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7 reasons your website users are frustrated (and how to fix them)

You've painstakingly built a website to capture users' heads and hearts. But despite your effort, the site's bounce rates are high, conversions could be better, and users abandon their shopping carts faster than a kitten chasing a laser pointer. 

This is the story of many website designers, UX designers, and online businesses—and these all-too-common issues are often symptoms of user frustration. 

Last updated

7 Jul 2023

Reading time

11 min


This guide teaches you how to identify what's frustrating your website users—because you can only fix something when you know what's wrong. Use these learnings to improve user satisfaction, increase conversions, reduce customer support costs, and build a better brand reputation

Let's get started. 

  1. 7 common reasons for user frustration

  2. 6 signs your website users are frustrated

  3. How to spot areas of frustration on a website using Hotjar

  4. Why finding your frustrating website elements is crucial

Find out what’s frustrating your website’s users

Use Hotjar’s tools to better understand what irks your website’s visitors and build better products. 

7 common reasons for user frustration

Across businesses and industries, certain website problems prevail. These are some of the most common causes of user frustration.

  1. 💬 Unaddressed user needs and feedback: neglecting your customers' demands and feedback (like reviews, survey responses, and customer support calls) inevitably leads to a disconnect. Your website may not serve the purpose users expect it to.

  2. 🐌 Slow loading time and page speed: every extra second in loading time increases the chances of users abandoning your site and moving to a quicker alternative.

  3. 🗺 Poor navigation and visual hierarchy: when users have to dig too deep for desired information, their patience runs thin. The placement and arrangement of elements like buttons, menus, and text should be intuitive and user-friendly, effortlessly guiding visitors to achieve their jobs to be done (JTBD).

  4. 📱 Non-responsive design: people access websites on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. An unoptimized website design that doesn't adjust to different screens leads to frustration and an overall negative experience.

  5. 🛒 Complex checkout processes: a complicated and lengthy checkout process deters users from completing their purchases, resulting in lost sales and fewer returning customers.

  6. 🔗 Misleading links, buttons, and communication: nothing frustrates users more than being promised one thing and delivered another. Elements like links and buttons should take users where they expect to go.

  7. 🐞 Software bugs: website defects disrupt the customer experience by causing unexpected errors, freezing, or malfunctioning, leading to frustration (and possibly causing users to abandon the site entirely).

Understanding what grinds your users' gears requires a deep knowledge of their behavior and customer journey. Making assumptions about frustrated users' habits and behaviors can lead to misguided fixes that drain resources without resolving the core issues.

💡 Pro tip: you can (and should!) adopt strong UX design principles to improve your user experience. For example, Jakob's Law of the Internet User Experience suggests that users expect your website to work like others they frequently visit. 

By aligning with these expectations, you reduce the learning curve, enhance usability, and minimize user frustration.

7 events that frustrate website users 

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons for user frustration, here are some specific examples that cause it (we’re sure you’ll recognize most of them!).

#Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls is the first step to reducing user frustration on your site
Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls is the first step to reducing user frustration on your site

6 signs your website users are frustrated

Wondering if your website is guilty of infuriating users? Here’s how to know if your site gives visitors what they want and need—or if you need a UX overhaul.

1. High bounce and exit rates

High bounce rates—users landing on your site and quickly leaving—signal user frustration. This could stem from confusing layouts, slow load times, or irrelevant content. Likewise, fast exits may imply off-putting content or complex navigation. 

While bounce rates offer valuable quantitative insights, they don't tell the whole story. Behavioral analytics platforms like Hotjar provide complementary qualitative insights to help you understand why users exit your site. 

#See a user's path before bouncing off your site with Hotjar Recordings: a Hotjar user filters recordings where users clicked a particular button
See a user's path before bouncing off your site with Hotjar Recordings: a Hotjar user filters recordings where users clicked a particular button

2. Low conversion rates

If users frequently visit your site but rarely purchase anything or take a desired action, like signing up for your newsletter, you have a conversion rate problem. 

This could indicate a misalignment between your offerings and users' expectations or needs. Focus your efforts on better understanding your target audience’s pain points and expectations and tailor your offering to meet those needs. 

👉 For tips on how to improve your conversion rate, check out our comprehensive conversion rate optimization (CRO) guide.

3. Frequent cart abandonment

Another common sign of user frustration is frequent cart abandonment. This could indicate a complex checkout process, unexpected costs, or a lack of trust in your site's security. 

Remember, not all users share the same frustrations—different user groups may have their own unique challenges.

Discover the behavior behind the numbers

Quantitative data like cart abandonment rate can signal user frustration—but it doesn't reveal the behavior behind it. For a deeper understanding, qualitative data from platforms like Hotjar help you identify specific areas of user frustration. 

Case in point: Gogoprint, an online printing service provider, whose team faced high drop-off rates on key website pages. With Google Analytics showing them what was happening, they turned to Hotjar to understand why

Using Heatmaps, Recordings, and Funnels in Hotjar, the Gogoprint team saw exactly how users interacted with their site, no guesswork necessary.

A heatmap on Gogoprint’s website

They discovered a design issue in the pricing table causing the drop-offs, and a quick fix resulted in a 7% decrease in drop-off rate and a 2% increase in conversions.

4. Rage clicks or taps

Users rapidly clicking or tapping an unresponsive element can signify a slow or broken link or a misleading design. Think of it as the digital equivalent of mashing an elevator button when it doesn't respond as expected.

Monitoring for this behavior can help spot problematic elements on your site.

Did you know? Hotjar’s frustration score automatically sorts your session recordings based on inputs like rage clicks, u-turns, or negative feedback a user leaves during their session.

💡 Pro tip: Hotjar’s new heatmap type, rage click maps, lets you view areas of your page that attract a whole lot of unhappy clicking. Use these insights to reduce friction and improve your pages’ overall UX.

Example of a rage click map on Hotjar’s homepage

5. Random scrolling

Do your session recordings reveal a lot of scrolling and not much clicking? Swift and seemingly aimless scrolling behavior suggests a need for improved content organization and UX design.

Much like well-organized bookshelves in a library, a neatly arranged website guides users to the information they seek with minimal effort.

6. U-turns 

If your website visitors immediately return to a previous page during their user journey, it might be a sign of confusion and frustration. For example, if users frequently u-turn after adding items to their shopping cart, there might be complications with the checkout process, such as unexpected fees or complex payment methods. 

💡 Pro tip: filter your Hotjar session recordings using the 'U-turn' filter to identify sessions where the user returned to the previous page within seven seconds of opening a new page to identify issues with critical workflows and reduce user frustration.

How to spot areas of frustration on a website using Hotjar

Hotjar is a powerful platform that helps you identify and address areas of frustration on your website. Its comprehensive features give you valuable insights into user behavior so you can spot pain points and uncover opportunities for improvement.

Use Heatmaps to visualize user behavior 

Hotjar's Heatmaps tool visually depicts your website visitors' clicks, movements, and scrolling behavior. Heatmaps use a hot-cold color scale, from red to blue, to indicate the popularity of various web page elements and show you if users click where you expect them to. (The best part? Our free-forever plan lets you create unlimited heatmaps.)

A low average feedback score (another free Hotjar tool—more on this later) on a page's heatmap may indicate user confusion or frustration. For example, if a non-clickable image on your homepage, like a cake photo, receives numerous clicks, it might indicate users expect it to be linked to a recipe or product page, resulting in confusion and unmet needs.

Analyze heatmaps of updated pages to gauge user reception and compare pre-change and post-change heatmaps to spot differences in people's behavior. This allows you to understand your website's users better and make decisions guided by their needs.

The Engagement Zones heatmap combines data from click, scroll, and move maps into a single view, so you can see the areas of your pages with the most engagement

View session recordings to observe user interactions and identify patterns

Hotjar Recordings lets you watch session recordings of real website users, enabling you to understand the users' journey and identify patterns. Unlike heatmaps, which give you an aggregate view of your website's visitors, session recordings offer insights into how individual users interact with your web page.

You can quickly identify and analyze instances of potential user frustration by filtering your session recordings based on parameters like:

  1. Rage clicks

  2. U-turns

  3. JavaScript errors

#Arrange your Hotjar recordings by frustration level: those at the top of the list are likely to provide the insights you need to make informed decisions and prioritize solutions
Arrange your Hotjar recordings by frustration level: those at the top of the list are likely to provide the insights you need to make informed decisions and prioritize solutions

I clearly remember doing a presentation for my boss’s boss. I showed him a Hotjar recording of a live user session. In it, you could see [the user’s] frustration—they were moving their mouse wildly and clicking, and nothing was happening. Being able to give that outside perspective was great.

Dave Powell
Ecommerce Conversion Manager, TomTom

By quickly homing in on these signals, you can address these problem areas more effectively, increasing the certainty level of the hypotheses you made based on your heatmaps. You can also combine data from Recordings and Heatmaps to better understand your users, leading to a more accurate understanding of their frustrations.

Set up Feedback to discover what users feel about your website 

Hotjar Feedback lets you ask users to self-report their satisfaction level and frustrations using an unobtrusive, embeddable feedback widget. Users can highlight page elements they're dissatisfied with, giving you the context needed to resolve their issues effectively. 

#The Hotjar Feedback widget in action
The Hotjar Feedback widget in action

This direct feedback channel enables you to receive real-time input and swiftly address any issues, enhancing the customer experience on your website.

💡 Pro tip: use Feedback and Recordings together for a complete picture of what users say and what they do. From your Dashboard, in a single click, jump from a feedback response to the recording of the user who left it to analyze the behavior that led to their comment.

Gather your users’ opinions with on-site and external surveys 

Hotjar Surveys is a powerful tool for understanding user frustrations. It offers a direct line to your users' thoughts and experiences, helping you spot and address areas of frustration and ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction.

Surveys can be triggered based on specific user actions or events, providing real-time insights into user experiences and helping you identify areas of frustration to make necessary improvements. 

You can seamlessly create surveys with Hotjar's robust library of survey questions and 40+ pre-built templates. (Plus, our recently launched Hotjar AI for Surveys acts as your on-demand research assistant, helping you create targeted surveys to achieve specific goals in minutes. 🤖)

How Hussle used Surveys (and other Hotjar tools) to improve their product

Hussle, an online marketplace for gyms and spas, wanted to understand why users were canceling their subscriptions. 

To get to the bottom of it, the company sent a churn survey immediately after a user canceled, capturing real-time feedback. More than 1,000 responses later, Hussle identified common reasons for churn, leading to the development of a new product offering.

But Hussle didn't stop at Surveys: the team also used Hotjar Recordings to observe user interactions with new features, allowing them to spot unexpected behaviors and answer crucial questions about user experience.

#Hussle’s Slack channel: a so-called ‘folder of absolute pain’
Hussle’s Slack channel: a so-called ‘folder of absolute pain’

But wait! There’s more! Hussle also used Hotjar's Slack integration to create a ‘folder of absolute pain’, where Hotjar automatically sends every session recording containing rage clicks, helping the company quickly identify and prioritize issues for resolution.

Hotjar Trends is yet another robust tool to gain comprehensive insights into your users' behaviors and spot potential frustrations on your website. Trends offers a bird's-eye perspective of your user data, making it an excellent tool for visualizing metrics over time.

Here's how to use it:

  • Create custom charts using the unique user actions you track on your site. Visualizing these data points allows you to identify patterns and trends effortlessly.

  • Compare metrics across different user segments to highlight potential problem areas on your website

  • Integrate with other Hotjar tools and dive into the recordings, heatmaps, and feedback that underpin the data in your charts

  • Spot opportunities and address problems before it's too late—by providing a quantitative overview of your user data, Trends ensures you get the bigger picture

#Trend reports reveal the performance of specific metrics over time
Trend reports reveal the performance of specific metrics over time

Learn where and why users drop off using Funnels

Hotjar Funnels visualizes user journeys, pinpointing where users drop off and why. For example, if users leave while filling out a form on your ecommerce checkout page, it could be too long or complicated.

Use funnels to optimize conversion rates by getting a deeper understanding of user behavior and making informed decisions. If sign-ups decrease, Hotjar Funnels allows you to analyze non-converting user recordings to identify the problem.

#Comparisons in Funnels
Comparisons in Funnels

Launching a campaign? The Funnels tool tracks conversions by channels or regions, so you can quickly identify and correct any issues. It also helps gauge the impact of UX problems and frustrations found in recordings.

Hotjar reveals what numbers don’t. Funnels helped me identify where in the customer journey people drop off. Recorded user sessions let me understand what people see when they arrive on our website—what they click and what they don’t click. Heatmaps helped me identify where they spend most of their time and assess if they should be spending time there or not.

Piriya Kantong
Senior Online Marketing Analyst at Gogoprint

Automate user interviews using Engage

Hotjar Engage enables a seamless, user-friendly website experience by tackling user frustrations directly, offering real-time video interviews with verified users for streamlined user research. 

Engage offers user recruitment, scheduling, recording, transcribing, and sharing insights—all within one platform. 

Leverage Hotjar’s pool of 175,000+ participants for quick user profile identification and recruitment. Observe, share notes, and automatically pay participants. You can also test hypotheses and prototypes directly with users for feedback and implement changes accordingly. 

Why finding your frustrating website elements is crucial

Here are some benefits of spotting areas of frustration on a site:

  1. Improve user experience: if you find out what's frustrating your users and fix it, they'll have a better time using your website. They might visit it more often—and stay a little longer each time. 

  2. Increase sales or sign-ups: if people are frustrated when trying to buy something or sign up for a service, they might give up and leave. By fixing these issues, you can increase your sales or the number of people signing up.

  3. Improve reviews and ratings: a terrible user experience or service might lead to bad reviews or low ratings, which can put others off. Making your website more intuitive and improving your product based on customers' feedback increases your chance of getting better reviews and higher ratings.

  4. Boost user trust: if your website works like a dream and provides a pleasant experience, people will trust it. This will also make them more likely to recommend your site to others.

  5. Lower support costs: a confusing layout or too many bugs on your website may lead to more work for your customer service and software support teams. Minimizing user frustration will help you build a product that delights users and reduces costs. 

Harness Hotjar to elevate user experience and reduce user frustration

Understanding and addressing user frustration is critical to enhancing your website's user experience. 

Hotjar provides a comprehensive suite of tools to help you effectively identify, understand, and address user frustrations. 

This can lead to increased user satisfaction, higher conversion rates, and a stronger online presence for your business. So, why wait? Start using Hotjar today and take the first step towards a better user experience on your website.

Find out what’s frustrating your website’s users

Use Hotjar’s tools to better understand what irks your website’s visitors and build better products. 

FAQs about user frustrations

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