full of external links. While each link ideally has a purpose and makes your site more valuable and useful for visitors, the truth is some visitors will leave through those links and not return. While that’s not always a bad thing (after all, you’re helping the visitor to find something of interest) it is something that you should consider. For example, sales pages are not going to contain outbound links because you want to keep every visitor on that page until a decision to purchase is made. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t link out , but think about the purpose of your pages and how those external links will improve or detract from the purpose of the page.

Clicking on an Advertisement

Advertisements are a source of income for many websites and blogs, but they obviously cost the site some visitors. The purpose for an advertiser who is paying to have a banner or a text link on your site is to get exposure and generate clicks. This is just something that you have to be willing to live with if you want to sell ads. Otherwise, don’t sell ads and you’ll give your visitors one less excuse to leave.

Annoying Advertisements

While ads can lead to lost visitors because of clicks on the ads, the can also chase visitors away is they are too distracting or intrusive. Most visitors now have come to expect ads on websites and blogs, and you shouldn’t lose many visitors on that principal alone. However, if you use accept ads that are overly flashy, have moving parts or changing colors, you could chase some people away.

Satisfaction/Completion

Everyone that comes to your site will at some point leave. That certainly doesn’t mean that everyone leaves on negative terms. If you’re running an e-commerce site, you could see a large number of visitors exiting the site from a thank you page after purchasing. If you run a blog, you could have a visitor who arrives, finds what he or she is looking for, and moves on to another site.

Not What They Anticipated

Have you ever clicked through a link or done a search only to find that they site you arrive on is not all at what you anticipated? If this is the case, you probably left right away. You only have so much control over what people expect when they are arriving on your site, but you can help avoid this situation by using descriptive and accurate page titles and meta descriptions.

Doesn’t Have What They’re Looking For

Some visitors will come to your website or blog looking for something specific, and they won’t find it. I see this as a slightly different situation that the previous point. In this situation you’re site is what they were expecting, but that specific item or piece of information that they want isn’t on your site. You’ll never be able to provide all of your visitors with everything they are looking for, but it’s important to understand your audience and what they are likely to want from your website so that you can provide it for them.

Unprofessional

You can lose visitors if your site looks unprofessional, especially if you’re in an industry where visitors expect to see professionalism. Take for example an attorney. The professionalism of the service provided is critical, so having a website that doesn’t convey that professional image could mean lost visitors and lost business.

Return to What They Were Doing

Some visitors have no real reason for leaving your site other than returning to what they were doing before they arrived. Maybe they clicked on a link from another site, looked at a page or two on your site, and then they leave to go back to the site that sent them your way. Social media traffic is a good example of this. Most visitors that you get from Digg will leave your site in a matter of time and return back to Digg to keep looking at other stories.

Slow Loading Pages

No one likes to sit and wait for pages to load, and if it takes too long visitors simply won’t wait. This is obviously influenced by the connection speed of the user, so some of it is out of your control. However, you can use a stats program like Google Analytics to tell you what percentage of your visitors have different types of internet connections. From this data you can get a good idea about how fast your pages need to load. If most of your visitors are using dial-up, page loads should be as quick as possible. On the other hand, if most of your visitors are on high-speed connections, you can take some more liberty with the design and content.

Audio or Video that Starts Automatically

Although audio and video are very common online today, most visitors prefer to have the option to start it themselves. Visitors that are greeted with a startling sound that they didn’t choose to start will often click the back button and be gone. If you use these elements in your pages, give the visitor the option to start them.

Poor Readability

If visitors aren’t able to read the content, or if they have a hard time doing so, they may just leave. This is especially an issue with blogs. Be careful with background colors and images, as well as text color and link color, and also make sure to use adequate whitespace. Things like headings, lists, and short paragraphs can also improve readability.

Boring

Maybe a visitor has no other reason to leave except that a page’s content or design is simply boring to them. If the page contains what they are looking for this probably isn’t too common, but it’s important to know that readers will need to be engaged in order to stay.

Outdated

Have you ever landed on a page that said “last updated 2001″? Depending on what you are looking for, this page may be of no use to you. Things online change so quickly that old information is often irrelevant. When setting up a blog one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to show the post date. Readers often like to see the date just to understand the context of the post and to understand its significance, but showing the date can also cause some lost visitors if they arrive at older posts.

Too Busy

Some websites have so much going on that the visitor just doesn’t want to fight through the distractions to find what they want. Clutter can be a major hindrance for visitors, and as such you should consider removing anything that’s not necessary.

What’s Your Opinion?

What makes you leave a site that you’re visiting? What factors do you take into consideration when you’re designing a site?

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81 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Irene, May 14, 2008

    What about all of your content being moved over to the right side of the page because THE ENTIRE TOP LEFT SIDE(where the eyes go first) OF YOUR PAGE IS FULL OF ADVERTISEMENTS? Reading the content, well the sentence I could get through, makes you feel like you are crunched in a vice. How can you look at the finished product of an article about why people leave websites and think that this one is ok? I HAVE SPENT A LOT MORE TIME DOWN AT THIS END OF THE PAGE WRITING HOW MUCH I DON’T LIKE YOUR PAGE RATHER THAN ACTUALLY READING IT.

    Good one.

  • Vandelay Design, May 14, 2008

    Irene,
    There’s a re-design in process for that reason. The ads weren’t originally there (there were no ads on the blog), and when they were added it’s obviously not the best fit. Point taken.

  • exfatguy, May 14, 2008

    I bump into this sites that suddenly got music came up of nowhere. The worst part it is sounds like a punk related music. That’s creepy man..it only take me 5 seconds to exit the site although it is a great design sites.

  • Jack Keller, May 15, 2008

    @Vandelay Design I love the right-side content, and while psychology suggests this isn’t the best overall alignment for the internet, you still have a widely read site (content is king as we all know).

    @Irene while Advertisements are generally not a “turn-on” to me I have grown to expect them in websites, I just have become mostly desensitized to the approach and in turn ignore them.

    UI for a web site is very important and I agree with that. If a user feels something is too busy they will look for the road less traveled indeed. But if it is too stark it could look unprofessional as stated before this is cause for a user to exit stage left.

    The approach I’ve seen work successfully in the past has always been content. Whether you’re an online store, an informative blog or a vendor selling software (and the millions of other avenues I just missed, sorry) content is above all the most important part. If I’m looking for a Shure Wireless Microphone, I’m going to buy from the retailer that has the most information about it. If I want to know about SEO on a marketing blog, the same applies. And finally if I’m going to replace Coda with another editor for my web ventures, that site better compel me to drop my favorite software to switch to their solution.

    Keep up the good work Vandelay (btw, is that some sort of funny reference to George Costanza’s alter ego Art?).

  • Kelly, May 15, 2008

    Steven,

    I love the right-side content here, but I wish the sidebar were much narrower. A fluid layout would help, too. I’ve heard the SEO arguments for right sidebars but I just don’t think they’re as good at doing what they’re supposed to do, which is catch my eye. I’m not much of a clicker because I’ve been here a while, but I still notice the sidebar more than at many other sites where it’s off to the right. Since you’re in a redesign, my 2¢.

    I love this list. It’s a huge issue that people often look at from all the wrong angles. Busy, unreadable, and annoying are the easiest to fix… relevant and targeted to your audience’s needs are the most critical, after you’re visually pleasant enough.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  • David Airey, May 15, 2008

    This is a perfect resource for my latest blog post. Thanks Steven. Looking forward to the upcoming site re-design.

  • fivekitten, May 15, 2008

    The left column is a bit wide, but I found it refreshing to move to the right to read. Actually it caught a bit of extra attention because it goes against the left side tradition – in a good way. Although I have to admit seeing the download icon (Vector) ad first made me wonder if this was a reputable site, I quickly caught the Exit sign and read the well-written content.

    Eye movement is a good thing as long as you don’t make the reader dizzy.

  • Koka Sexton, May 15, 2008

    These are all great points. Sometimes I think that web developers want people to leave their site as quickly as possible with all the garbage they have running around their landing pages.

  • Heida, May 15, 2008

    I don’t mind audio in general if the person has a good sounding voice but if the person has a voice that gets on my nerves, sometimes I will leave the site. Especially if there is no way to shut the audio off.

  • liam, May 15, 2008

    Great post, and some really great explanations. Real good things to bear in mind if you’re running a website, and this post will be a great reference point for me when clients are asking me to include some really distracting ads etc. Save me explaining why :) Ill just refer them here. – Seriously great post though!

  • Vandelay Design, May 15, 2008

    Jack,
    That’s a good point. I think content ultimately makes or breaks the site (especially for blogs). You mentioned sites being too busy or too stark, and that’s true, but it’s also a difficult thing because we all have different preferences and any design will have some that love it and some that don’t. Thanks for the insightful comment. Yes to the Seinfeld question.

    Kredite,
    I don’t exactly understand what you’re saying.

    Kelly,
    Yeah I agree with that. The sidebar used to be a bit narrower, and I think that shouldn’t be an issue with the re-design. Thanks for the feedback. The SEO shouldn’t be affected by left or right sidebars because you can use CSS to keep the content on top either way.

    David,
    Thanks for the link.

    fivekitten,
    Thanks too for your feedback.

    Heida,
    I guess you and I are a little bit different. I hate audio of any kind that plays without me turning it on. You’re more tolerant then I am :)

    Liam,
    Great. I’m glad it helped.

  • Kelly, May 15, 2008

    Steven,

    That’s what I thought (about the CSS). I don’t get heavily into SEO worries, though, so when I recently heard someone discussing it as if CSS or not you’d have troubles with left-side nav, I said well, I must have missed something.

    When I leave this blog, it’s always because I’m satisfied. That’s the best way to have us leave. (Then you know we’ll be right back!)

    Until later,

    Kelly

  • VeraBradley, May 16, 2008

    I always make sure my external links are opened in new windows. That usually allows people to go to the other sites, without actually closing mine. And they are more likely to close those website first, and get back to surfing mine.

  • traveler, May 16, 2008

    well knowing the cons gonna help me make my site better. gonna go through the list again n making my site less likely to leave my site so soon. thx alot for the reminder! gonna put less pic so it will load faster to prevent long loading i guess.

  • zohai, May 16, 2008

    Yeah! I agree that audio and video that autoplays are a turn off. And I don’t like to waste my bandwidth just like that. And those sites where they hide the play/pause button is the ones i hate the most. @.@

  • Eshop, May 16, 2008

    It’s good to have external links to be open on a new window or tabs. people will forget about the previous site.

  • Vandelay Design, May 17, 2008

    Kelly,
    Thanks for the feedback and for reading. I appreciate it.

    Vera,
    That’s one method, but it can also be annoying to some visitors. I have done that here on this blog with some of the list posts, but generally I don’t have the links open in a new window/tab.

  • stanley jackson, May 17, 2008

    First impression tells everything, for me if the design is poor and the loading is slow I’ll move to another website immediately…unless the site got real unique contents

  • seo, May 18, 2008

    I would leave a blog when I see too many ads in it..

  • dk, May 18, 2008

    @Vandelay Design: the “Kredite ohne Schufa” entry is pure comment spam. The bot simply used a combination of sentences from foregone comments.

  • Vandelay Design, May 18, 2008

    dk,
    Well that explains why it makes no sense. I deleted it.

  • Computer jobs, May 19, 2008

    Nice tips, i found all information i was looking for, i will use some of them.

  • Online Poker, May 19, 2008

    A quality contents will retain readers to stay.Not to worry much whether they leave from your website.As long as you work hard to produce great info,readers will come back eventually.

  • Startlogic Review, May 19, 2008

    Are you really serious about this point? I think there are a lot of sites which don’t follow the rules.

  • Biodun, May 19, 2008

    Nice posts, What normally makes me revisit a site is if its with nice template and with many pictures, then if i like the owner, if I don,t like them i wont go back.

  • fatsgone, May 19, 2008

    Quite a basic list of generally encountered problems. You should actually focus more on tips to keep people in your site instead of rehashing points (that we already know) on why people leave. Just my 2 cents.

  • There can be so many things that drive one from a particular website. It tends to be confusing navigation or simply an overwhelming ad presence. If you’re hoping to make an income online and are noticing very high bounce rates, you better figure out what’s driving visitors away or you’ll likely never see any sort of substantial income.

  • Matt, May 20, 2008

    Great post. Lots of key points that I think are often over looked. The great thing about most of these are that they can be corrected, or at least limited. I too wrote a similar post about returning visitors.

    Thanks!

  • Stevestuff, May 20, 2008

    Above all the rest, I must say #1 is slow load time, followed by auto starting background music with no controls. You mention audio & video that starts automatically; I feel there are exceptions for this, such as a site that promotes one specific item & they have a video showing the product.

  • Stevestuff, May 20, 2008

    Thanks so much for the ideas here, this is another article that I will refer others to, especially a couple of my closed-minded clients.

    I was wondering if you had listed these turn-offs according to importance? It doesn’t appear so – this gives me ideas for my own post – with a link back here, naturally.

    Above all the rest, I must say #1 is slow load time, followed by auto starting background music with no controls. You mention audio & video that starts automatically; I feel there are exceptions for this, such as a site that promotes one specific item & they have a video showing the product.

    Then I would include bad grammar as #3 along with (should be included in) Unprofessional & Poor Readability.

    Please if you could, keep this post open for comments. I selected to be notified.

  • système d'alarme, May 20, 2008

    Good article. In addition, the poor layout of a website is also an important factor to make visitors leave the website.

  • allnewrelease.com, May 20, 2008

    Very nice article.. thanks

  • womens cufflinks, May 21, 2008

    Personally, unprofessionalism is the most common reason I would leave a page before even wanting to read it. Creativity and professionalism CAN mix! Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be boring don’t you think.

  • loans, May 23, 2008

    although we knw wat makes other leave our website, but sumtimes really ntg can do coz if server down or slow loading page is cannot avoidable.

  • Snorkeling Equipment, May 23, 2008

    I like to see new content on sites. That is what will keep my attention and keep me there. Always new content.

  • Much of what’s in that post are secondary reasons why someone might leave a website.

    Critical, though, is if a website fails to meet the needs of the visitor, they will leave. If it doesn’t answer their question; solve their problem or appeal to their personality type; then they are gone.

    More design – and, of course, content – should focus on answering the question ‘how do we make sure the website appeals to all types of personalities’.

  • Vandelay Design, May 25, 2008

    Stevestuff,
    No, I didn’t attempt to rank these items by importance. If you come up with a post of your own let me know and I’d be interested to see how you rank everything.

    Mark,
    Personally, I think that question is not a good question. If you’re trying to appeal to everyone (all types of personalities) you’ll never be able to do it. Why not pick a target audience and develop the site to appeal to them?

  • BlogMeTheMoney, May 27, 2008

    Another well thought out article.
    Very good list of things not to do or do.

    How about RSS feeds that are broken, or work but are all chopped up or make it hard to read? *Look like notepad without word wrap turned on* Since most blogs I read come via Feed, if the feed is consistently choppy, broken or difficult to read, I drop them from my reading list.

    Or how about adverts that don’t relate to your niche at all? Takes away from your credibility.

  • This is such a necessary part for conversion of visitors, thanks for bringing out so many Great points.

    If we don’t leave breadcrumbs for our visitors to follow, they’ll just aimlessly go to places on the site they may lose interest in and leave. These are great points keep your guests happy browsers.

    We’ve become so involved with visual content that feeds the eye thinking some bells and whistles will attract them, forgetting about content to keep them. Gonna bookmark this one, Thanks.

  • S.B., June 2, 2008

    This is a really, really great post! I bookmarked it :)

    If I leave a site, it’s because:
    -didn’t find what I was looking for
    -too many adds/ pop-ups
    -adds unrelated to the content
    -adult pop-ups that have nothing to do with the site (I find those very offensive to the eye)
    -annoying bright colors
    -too slow/ freezes
    -missing pages/ broken links etc.
    -difficulty navigating
    -missing pictures that should be there

    What keeps me returning to a site:
    -updates frequently
    -easy navigation
    -fast loading pages
    -has what I was looking for
    -site design pleasing to the eye

    I too, on my links page, have my links open in a new window. Unfortunatly, likely the major flaw with my site is that the name is not easy to remember…should’ve thought of that before >.<

    Awesome blog-post, definetly will use it for reference! ^_^

  • Matt, June 2, 2008

    This is great. Most of these things I’ve given some thought to but there are plenty of others that I haven’t.

    I wish certain people where I work would read this article. I feel that if you go by this as a rough guide you will end up with a very clean/organized site.

  • Knut Holt, June 29, 2008

    An unordered or complicatedly ordered web-page with hundreds of moments you must scan through in order to find what you are looking for is the killer nr one.

    A slow loading web-site is also a definite killer.

    Making a web-site excessively profesionally designed often gives a website these problems and have the opposite effect than intended.

  • Burak Önal, July 25, 2008

    Good article. In addition, the poor layout of a website is also an important factor to make visitors leave the website.

  • david calvert - web designer, August 27, 2008

    Poor Layout, Flash Overkill, Inaccessibility, Content Quality, Use of Colour, Download Time, Ease of Finding specific information/services/products, too many ads, outdated information – these are the major factors.

  • Jonathan, October 4, 2008

    All of these, including the ideas in the comments, are all good reasons why users leave a website. It also has to do with the overall psychological condition of the user themselves. Here is a good article that describes the psychological reasons a user would leave:

    The Psychology Behind Web Searching

    Thanks for an interesting article!

  • Svetainių kūrimas, October 8, 2008

    Making a web-site excessively profesionally designed often gives a website these problems and have the opposite effect than intended.

    best regards
    svetainiu kurimas

  • UI Designer, October 29, 2008

    Interesting Article for web designers, every site has some goal from online identity. So, just work on purpose behind site business and what audience looking in new trend.

    Easy to use, solve their purpose to visit site and enjoy during staying on site… :)

  • Kane, December 2, 2008

    This is verey verey good article really thanks u help me . u help us who dont know about these things .

    Interesting Article for web designers and beginners now it works for me on my ideas and my site

    thanks ones again

  • themisfit, February 22, 2009

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shawn, April 20, 2009

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  • JESSE, May 4, 2009

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  • Web Design Portland, May 7, 2009

    One thing that I have noticed is that when someone gets to your site, you need to focus on 6-12 actions that you want them to do. If you overwhelm them with choices then they tend to leave. If you don’t provide enough interesting items, they leave.

    It is quite tricky, excellent insights.

  • iddaa, May 8, 2009

    Thank you so much for this article, I’m going to incorporate your suggestions into my link building efforts.

  • Pam Kauf, June 5, 2009

    This is a great wp theme – did you do it yourself? If not, could you let me know who did? I’d be interested. Perhaps you would be interested in making me one for my blog?

  • Vandelay Design, June 5, 2009

    Pam,
    Yes, this theme was designed by me.

  • Website Design Services, July 6, 2009

    Great article. I myself have been wondering why my visitors stay for 5 seconds or less. Some of the reasons may match my site.

  • Cufflinks, August 13, 2009

    Not only do you need to have a great product, but you have to catch the imagination and attention of the person surfing your site. No point having the worlds best product if your site is boring, or even worse loaded with links to other sites. Chances are the person surfing will surf right on over to someone else.

  • iddaa tahminleri, October 5, 2009

    i will try your suggestions thanks

  • canlı maç izle, October 5, 2009

    maybe we try google web optimization tool for that suggestions

  • Hadith, February 21, 2010

    Spot on! The empahsis should be on all users and not those who are not blind or deaf cos those are the ones that use browsers or equipment that require webpages to be accesible, worst in some countries if you run an e-commerce business and disabled customers are not able to shop, then you can be liable to prosecution!

  • kelowna photog, March 17, 2010

    No site should have music that auto starts, not even photography sites.

  • Steve Graham, June 15, 2010

    Thanks for your thoughts. I do think that there are some sites that are good with music, like a festival website.

  • canlı lig tv izle, July 20, 2010

    Spot on! The empahsis should be on all users and not those who are not blind or deaf cos those are the ones that use browsers or equipment that require webpages to be accesible, worst in some countries if you run an e-commerce business and disabled customers are not able to shop, then you can be liable to prosecution!

  • Bread, February 7, 2011

    thx alot for the reminder! gonna put less pic so it will load faster to prevent long loading i guess.

  • Toronto Web Developer, June 10, 2011

    So true, every point.
    We could all learn from this. Thankyou.

  • Karneval, July 29, 2011

    I leave blogs when there are to many comments on it because it looks like no one is actually reading the article. And I hate music on websites. I instantly turn it off ;-)

  • Webmaster Chris, August 1, 2011

    Good information. I get annoyed with sites that require too much interaction from me and also it what I am after is too complicated to locate.

  • Gelnagel, August 16, 2011

    I must admit that I am a very hectic surfer. If I don´t finde the information that I am seeking in the first few seconds i leave the page. But when i´m not looking for something specific the design and readability is what keeps me on the site.

  • Chris, February 27, 2012

    I will instantly back out of a site if there’s music or video that launches. It’s the most irritating thing and I still don’t understand why webmaster’s allow media to just play like that.

    I also leave if there’s a signup form that I causing me problems. I’m tired of every single site I go to trying to get me to opt in before I can see the site.

  • Svetainiu kurimas, August 1, 2012

    Accessibility obviously is a hot buzzword around the world of designers and developers, and for good reason. If a site is inaccessible to a user, he or she will leave regardless of how great the site may be.

    – Don’t think its good idea.

  • rez, March 22, 2013

    I think usability and site content is real important things to hold the visitors on the site.