Son of Web Pages That Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design

the sequel to the best seller
(bigger version of cover 53KB)

By Vincent Flanders with Dean Peters and a Cast of Hundreds

You can get it for $.01 (plus shipping)

Sequel to the best-seller Web Pages That Suck and based on the insanely popular, award-winning site

Web usability expert Vincent Flanders is back, with an irreverent new look at the Web's worst. If you design Web sites or hire people that do, you need to hear Flanders take on the many mistakes that undermine some of the best-known sites on the Web. Within these pages, you'll:

  • TREMBLE at the horror that is Mystery Meat Navigation
  • RUN SCREAMING from splishy splashy Flashy pages
  • CONQUER your Web nightmares by learning the four guiding principles of Web design
  • MASTER the art of spotting a page's flaws in two minutes

Flanders skewers sucky pages from Britney Spears, Microsoft, Century 21, Jesse Ventura, and tons of others, all so that you can be sure you don't make the same mistakes they did. You'll learn crucial techniques for developing content that keeps people coming back, optimizing your graphics, choosing effective text colors and matching backgrounds, and plenty more.

Whether you're designing a site for your digital photos or are in charge of your Fortune 500 company's Web presence, Flanders' scathing commentary will have you laughing while his insights have you learning how to create a truly effective site for your audience.

Click on links to the left to see the chapter introductions.

Dedication: I'd like to thank the following

Vincent wants to thank

Web Pages That Suck works only because a lot of people supported it through the years. I decided they needed to be thanked.

The following PDF files are taken from the galley proofs and will open a new window.

Thank You #1 -- PDF (35Kb)

Thank You #2 -- the full dedication (504Kb)

Chapter 1: These Pages Suck. Why?

chapter 1

The Whys of Suckage
What Is a Good-Looking and Effective Web Site?

"De gustibus non disputandum est" loosely translates to "You can't have opinions about matters of taste." Well, if that statement is true, this book is in a world of trouble <grin>. Fortunately for me, except for personal, art, and experimental sites, Web design isn't about matters of taste, it's about communicating and making money.

In this chapter we'll take a preliminary look at Web design aesthetics, how outside forces can get in your way, and the number-one way to improve your Web site. Throughout the chapter we'll look at specific pages using the concept of the Two-Minute Offense (see the Introduction to the book) to determine where the designers went wrong.

Chapter 2: Judging Web Sites and Dog Shows

chapter 2

How to Judge a Web Site
Jakob Nielsen vs. the Artists

You'd think it would be simple to look at a Web site and judge whether it's "good." Contrary to what some usability experts believe, Web design isn't black and white--or green and blue. There are plenty of shades of gray in Web design, just as in what's left of my hair. What follows is my take on judging Web design.

Chapter 3: The Rules--Sorta

Chapter 3

Rule 1: We're Not in Bakersfield Any More
Rule 2: I Don't Care About Your Problems, Solve My Problems Now!
Rule 3: Follow the Leader
Rule 4: Know Your Audience and Design for Their Expectations

A very successful recent book was called "The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right". While there are certain rules in courtship, such as "be sincere even if you have to fake it," there really aren't any chiseled-in-granite rules about Web design. Contrary to popular opinion, I've never tried to force design rules down anyone's throats. As I've stated on my Web site, in speeches, and a few times in this book, THERE ARE NO RULES IN WEB DESIGN.

On the other hand, if there were some guiding principles, some edicts that should be in the forefront of your mind when you're designing pages, here's what they'd be <grin>.

Chapter 4: Design Issues Even Martians Should Know

Chapter 4

Big Picture Issue #1—Web Design Isn't Sex
Big Picture Issue #2—Designing Under the Influence (DUI)
Big Picture Issue #3—Music Files, the Law, and You
Big Picture Issue #4—Technical Concerns

I always like to say, "There's a finite amount of intelligence in the universe, but an infinite amount of stupidity." In particular, there are an infinite number of ways to make your Web site "stupid." Some people think that you can only have a Web page that sucks if your graphics, text, and navigation are bad. Sorry, Charlie. Many issues that can really screw up your Web site have nothing to do with pictures, words, and directional symbols.

In this chapter, we'll take a look at other ways you can go wrong. I'll also include a link that's worth the price of the book--and then some.

Chapter 5: Content is King

Chapter 5

Content Is King—and Queen and Prince
What's on Your Site That I Need to See?
Heroin Content Is the Best Content
Don't Get Conned by Content

Nobody just "decides" to go to a Web site. They go to a Web site because they're looking for something to solve a particular problem. That "something", which takes on many forms, is content. Content is generally information. Other forms of content are products, games, message forums, cartoons-almost anything can be content. We'll examine some sites that fail and others that succeed at the content game.

Chapter 6: Splish, Splash Pages

Chapter 6

Splash Pages Get in the Way
Good Splash Pages
Not Everyone Agrees
The Splash Page Hall of Shame

Back in Chapter 3, we listed four "rules" of Web design. Here's another rule:

Don't do anything that gets in the way of the user.

The golden rule of doing business on the Web is, "Don't do anything that gets in the way of the sale." Splash pages get in the way because they're an extra layer between your visitor and your site.

Chapter 7: Home Sweet Home Page

chapter 7

Your Home Page Is Just a Billboard on the Information Superhighway. People Scan It Quickly and Then Move On.

What Works for the Man from Mars

Chapter 8: Navigation and Mystery Meat

Chapter 8

The Number-One Question about Navigation
Navigational Goals
Mystery Meat Navigation Is the Spawn of Satan

It would be really nice if visitors to our Web sites were mind readers. That way, we wouldn't need a navigation system, because we would never have to worry about our visitors getting lost. They'd know how to get to where they wanted to go.

But since Web surfers aren't mind readers, we're forced to create navigational design elements to help our visitors find what they're looking for. Unfortunately, navigation is still more art than science.

This chapter looks at how to make navigation clearer on your site and also examines a trend in Web navigation that will give your site food poisoning--Mystery Meat Navigation.

Chapter 9 Jumpin' Jack Flash

Chapter 9

"I Believe Flash Abuse and Mystery Meat Navigation Are Signs of the Apocalypse"
Flash -- What It Is
Flash -- Good or Evil?
Go to the Principal's Office

Macromedia Flash is the perfect example of a tool that's neither good nor bad. It's how designers use the tool that's good or bad. In the original edition of this book, back in the last century, Flash was listed as one of the bleeding-edge technologies. Well, in the 21st century, Flash is now mainstream, but the arguments over whether and/or when to use it are still causing bloodshed.

When Flash animations play, many ("most" if you listen to Macromedia) Web surfers never notice that their browser is actually loading a foreign application. The Flash plug-in allows browsers to run Flash programs that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. We'll look at both

Chapter 10: GRRRAPHICS

Chapter 10

Frequently Seen Graphics Mistakes
Graphics Optimizations
Other Graphics-Related Problems

Graphics mistakes may be the leading cause of sucky Web page design, and almost all graphics mistakes are avoidable. Well, they should be avoidable. Unfortunately, some designers want to add "just one more graphic" or try one more graphic technique. Well, you're about to see what can go wrong as there are lots of ways to use graphics to screw up your Web pages.

Chapter 11: The Joy of Text

Chapter 11

Text Is More Than Words
Text's Two Non-Rules
Put Your Text to the Test

Typography is a very complex subject, but text is quite simple. Can I read what's on the Web page? Is the text screwing up the look of the page? Although those principles sound easy enough, the implementation of them can be difficult.

Chapter 12: Tweak, Tweak

Chapter 12

"A Webmaster's Work Is Never Done"
Tweaking for Fun and Profit
Selecting a Web Host

We'll look at the never-ending struggle to get and keep your site in solid working order. It's a dirty, thankless job, so don't expect anyone to recognize what you've done--unless some design element breaks on your site. Then you'll get more recognition than you thought possible.

Chapter 13: E-Commerce: What Would the Big Dogs Do?

Chapter 13

Arnold vs. Vincent, Amazon vs. You
What Amazon Does Right Is Not Do It Wrong
Learning from Amazon

Whether you love it or hate it, whether it becomes the world's largest vendor or the Internet's largest flameout, has spent more time and money than probably any other online merchant trying to figure out more ways to sell you stuff online.

The good news is, Amazon does a lot of things right, and we should look at what they're doing and see what elements we can incorporate in our sites. The bad news is, it will be incredibly costly to duplicate all of Amazon's successful e-commerce techniques.

On the other hand, there are a lot of techniques Amazon doesn't use, and we can save ourselves a lot of time and money by not using them, either <grin>.

Let's look at what works and doesn't work at

Chapter 14: The Bleeding Edge is Where You Bleed

Chapter 14

It's All in the Delivery
The Really Technical Edge of the Bleeding Edge

The world has changed since the original edition of "Web Pages That Suck." The bleeding edge has moved from the world of Web design to the world of Software design. It's a new and uglier world--and the world of Web design isn't so pretty either.

We're going to look at some of the technologies that are changing the Web. Because the bleeding edge is mostly software based, they occur behind the scene--well, actually many occur behind the cheery face of your browser. Like all change, some of them are good and some are bad.

Instead of just describing the technology, I'm going to speculate where it's heading, discuss its usefulness relative to what you're trying to accomplish, and give you info so you can determine whether or not it's worth your time to donate your blood to the cause.

I'm a lot of things, but I'm not a programmer so I've called on noted programmer Dean Peters to speak "ex cathedra" <grin> for me.