Web Pages That Suck - learn good web design by looking at bad web design

 

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a picture of Vincent FlandersAbout Web Pages That Suck

Fast Company magazine calls this site the "Best for Improving Your Site's Look and Feel."

In August 1996 I launched WebPagesThatSuck.com as an offshoot of the HTML classes I taught at Lightspeed Net. In my classes I always included live sites as examples of what to do and not do and found people really enjoyed looking at the bad sites and learning what was wrong with them.

Of all the comments about WebPagesThatSuck, the one by "rocknbil" on one of the WebMasterWorld forums best describes the site's value:

If there is one thing I wish someone had banged into my head from the start, it is everything mentioned on this site (Web Pages That Suck). Read it, study it, beat your ego down into the box where he/she belongs and apply it to your own work. You will become stronger and better for it.

But alas, I probably wouldn't have listened. I have a BFA in Art and came from the print industry, so a large part of my directive was all about the design, all about "how it looks" and to heck with everything else. I'm just thankful I learned how wrong I was early on.

Since I'm one of those extremely clever marketing folks, I chose a name that had marketing appeal and was edgy. Today, it's hard to believe the word "suck" could be edgy but, In the early days, a lot of people complained about the word "suck" in the title. Thanks to the television show Beavis and Butt-head, President Bill Clinton's escapades and a downward shift in manners, the word "suck" now seems innocuous.. I could have more accurately called the site "Web Pages That Have Problems" but nobody would go to a site with that name and that name is boring. I'm not boring.

The Linkbait Hall of Fame (another wonderful site that is no longer with us) had a nice description of Web Pages That Suck:

It’s rare to find an entire site that’s one great big piece of link bait, but (Web Pages That Suck), educating and informing webmasters amateur and pro alike in how to make great web sites by negative example, definitely qualifies.

...Even at over 25,000 inbound links and counting, it still probably ranks as one of the most underused webmastering resources online, and maybe always will. (Emphasis - vf)

WebPagesThatSuck.com became an extremely popular destination on the web, winning a number of awards including a selection as one of PC Magazine's Top 100 Web Sites. Other awards most notably include Yahoo! Pick of the Week, USA Today Hot Site and Cool Site of the Day.

Learning Good Web Design

Looking at bad web site design is valuable because it gives us the opportunity to learn from other people's mistakes without having to make them ourselves.

Winston Churchill once said, "All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes." Learn from the mistakes of FedEx, Brown University, The Pope, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Adobe, Apple, Harvard Business Review, Tom Peters, Saturn Auto, Memorex, Minolta, Saab, Intel, Chevrolet, Swatch, Canon, and thousands of other sites featured here for using bad web design techniques.

Great web design is an art and occurs when design and content are seamless and you don't notice its greatness. With great web design, it's easy to find the information you need. The content makes you want to return again and again and, most importantly, great design gives credibility to the company/organization.

The Books

Web Pages That SuckBecause of the publicity my site received and how I used humor as a teaching tool, in early 1997 I was offered a book contract to bring my unique style to the computer book industry. I quit Lightspeed Net and enlisted local designer Michael Willis to help with the project which was released in April 1998. The book, "Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design" soon became the Strunk and White of Web design books. Even though most of the sites have changed ("as well they should"), what's discussed in the book will remain valid for years. Design is design.

In describing my first book, Amazon.com said, "Unless you're abnormally gifted, the best way to learn a craft thoroughly is to learn not only its central tenets but also its pitfalls."

I only planned to write the one book and move on to other topics, but there was a whole new set of self-taught designers and business people armed with incredibly powerful design tools that let them create sucky sites faster than you can say, "This sucks."

Son of Web Pages That SuckI wrote Son of Web Pages That Suck to help these designers - both pros and amateurs - "create sites that are designed for their audiences' needs, not for their egos or their resumes or for clients who are in love with pages with excess sparkle and flash." This book also focuses on helping readers save time by teaching them how to recognize bad design on the spot.

For a detailed description of the book, including chapter openings, visit the Son of Web Pages That Suck page.