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this book could save your websiteUgliest / Worst Web Pages
of the Decade

I've been writing about bad web design since July 1996 — and nobody knows more about what sucks up a site. My two books on web design showcased bad web sites and what you need to do to prevent their mistakes from creeping into your web design. Like I've said forever, you can learn good web design by looking at bad web design.

I've gone through my hell-hole of bad web sites and picked out the 30 that I think typify the worst in web design. There are no subtleties here. The current biggest mistake in web design — not enough contrast between the text and the background — isn't featured prominently because it's generally a mistake that good-looking web sites make (like 50% of all the sites discussing good web design — noupe, are you listening?).

I've cheated a little and gone back to the late 1990's for some of these sites. The reason? People are still making the same mistakes today.

If you want to unsuck your site's design check out my web design checklists Part One and Part Two.

Bad web design is like a dirty diaperIntroduction to Ugliest / Worst
Web Pages of the Decade #30 - 21

It's so hard to categorize crap, except that it smells. What makes a web site #28 on my list instead of #15? For the most part, arbitrary decision making. Basically, I went through my "Worst Sites of 19XX/20XX" and picked what I thought was worst. Then I went through my speech material and looked at the worst of the worst. Finally, I arbitrarily grouped them. Trust me. There's something bad here for everybody.

Skip to Worst Pages 20-11        Skip to Worst Pages 10-1

The worst web page for navigation in 200830. Teacher Express

And we wonder why our children are confused?

I've heard of web designers being <DIV> happy and <SPAN> happy, but this site is a perfect example of being link happy. Or link crazy. If I counted correctly — and that's a pretty big "if" — there are 1,061 links on the page.

The site was the Worst Web Site to Navigate in 2008. It lasted in its current form until early 2011.

Fortunately, Archive.org grabbed the site.

My YouTube commentary
Same video at SmugMug

Fred Fraps site was 7th worst of 200729. Fred Frap and His Imaginary Friends

"Colorful" is the first word that comes to mind. Doesn't seem to work in Firefox, Opera, or anything that isn't Internet Explorer.

Vincent Flanders' comments: My eyes! Of course they've revised the site. The site was ranked #7 on The 10 Worst Web Sites of 2007.

Here's a screen capture of the original worthless splash page.
Here's a screen capture of the original home page.
Here's a screen capture of the original Sightings and Listenings page. Scrolling sucks.

worst28. ABBC Breeders

Submitter's comments: For the January – March of '09 Worst Sites, there's an entry for ABBC Breeders. In the included screenshot of the post it looks like they had some sort of Arbor Day design up. Well, as Christmas draws near…ah…words cannot describe. I really feel like I've been transported back in time.

Vincent Flanders' comments: Gee. My version of the site is for St. Patrick's Day. (The screenshot is 1.5Mb and leaves out much of the horribleness because the full-size version was 11Mb).

The screenshot I'm using here is their Christmas design. It's changed again. Now it has penguins. Who knows what will be on the site when you visit?

The site was ranked #4 on the Ugliest / Worst Business Web Sites of 2009.

ABBC Breeders

The second Worst Web Site to Navigatae in 200927. Hermès

Submitter's comments: I don't have much comment on this site. Maybe it's my bad, but I'm totally lost in the navigation. After desperately clicking everywhere to skip the starting animation, I discovered that the "?" pops up a window where you can read information about direct navigation. It only takes a couple of minutes to read and memorize… Little squares gallop, left-and-right and the animated and always disappearing menu made me close the site — though I know it has an article somewhere I wanted to read.

Vincent Flanders' comments: Hermès was ranked #2 on the Ugliest / Worst Business Web Sites to Navigate in 2009.

Hermès

ranked third in worst navigation of 200926. Leo Burnett Canada

Submitter's comments: I teach Creative Advertising Strategy and Direct Response Advertising at a university. In class, we look at webpagesthatsuck.com to learn what not to do, just as you suggest, and it is quite helpful. However, my students never fail to point to web sites that are highly regarded, such as Leo Burnett, that utilize Mystery Meat Navigation and flying navigation.

In fact, this Web site REALLY DRIVES ME NUTS! When you click on “skip intro,” for example, it seems that that is not an option. What are those flying apples all about anyway? Please take a look at this site. I would really like your opinion, as my students are telling me that Burnett's site is avant garde when I think it is ill-conceived.

Vincent Flanders' comments: I think it was ranked #3 on the Ugliest / Worst Business Web Sites to Navigate in 2009 and #26 here on Ugliest / Worst Web Pages of the Decade. It is a "Worst Web Page" for the reasons above — it seduces people into believing that using bad web design techniques (like Mystery Meat Navigation) is actually a good technique.

Leo Burnett Canada

the 25th worst web site of the decade25. Hayden Video Wedding

Of course, it's been fixed. Still, you need to see it, understand why everything is wrong and then not make the same mistakes.

Why...

  • ...is there a background picture that repeats itself?
  • ...are there birds and spiders (?) falling down from the top?
  • ... are there these white lines across the page (and the woman's face) with blue text?
  • ...does the page go on forever?
  • ...does the text change color?
  • ...is there no organization?
  • ...does this site exist?

Watch the YouTube Video (1:25)

ugliest business web site of 200924. LingsCars.com

I found another shockingly bad site that you might be interested in. Have a look at your leisure.

I think we have another sure-fire contender for the Worst Web Site of 2009. It’s 4.3Mb of flashing, blinking crap.

Vincent Flanders' comments: I think I remember reading that this business is wildly successful in the U. K. It was ranked #1 on the Ugliest / Worst Business Web Sites of 2009.

LingsCars.com

Worst Web Site to navigate in 200923. Cafe Intl

Vincent Flanders' comments: Somebody got Flash happy and wanted to show off all the little tricks they learned. To appreciate the madness, you have to choose one of the moving items — Breakfast, Lunch, Catering, or Specials. Then it gets interesting. Using IE 8, every spot on the floating billboard filled up with shimmering information (you have to see it to understand). With Firefox 3.5, the page wouldn't load and with Safari, it loaded correctly. That's the problem. When it loads correctly, you get a case of the dry heaves because the shimmering text gives you vertigo.

What amazes me most is that somebody — or a group of people — signed off on the site.

The site was ranked #1 on the Ugliest / Worst Business Web Sites to Navigate in 2009

Cafe Intl

In case they fix it, here's a YouTube video I made of the site (2:47)

Turn up your speakers when you visit22. Advanced Tactical Firearms

When I received the email suggesting this site as a candidate for The Daily Sucker, there was a P. S. that read, "Make sure you turn up the sound on your computer." Like an idiot, I turned up the volume. Oops. I was inspired to jump under my desk.

It's been fixed.

Watch the YouTube video (1:15)
Watch the SmugMug video version
View the full-size screen capture

M E D I U M s u c k s21. M E D I U M

What is it with architectural firms? It seems every other one is using Mystery Meat Navigation on their site. There's also very little contrast between text/links and the background. To paraphrase a great quote, "If programmers built software like web designers build architectural web sites, Bill Gates would have ended up a lawyer in his daddy's firm."

The site has changed and I'll be putting up a video.

This site was ranked #6 on The 10 Worst Web Sites to Navigate in 2006.

M E D I U M

a badly designed nonprofit web site hurts more people than just the employeesIntroduction to Ugliest / Worst
Web Pages of the Decade #20 - 11

Six of the ten sites are non-profit organizations, government agencies or educational institutions.

Generally, more damage occurs when a non-profit web site sucks. When a commercial web site sucks, the company is hurt, but when a non-profit site sucks, the organization's clients get hurt — and they already are in a vulnerable state or they wouldn't be clients. There's more at stake with a non-profit web site and they have more responsibility to "get it right."

Obviously, some clients of non-profit organizations, like universities, don't get hurt in the same way as a homeless shelter's clients would get hurt. Government agencies probably don't care at all. Still, a poorly designed web site tarnishes the luster of an organization. What we have here is a lot of tarnished luster <grin>.

Army Engineers can't build web pages20. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

If the Army Corps of Engineers builds web sites like this one, then it's only logical that you should be worried about anything else they build.

This is one of the few places where I discuss the issue of contrast, which is the biggest mistake that good-looking web sites make today.

Watch the YouTube video (2:16)
Watch the SmugMug video version.
View the full-size screen capture.

should have won19. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Architecture

What makes the page truly disturbing is the crosshair telescopic sight navigation. My immediate reaction was, "this is just like a telescopic sight used on a sniper's rifle." Considering the gun-related violence we've had on college campuses, I think this is totally inappropriate.

The final piece of silliness on the unl-arch home page is the faux Matrix Text Effect. Architects like to think they're Neo, but the truth is they're really Agent Smith.

The UNL architecture site was a shoe-in for worst web site of 2008 until they fixed it. While the current site looks just fine, I captured the old site on video.

Watch the YouTube video (1:27)
Watch the SmugMug video version

The worst non-profit web site of 200918. Edison Innovation Foundation

The site is supposed to be about providing information, except they use every trick in the book to hide the information. The site was created with Flash. That's the first mistake. They're using circular navigation and then there's the Mystery Meat Navigation in the center that's about Edison's patents. I'll bet you $100 you can't immediately go to Edison's Galvanic Batteries patent.

As I've said in Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015, there are four reasons people visit a web site:

  1. They want/need information.
  2. They want/need to make a purchase / donation.
  3. They want/need to be entertained.
  4. They want/need to be part of a community.

The site was ranked #1 on the Ugliest / Worst Non-Profit Web Sites of 2009.

Edison Innovation Foundation

This is such a bad ad I can't believe it17. Any Site That Ran This Ad

This is the most horrible banner ad ever created. I remember seeing it on a number of web sites and each time I saw it, I just about puked.

Yes it's real. There are bad ads, really bad ads and then there is this ad. It's jaw-dropping bad.

Watch the YouTube video of the Most Horrible Banner Ad Ever Created (1:37)

The OC Foundation has problems16. Obsessive Compulsive Foundation

I said the site was "unclear on the concept" because anyone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder would never get past the first page and would look at it forever.

Fortunately, they've fixed the site.

Watch the YouTube video YouTube (0:19)

the wonderfully inspirational web site of the Governor of Oklahoma15. Governor of Oklahoma

I was being interviewed by a radio station in Oklahoma City back in 1998 and I was asked to give an example of an ugly web site. Guess which site I suggested? Ironically, the creator of the site, who was listening to the program, disagreed. I'm willing to bet serious money s/he now agrees with me.

View the full-size screen capture.

Crumpler is a very strange site14. Crumpler

I went there to find out about their products, but after visiting the web site, I'm convinced they all must be such utter jerks I'd never do business with them.

Everything that could possibly be wrong with a web site is wrong with this one.  Seriously. It's so bad I can't even come up with words to describe how terrible it truly is. 

If you have designed a web site with the specific goal of making it so obnoxious that it drove people away, and with the secondary goal of making it maximally difficult to clean even the smallest iota of information about the products from the web site, this is the design you'd come up with.

Vincent Flanders' comments: This site was ranked #2 on The 10 Worst Web Sites to Navigate in 2006. Of course, it's been fixed.

Watch the YouTube video YouTube (1:17)

The fourth worst web site for 200813. Yvette's

Vincent Flanders' comments: I remember the priests and nuns at my Catholic grade school telling us that if we thought we were facing immanent death, we should say an Act of Contrition and our sins would be forgiven — or something like that. After viewing this site the only thing that's keeping me alive is the thought of death.

You have to love the keyword stuffing that's going on. Most people try to hide the fact. Because of all the color combinations on the page, they just put the keywords at the bottom. You must click the ENTER YVETTE'S link to see the home page. OMG.

It was ranked #4 on the Worst Web Sites of 2008.

Yvette's (site no longer exists, but Archive.org has a working copy)

Oops. Amazon.com goes racist12. Amazon.Com

You'd think that with companies having Human Resource departments that are knowledgeable about issues of ethnicity you wouldn't find inappropriate images on commercial, educational, or government sites.

Imagine my surprise when I ran into a seemingly offensive animated image on Amazon.com featuring African-American recording legend Barry White.

The animation starts with him smiling and as the animation progresses, a light reflects off his teeth. I may be wrong, but it appeared to me that this was a stereotypical image, which really shouldn't be on a site like Amazon.com.

Watch the YouTube video (0:43)
View the full-size screen capture.

isn't this great web design?11. Admissions Department University of Missouri, Rolla

WTF? This was the admissions department for a university — not some juiced-up Trekkie fantasy. WTF? They changed their name to Missouri University of Science and Technology. Fortunately, they changed this page. Take a look at their current page — it makes sense.

Watch the YouTube video (2:00)
Watch the SmugMug video version

These web sites are the worst of the worstIntroduction to Ugliest / Worst
Web Pages of the Decade #10 - 1

There isn't a whole lot more to say.


Mother of God! This is bad web design at its worst10. George Hutchins for U.S. Congress

Vincent Flanders' comments: Wow! I'm going to steal from one of my contributors when I say, This site is so bad, it simply cannot be "fixed” — that is, without the aid of a flight of F-4's armed with napalm.

I don't get it. Hasn't this guy looked at web sites of other Republicans running for Congress? (Granted, Heller's site isn't perfect — just 10,000% better than Hutchins' site.)

Hutchins' site's is a political version of other loon sites like Havenworks (it's now dead but this is a version from Archive.org), Yvette's (also dead, but at Archive.org), Bella De Soto, etc. I may be wrong, but I don't think he wants to come off as some loon. Then again, I'm not into politics, so what do I know?

It took a while before I discovered Hutchins is a Republican. I figured Hutchins had never seen the RNC web site and I was right. It's much better than his site, but all that red on the RNC home page scared the bejesus out of me.

The site was ranked #2 on the Worst Over The Top Websites of 2009.

George Hutchins for U.S. Congress

marijuana.org is a dopey web site9. Marijuana.org

Nancy Reagan said it best, "Don't do drugs when you're designing web sites."

The site doesn't exist any longer, which is a waste of a great domain name..

Watch the YouTube video (1:05)
View the full-size screen capture.

Janus is a horrible site8. Janus

It's a great idea to make your customers think that their broker is riding a $4,000 bike instead of managing his accounts. It will inspire them — to take their business elsewhere.

Of course, they've fixed the site.

Watch the YouTube video (2:06)
Watch the video at SmugMug
View the full-size screen capture.

a very long page7. Havenworks

It's pretty obvious why this site was the Worst Web Site of 2008. When someone sees this site, their reaction is the same as my reaction when I first saw it — WTF? — What the Heck? Originally listed as the #3 Contender, it kept on grating on everyone's nerves.

I made a full-size screen capture of the site that weighs in at 37Mb. Amazingly, the web page itself weighs in at only 996.62Kb (on the day I tested it); nevertheless, it's 996.62Kb of crappy design. Have these people ever seen another web site? Another news site? A site like MSNBC.com?

Havenworks was the Worst Web Site of 2008.

Havenworks (it's now dead but this is a version from Archive.org)

The worst web page in the world6. Bella De Soto's Web Site

The image to the left is really a reduced screen shot.

Vincent Flanders' comments: Bad web design is like pornography — just when you think you've seen it all and you think nothing could disgust you, along comes something worse. This site is the 2 Girls 1 Cup of bad web design. No, as far as I can tell there's no pornography, just a web site that makes the 2008 Worst Web Site— Havenworks (it's now dead but this is a version from Archive.org)— look like CSS Zen Garden.

Here's a video of the site at SmugMug

Here's a partial screen capture
Here's a partial screen capture at a larger size

This site was tied with Haiti News Network (#5 on the Decade's Worst List) for the Ugliest / Worst Over The Top Web Site of 2009. I'm not providing a direct link because I don't want to blow out their bandwidth (their home page weighs in at 503Mb). If you want to type in the URL, it's http://www.belladesoto.us/ — but the site is in a state of suspended animation.

Worst Web Site for 2009 - Haiti News Network5. Haiti News Network

Vincent Flanders' comments: This site scares me more than a proctologist with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

At least it doesn't use sound files. Actually, I'm not sure because I was too scared to click any links. If the home page sucks this much, what hope is there for any of the subpages? This site doesn't just suck, it's the black hole of f**cking death.

If you're one of those folks who think that the glass is half-full, you'll be comforted by the thought that web design in Haiti has nowhere to go but up. I'm not sure which of the following two statements from the great movie reviewer Mr. Cranky applies to the Haiti News Network:

  1. "This is so godawful that it ruptures the very fabric of space and time with the sheer overpowering force of its mediocrity.”
  2. "Proof that Jesus died in vain.”

Wait. I know which one is the right phrase — It's the black hole of f**cking death.

This site was tied with Bella De Soto's (#6 on the Decade's Worst List) for the Ugliest / Worst Over The Top Web Site of 2009.

Haiti News Network

This web site is horrible4. Association of International Glaucoma Societies

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.

Vincent Flanders' comments: It ranked #2 on The 10 Worst Web Pages Featured on Web Pages That Suck in 2006. They fixed their site, but they've added frames.

Watch the YouTube video (0:47)
Watch the video at SmugMug

Accept Jesus web site sucks3. Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven!

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!!!!

This site was ranked #4 on the 2006 Worst Web Sites.

WARNING! Possible seizures. Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven!

Scene clean tries skulls2. Scene Clean Version 2

Upset that they were the Daily Sucker at Web Pages That Suck instead of winning a High Five site award from David Siegel, the folks at Scene-Clean came up with a new web design paradigm they thought would make their site a classic — animated skulls.

View the full-size screen capture..

Scene Clean is amazingly bad1. Scene Clean Version 1

One of the most amazing and inspirational web sites of the 20th Century. God, how I miss these guys. How I miss the theme from Mission Impossible, the animated email icon, and the banner that says:

"LOVE FOR SALE $50,000 gets you a whole lotta love."

$50,000 damn well better get me a whole lot of love.

The site no longer exists except as a wonderful memory.

Watch the YouTube video (2:10)
Watch the SmugMug video version
View the full-size screen capture