The 10 Worst Web Pages Featured on Web Pages That Suck in 2006
I love great web design. The designers who create great websites know that you have to combine content and design in such a way that a website flows seamlessly from page to page. The visitor never has to ask, "What do I do now?"
Unfortunately, the sites featured don't show us great web design. This group features the 10 Worst websites Featured on Web Pages That Suck during 2006. These candidates were Daily Suckers from January through December.
Two big-name organizations are represented in this group: Brown University and Tampax.
Here are the worst websites that appeared on WebPagesThatSuck in 2006:
10. Brown University
Winner in Category "Repeated Use of Bad Navigation"
Brown University is improving. Last year, if I remember correctly, they were #1 on the list. Their winning entry used Mystery Meat Navigation.
This year, their home page is both poorly designed and overwhelmingly difficult to use. Studies have shown that people (US college students) have strong expectations about navigation. The Brown site does not conform to these expectations.
Submitter's comments: As an avid reader of your work, I am eager to share with you Brown University's latest misguided and incoherent foray into web design. Clearly the staff members of Brown's Public Affairs and University Relations division have learned nothing from their previous failed use of "Mystery Meat Navigation" on the Brown Graduate School pages.
In fact, this time they have used it as the central focus of the university's new main web page--a page that is both poorly designed and overwhelmingly difficult to use. As someone who has worked at Brown, this is another sad example of a division (that is ostensibly in charge of the university's image) proudly trumpeting a poor design concept despite the protests and recommendations of its main users: students and staff. When a design division ignores the needs its main audience and is not accountable for its actions, this is the unfortunate result.
Vincent Flanders' comments: Brown, Brown, Brown. It's one thing for your graduate school to be winner of the "Worst Web Design Techniques Featured on Web Pages That Suck in 2005" award, but do you have to muck up the front page of such a prestigious school with your latest redesign?
I have no idea whether or not the statements about the students and staff protesting the design are true. However, when I saw the new home page, here's what went through my mind:
- Jeez! That's a lot of s**t-brown color on a page.
- Damn! This has to be one huge-a** page. (881,650 bytes, it turns out)
- Where's the blankety-blank focus?
Mousing over any section brings up an image and some text. It's distracting, to say the least, and it keeps me from focusing on what's important on the page. Oh, what is important on the page? I'm not sure and I think this is where the page falls apart. I looked at the left-hand topics and after thinking about their order, decided that this was probably the logical arrangement of topics (the location of "Research" still bothers me).
What really bothers me is that on my monitor the right-hand links from "Alumni" to "Administrative Offices" move up the screen when I mouse over them. In the case of "Alumni" it looks like the links are "Campaign for Academic Enrichment" and "Annual Fund." When you mouse over the links in the top groups, the picture does not move the links.
I showed the page to my wife, expressed my concerns, and asked her what she thought about the page. Her answer was brilliantly succinct "It's too complicated."
One reason for its complexity is they went out of their way to make sure the page is Valid XHTML Strict. As I've said before, you can get hung up on the validity of your code. With their current home page having a GooglePageRank of 9, there's very little they can do.
Brown is very keen on every department following a template guideline. The templates are quite functional and help bring some uniformity and reign in those who want to be creative but have no talent.
Other comments #1: Gack. What the hell is this? University websites all look pretty much the same for a reason - so that they don't look like this. "Yeah, go ahead and click on Undergraduate Admissions. Oops! Just kidding."
Other comments #2:
1. Columbia and Yale have better home pages.
2. Using Firefox with the Adblock extension I did not see the Brown University at the top of page.
3. Very slow to load. The slowest of ANY site that I have visited in the last week.
Brown University (current site)
9. NEIU Foreign Exchange Lab
Winner in Category "We're Back in 1995"
They certainly didn't run it through the Colour Contrast Analyser. The site has another of my pet peeves -- unmarked Adobe PDF files. If you're going to use PDF files, let your visitors know before they download them.
The background on the main page looks like something from a Romance novel. What are the roses doing at the bottom? There are also globes, which should make my friend GlobeGuy happy.
Submitter's comments: I'm almost embarrassed to say that I am in a class that involves use of this lab. As far as I can tell, though, only the FL Lab's page sucks--the Uni's main page is okay. Anyway, where to begin?
- Possible contrast issues (feeling a little lazy right now, so I didn't run it through the Color Contrast Analyzer)
- Annoying flashing/animated banner at the top. At least they used a GIF and not Flash.
- Mysterious changing backgrounds on the sub-pages (more flashing header goodness, too)
- I don't take drugs, the rainbow-colored text on the right-hand side is NOT COOL
- More rainbows in the dividers (again, animated GIFs, fortunately) I could go on, but that's probably enough to get you started.
Other comments #1: In the section on Course Reference Numbers, it says "NOTE: Instructors may change without notice." which coincidentally also applies to the colours and words on the home page.
Other comments #2: It's like watching porn without the sex....
NEIU Foreign Exchange Lab - Current Site
Of course, it's been fixed since it made the list. Here's a screen capture to show you the page in all its former glory.
8. Red Blood Club
Winner in Category "Site Most Likely to Give You a Seizure"
This is a local club in Dallas. I can't even begin to describe it... It just has to be seen (no, not if you wish to keep your sanity).
Vincent Flanders' comments: Have I used this before? Ack!!! I used this site as an example near the Halloween holiday, but this is even scarier.
Other comments #1: A website that links to listings on MySpace doesn't exactly impress me with its professionalism.
Red Blood Club Of course, it's been fixed since it made the list.
Winner in Category "Bad Navigation in a Sanitary Product"
After you go through the nonsense of selecting your country (don't get me started), you'll see that the main navigational menu is at the bottom, and the captions read vertically in the UP direction. You have to lay your head on your left shoulder to read them. This is the first time I've ever seen this awfulness.
Vincent's comments: I wish I could say this is the first time I've seen this type of navigation, but I can't. I can say that it's becoming less common.
Actually, this site's use of the Splash Page is one of the few justifiable uses of what is normally a bad web design technique. The manner in which the content is presented is different -- even between US/Canada content and UK content. Each country and culture has a different way of dealing with such a touchy topic (no pun intended). There are, of course, language differences. Hmm. There's nothing for African, Asian, or Middle Eastern (surprise!) women.
What's most annoying to me are the subpages (this is from Archive.org) and their lack of contrast in the menu area.
How is it possible not to notice you can't read the text on a page?
The image at the left is a look at a piece of the menu on one of the subpages at Tampax.com. If you click on the image you'll see a full-size version. (The file was saved at 99%, so there's really no loss in quality.)
Can you read it? Not really.
I received the following email:
The situation is even a little trickier: US & Canada by no means need the same content on a web page. There's the language issue (US wants English/Spanish, Canada English/French), and because Canada requires bilingual labeling, catalogue numbers may differ between the two countries to distinguish which has what labeling. Jockey men's undies are an example of the latter, style #1197 in the US being style #7397 in Canada. (Jockey preprints prices, too, and these differ between the two countries.)
And there's the simple fact that in many cases, the selection of goods available in Canada is not the same as that in the US.
The language issue can be an exceedingly subtle one because of varying idioms, esp. where items of personal hygiene are concerned. Euphemism is the order of the day in such matters and different countries speaking the same language end up using different idioms for the same product. It would not surprise me to find that in the UK, Scotland differs from England in some such cases.
This brings us back to the issue of designing web pages that don't suck. Designers intending their pages to be used internationally should be very careful not to make the assumption that same-language countries use the same idioms, even if you aren't selling anything as intimate as ladies' sanitary supplies.
I'm pretty sure there are endless resources on such national differences in idioms, but the best idea is to have the language vetted by someone native to the country concerned. It's just like typography: if you're setting text in Romanian, you really need a Romanian to check it. Or quote marks, which vary widely from country to country, vide the rich variety available even in an everyday Windows TrueType font for Western European languages.
Tampax current site.
Click image for full size screenshot. (Big file; takes time to load.)
Winner in Category "Page is Too Long"
Just because Christmas is coming it does not mean that you decorate your web page as you would the outside of your house. This home page flashes and the deluge of pictures and cheesy marketing messages leaves me wondering where to click next and whether it would be smart to click onwards...
Submitter's comments: "You deserve the Best" - I deserve a better website! Got to hand it to them though - this site comes up number one in the Google search for "cycling clothes".
Vincent Flanders' comments: The irony of how high they rank vs. the quality of the website leaves me speechless.
Winner in Category "I Have More Links Than God"
They've changed it slightly. Instead of having everything on one page, they created 66 categories and moved all the material to those pages. Can you imagine how big the original page was? Oh, it still sucks.
Other comments #1: Today's hint for Web designers: If the word "Welcome" is 20 screenfulls down your front page... you probably have too much stuff on that page!
Other comments #2: As a special public service, this site gives you…a map of the London Underground. If you've never spent any time in Britain you might not appreciate this, but just about every diary sold has a map of the London Underground printed on one of the inside covers. Despite that, it's still copyright. But this site is special: they don't just give you the map, they explain how to use it. In the process they make it sound twice as complicated as it really is. In fact, the beauty of the London Underground map, thanks to the vision of an electrical engineer called Harry Beck, is that it is instantly obvious how to use it, which is why the same principles are used the world over.
4. Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven!
Winner in Category "Jesus Hates Our website"
Just look at it and you'll understand. MAY CAUSE SEIZURES!
It's still up as of May 20, 2011!!!! There is no God (of web design)!
Other comments #1: OMG it's Dokimos! I had forgotten what the name and URL was for this one; now my life is complete again. Man, this was a classic in my web design class. The best part is that apparently they UPDATE too; there wasn't the IE ActiveX warning lookalike thing there when I saw it.
Other comments #2: It's a classic example of everything a website shouldn't be.
I've been round and round a succession of appalling pages with a collection of backgrounds that are presumably for sale on "Backgrounds from hell" and never managed to find my way back to the original page. Something in there caused my mouse to throw a fit and I had to shut the machine down to get it working again. However, the site has a guestbook with favourable comments about how cheerful it is, so the visitors obviously love it and, despite what I think, it does fulfill its purpose as a religious site. The first thing everyone says when they open that page is JEEZUS!!!!
Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven! (Gone, but not forgotten)
3. TIE — VTR Australia, Ms. Dewey, and CyberAtlas
Winners in category "Bad Navigation Metaphor"
VTR Australia (no longer exists) and Ms. Dewey (no longer exists) and CyberAtlas (from archive.org)
VTR: The web as it might have been, if designed by the original 3D maze developers, did they not notice a maze is by its nature a difficult environment to move around in.
Ms. Dewey: It's a search engine page, but most of the time you're on the site you spend it watching Flash — starting with the page load. These are the same people who brought you Clippy — they haven't learned their lesson apparently. Here's Wikipedia's screen capture of Ms. Dewey. (No, I didn't get a screen capture. The site no longer exists.)
CyberAtlas: It's one of my easiest to understand rules — if you have to explain your navigation, you've already lost your audience. The only sites where people are willing to learn navigational systems feature naked and/or dead bodies and this isn't one of them.
Here's a video of CyberAtlas (SmugMug). The site no longer exists.
Submitter's comments: I hope this gem from an Australian recruiting company makes the cut. Having only found your site today I may miss some of your pet hates, but for me the absolute killer on the VTR site, is that I need their phone number, and after minutes of frustrated 'click and fly'(tm) I still can't find it. Now these guys and girls actually run a successful recruitment agency — a business that relies on fast communication, i.e., people actually being able to ring them. Worse they specialise in IT recruitment...
My particular favourites are
1) An age to load
2) Impossible to navigate
3) Fly out navigation menu designed from 80's keyboard game freaks
4) Animation that adds zero to the experience
5) The feeling of being lost in the crazed imagination of a flash geek
6) The total domination of eye candy over content
7) The obvious pride that the designers have in their art - you to can have a site this sucky and all for free
8) The web as it might have been, if designed by the original 3D maze developers, did they not notice a maze is by its nature a difficult environment to move around in ..
Vincent Flanders' comments: This site demonstrates everything that's wrong with the web.
Vincent Flanders' comments: People in the computer industry complain when Microsoft "borrows" ideas from Apple and other companies. Ms. Dewey is a perfect example of why they borrow. When try to come up with something original, it sucks worse than a broken vacuum cleaner.
The first rule of web design is "Don't use any design element that gets in the way of the user solving their problem." Ms. Dewey's only reason for existing is to get in your way. It's a Flashturbation nightmare. The first time you go to the site, you waste a lot of time watching her move around and talk because it's a novel concept. You quickly get bored so you skip the intro. You're presented with a box where you're supposed to type your query and click the Search button. The results she presents are nearly unreadable and unusable. There's not enough contrast between the text and the background and what is incredibly stupid is that it is impossible to scroll through the listings and read them. You can't get them to scroll slowly.
The second time you go back, Ms. Dewey has lost her novelty and becomes more irritating than a telemarketing call at dinner. This concept is really, really awful. Didn't anybody at Microsoft notice this? Did anybody there actually use the product or did they just sit around congratulating themselves on their cleverness. Obviously, these Microsoftians didn't see documentary "Spinal Tap" or they would have remembered the classic line, " It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever."
Microsoft went over the line. Ms. Dewey sucks.
2. Association of International Glaucoma Societies
Winner in category "Site Most Like A Monty Python Skit"
In January 2006, I thought this site had a lock on first place. I forgot my own dictum, "It can always get worse."
My wife thought this page HAD to be a put-on of some kind. She couldn't believe any serious organization would actually design a site that looked and sounded like something Terry Gilliam would've designed in his Monty Python days.
Submitter's comments: Between the operatic "Glaucoma Hymn" that downloads and plays soon as you come to the main page (with no "Stop Playing!" button), the bobbing heads of (what I presume are) the AIGS Board in the upper-left hand corner, and no clear explanation of what this organization DOES on the main page.
Vincent Flanders' comments: I generally only agree 100% with the submitter, but in this case I agree 210%. What were they thinking when they decided on creating this music? What about the horrid use of frames? What was the meeting like when everyone said, "This rocks"? I'm just stunned.
Association of International Glaucoma Societies Current site, which still bears the structure but not the silliness and pompousness.
1. Optimal World
Overall Winner (The site no longer exists.)
This is just un-freaking believable. It reminds me of the 60's. You keep pushing the middle button and you keep going deeper and deeper and it all turns out to be a very bad trip.
I have nothing against new-age, touchy-feely stuff but this is ridiculous. Even the Joseph Campbell Foundation, which used to have the stupidest (most stupid) website on earth, has come around to having something approaching a real site.