Ugliest / Worst Business Websites To Navigate In 2009

vincent flanders and michael willis are lost

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?"

An important element of great web design is navigation. If your visitors can't figure out where they need to go, they'll go to another website.

As I said in Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015, All web navigation must answer these questions:

Where am I?
Where have I been?
Where can I go next?
Where's the Home Page?
Where's the Home Home Page?

Navigation must be simple and consistent.

Common mistakes include different types of navigation on the same site, a link to the current page on the current page (home page link on home page), poorly worded links so the visitor doesn't know where he'll go if he clicks, no links back to the home page, and confusing links to the home page.

The sites that follow have serious navigational issues.

1. Cafe Intl

Worst Web Site for 2009 - 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). Using IE 7, I only got a couple of menu items if I clicked the billboard. With Firefox 3.5, I couldn't get the page to 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. Here's a video I made of the site. This is the link for YouTube fans.

What amazes me most is that somebody — or a group of people — signed off on the site. Maybe they all took that new brain pill from Greece — Blakeia.

Other comments #1: Yes, Mr. Web Designer, I get it. You are clever. The design looks cool. Now here's the problem: I did not come to the website to find out how clever you are or how cool your stuff looks. I came to the website to buy something, or to donate money, or to find out where you are so I can buy something. Or maybe I was looking for information on how to keep myself well or fix something. Or maybe I was already unhappy and came to the website to find out how to get a refund or get something repaired.

None of these scenarios is made better by knowing how clever you are, or how cool the site looks. They're not made worse either, unless your attempt to look clever and cool INTERFERES WITH MY ATTEMPT TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT I CAME HERE FOR.

Unless your site is like most of my websites (personal, experimental, or inside joke), people are coming to your site to get something done. Don't get in the way.

Other comments #2: I like the UI of the menu pages, but it's the totally wrong application of it. Because you have to click on the texty squares to see what they say, they are essentially 'mystery meat.' Why doesn't the home page say where the restaurant is? Or show a picture of it?

Other comments #3: The idiotic Flash loader animation stalled at 50%. Very bad; try again guys. I am not going to wait to see what surprises you have for me. I'm outta here.

Other comments #4: The problem is that this site would be perfectly fine for a completely different industry. If it was a promotional marketing site, the Papervision3D Flash tricks (which are pretty specialised... is easy once you have access to the library) would be fine and dazzling. But as it stands, this is not the kind of site that really needs Flash.

The site isn't exactly terrible from a navigational point of view and the actual theme of the site is professionally executed. It's just a shame that a single movement of the mouse cause the entire layout to change, and that when you try to read the menu, you're obstructed by low-quality JPGs on the gallery (lack of selectable text on something like a menu is a cardinal sin in my book).

I've heard worse background music in my time (at least we're on jazz MP3 loops rather than tinny MIDI versions of "Stairway to Heaven" now...), but, again, it's not necessary on a site about a restaurant chain.

All in all, it's a well executed site, but it's like performing a double somersault at a board meeting — impressive, but in completely the wrong place, which is its true reason for sucking.

Cafe Intl

2. Hermès

2nd Worst Web Site to navigate in 2009 - Hermes

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, animated and always disappearing menu made me close the site, though I know it has an article somewhere I wanted to read.

A beautiful looking web site is useless if you can't understand the navigation

Vincent Flanders' comments: Yes, I know this is a fashion site and they probably should be exempt because fashion is about appearance and not reality. However, even in my most socialistic, class-hating moments, I find it impossible to believe that rich people (the target audience) would put up with this nonsense.

Yes, this site is beautiful, but it's unusable. It's like using fine china to serve crap. This website may easily be the Worst Site of 2009 and could be one the worst websites of this century.

Other comments #1: And just how long did it take for you to determine that it is a fashion site? I spent 30 seconds fuggling with that idiotic navigation and said "to hell with this", and left the site.

Update: OK, I think I understand; it's another of those "stroke the owner's ego" sites that really has no other purpose, since they obviously don't actually expect to sell anything. I bet they don't even have a machine that dispenses wine...

Other comments #2: Holy s**t! What a complete waste of time and energy. Does this business actually want to sell something? I would say NOT. It must have taken months and months to figure out how to make this site so crappy. You would think that they might accidentally screw up and put something on there that actually made sense...but no. They succeeded in making the worst possible website with what they had to work with.

I find it hard to believe that the creator of this site wouldn't get pissed off trying to navigate through it. Maybe he shot straight up out of bed shortly after the site launched shrieking, "My god, what have I done?" If he didn't, then this man, woman, whoever had absolutely no conscience. I'd like to see him in charge of PETA's website. Where do I click to save baby seals? Oh well, club 'em.

Other comments #3: There are three rules in web design:

  1. First rule of website design, don't ask people to learn how to use your site.
  2. Second rule of website design, don't ask people to learn how to use your site.
  3. Third rule of website design, if this is your first time visiting Hermès, you must click the back button and leave.

Other comments #4: The linked site is so stupid. You click the cologne lid, watch 30 seconds of nonsense, and learn nothing. I clicked the dominoes, only to wait for it to reload exactly the same picture: rather a lot of the mouse-over hands lead nowhere. Slowly. The store site is better, but still full of pretentious nonsense. Why is "life in a pocket" a tie?


3. Leo Burnett Canada

3rd worst site to navigate in 2009

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

In fact, this website 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.

Other comments #1: To me, this site is fatuous and self-consumed; a real tribute to someone's ego, and not a vehicle for promoting one's services. I will venture a guess and suggest that this is some sort of advertising agency, just because many of the websites for big advertising agencies are similarly fatuous and self-consumed.

It may be hip and edgy, but it fails miserably the test of a visitor figuring out what it is about in the first few seconds. It also gives me motion sickness. As well, I do not care for having my browser re-sized involuntarily.

Other comments #2: "Big Ideas come from Big Black pencils" Sometimes Mr. Pencil gets angry. When Mr Pencil gets angry bad things happen. I cannot control Mr. Pencil when he is angry. I have tried. But he makes me do things I am not proud of doing. I am worry about Mr Pencil. He seems to be becoming unhappy again.

Leo Burnett Canada

4. FlatPak

4th Worst Web Site to navigate in 2009 - FlatPak

Vincent Flanders' comments: Flash-based Mystery Meat Navigation (MMN). I shake my head every time I see a site like this. It appears — and it's important to stress the word "appears" — that this is a company with a really cool product but they have ruined their site by trying to be…really cool.

I suspect they've looked at too many architectural firms for influence. We don't need the Flash and we don't need the MMN. It's that simple.

Other Comments #1: This is just stupid and ridiculous. I go to every page I'm supposed to, randomly click on A, B, C etc., to find out information. I don't know what this company does and, after going through that site, I don't care to know what the company does.

Other Comments #2: The preferred method of cooking Mystery Meat? Flash frying.

At least most MMN attempts some kind of iconography, albeit idiosyncratic. In this case, Mystery Meat is brought to you by the letter 'A'.


5. Phonetics

5th worst web site to navigate in 2009

Submitter's comments: I would like to nominate the following as a website that sucks: Phonetics. This site pleasingly combines overwrought Flash, mystery-meat navigation and weird layout with a complete lack of content. It's about a mile from where I live and I'm sorely tempted to call in and leave my business card with them.

Vincent Flanders' comments: I love the phrase "pleasingly combines overwrought Flash." God, the British are so damn polite.

I sat there and viewed the intro three times because I thought there had to be more to justify using Flash. I should know better. Depending on your window size, the text slams into the boxes. Of course, everyone knows the eye icon stands for "offers" and the lightning bolt icons is the universal symbol for "providers." I get the feeling there's not much information for the website, so they're using the Flash and the Mystery Meat to make the site look complex.

Other comments #1: I have always been attracted by simplicity, always believing that true artistry is achieved by removing items and features (namely, things that do not contribute to the site's purpose and message) from a composition rather than adding items to the composition. Something went wrong in the creative process here.

The problem is that the heart of the site - the information - is not there, leaving a rather lifeless husk. One cannot readily discern whether this is a sin of omission (left the content out) or one of commission (took the content out). Aside from that, there is little to criticize other than the Mystery Meat Navigation and a contrast problem between the text and background image on the "Phones" page.

Oddly, the use of Flash here does not bother me overmuch. With some real content and care in managing text placement and contrast, this could be a very attractive site.

Other comments #2: Flash this: How often does a webmaster get the opportunity to build a simple, complete one-page website and unnecessarily screw up the project? All of the information should have been placed on one page - never erect barriers between the customer's wallet and the cash register. The site was built to please the webmaster or the owner, not to help the customer. All page links remain live when the pages are open.

Other comments #3: A company that specializes in communication, creates a website that is difficult to understand. The irony.


6. Boink

6th worst web site to navigate in 2009

This website is a business website for… something. The Flash Splash page doesn't help and, when you get past that, you're treated to a face full of Mystery Meat Navigation, Flash and a really strange rotating thing of icons.

Vincent Flanders' comments: Looking at the URL — — I was afraid I was headed toward a pig site or a porn site — or a pig porn site. Fortunately, I think, it's a site that sells gaming machines, ATMs and other Point of Sale machines.

While I can see a use for Flash on parts of the subpages — but only to show the machines, not for text purposes — Flash is overused. Flash doesn't seem to be helping them with the search engines. I used Google to search for [point of sale equipment] and [point of sale hardware] and they weren't listed in the first 200 results under either term. If their site were a little more descriptive, I might have come up with a better search phrase.

You do have to give them credit for being ahead of their time. The copyright date on the home page is 2010. I also love their phone number — 1-800-GO-BOINK.

Other comments: Welcome to the next generation P.O.S. The tiny white on black font is barely readable. Are they giving eye tests?

Businesses do not replace machines unless an improvement in the bottom line is anticipated, which means this site is going to peg out the processors of a lot of potential buyers with a useless flash presentation. What's the point of using misleading icons AND script for pagelinks? Who decided that a lightning bolt icon represents career opportunities instead of weather or that a video icon should be used for a flash presentation? Oh, wait, that's a blank page "coming soon!" icon. Just give me a page with each machine on it that shows interactive menu buttons that work.

Was the sappy 'help wanted' mission statement necessary? Be very careful to choose only universally understood icons. Do not use icons that have been simplified or streamlined so much that only web addicts understand their meaning.


7. l.a. Eyeworks

7th worst web site to navigate in 2009

Vincent Flanders' comments: The splash home page is trendy, but it's an ugly, sloppy trendy look. I wasn't sure where to click, so I clicked on the guy's face and was taken to a page promoting one of their frames called Kowalski. The page's green background with red banner did not help enhance the look of the blue and red eye frames. Speaking of the frames, as an overweight, boring, pale white guy I need all the color I can get; however, even I think these frames are excessive. Hell, even Elton John doesn't wear them.

I went back to the home page to poke around and discovered that the "real home page" link was the swirling circles. Yeah, everybody's going to understand that.

The sorriest feature of the site is the site's "find the l.a. Eyeworks provider nearest you" link. It opens up your email program but, of course, it doesn't inform you that it's going to open Outlook (in my case). If you can't provide dealers based on my zip code, let me fill out an email form. Don't open my email program.

Other comments #1: With a little more attention paid to commonsense functionality and usability, this website could have been really good, but what we have here is a neat idea that took a wrong turn. Too bad, really. Way too much time was spent on being cute and trendy in appearance, as opposed to being genuinely useful and informative. That email link instead of a store locator is just stupid and unforgivable.

Other comments #2: I found the contact page by clicking on the Contact Triangle but you're S.O.L. for addresses outside of Los Angeles except Costa Mesa. Let me think now, L.A. Eyeworks sells eyeglass frames worldwide but you have to email the wholesaler in each country to find the retailers in that country? I still don't know if this is the manufacturer or a franchise holder — nor do I care.

Other comments #3: See the trick here? They're trying to make your eyes hurt so that you need their glasses! Sneaky!

l.a. Eyeworks

8. Billy Connolly

8th worst web site to navigate in 2009

Submitter's comments: Billy Connolly is such a great performer when you see him in person (I have).

See how long it takes you to find the dates of Billy Connolly's next tour.

Other comments: The site has changed. Now, it's Billy sitting in a chair, but the navigation is still as poor as ever. Now there's a music player at the very bottom of the screen that you won't notice for a couple of seconds, so you can't turn it off right away! Neat.

Billy Connolly

9. Cyprus Icon Artist

9th Worst Web Site to navigate in 2009

Submitter's comments: This is a website about a religious icon painter in Cyprus. What's truly astonishing and unique about this website, is that it has not one, but TWO splash pages (the one a simple image and the other one is Flash). After the splash screen, you are presented with a wonderful example of Flashturbation and the background music of religious singing. The whole website is Flash based.

The site is out of business. I'll be putting up a video of the site. In the meantime, here are some screenshots:

Splash Page #1
Splash Page #2
Home Page (finally)

Cyprus Icon Artist

10. Pizza Capers

10th Worst Web Site to navigate in 2009 - Pizza Capers

Submitter's comments: I'm a first-time reader of your website and I'm finding it very informative – and amusing. There is one website I'd like to submit for your consideration, due to a misplaced use of metaphors and a high dependence on Flash: Pizza Capers.

The hand cursor and the basil/chili plants that swing if you put the mouse over them, but otherwise do nothing, are just idle distractions. Try taking a look at the menu – you have to go through every page by grabbing the bottom right corner of the page, dragging it halfway across the screen, and let it go.  If I wanted to thumb through a menu, I'd go into the place and thumb through the menu. This is why I ended up using the PDF version.

And the 'capertron' part of their 'order online' section is still 'coming soon.' On the other hand, their pizzas are excellent – they're the only place I'd order takeaway pizza.

Vincent Flanders' comments: Worst of all, not everything is viewable on my 1900- x 1170-pixel window, as this screen shot demonstrates.

The site has changed, but here is a video showing why it made the list.

Pizza Capers (current site)