Worst Web Sites of 2008: Navigation #1-5

There is only one navigational goal: Let visitors quickly and easily find whatever it is they’re looking for on your site.

Navigation is not like a magic trick.

web design is not like a magic trick

When a magician performs a trick, he’ll often misdirect the audience’s eyes. If the magician is waving his left hand high in the air, you can bet the “magic” is happening with his right hand — and even though you try to force yourself to look at his right hand, your eyes go toward the moving left hand.

Misdirection works because our eyes instinctively follow a moving object (in this case, the magician’s hands). That’s why animated images and Flash usually aren’t good to use on web sites — they distract our eyes from what’s important.

When we go to a web page, our eyes instinctively look to certain spots on the screen for navigational clues. We don't expect the site's navigation to misdirect us; we expect it to lead us. In that sense, navigation is the opposite of a magic trick.

Clarity is the goal of navigation.

It's important for your navigation to be located where people expect to see it — in the same place on every page of the site — and for it to work as they expect it to work. It's the same when you drive. Highway departments don't hide road signs; they put them right along the edge of the road where you expect to see them.

Unfortunately, we still have too much bad navigation.

You've read about the goals. Now, I'm going to show you sites that lost their way. Not only did they lose their way, they ended up dead and dying on the pages of WebPagesThatSuck.

Remember to read Worst Navigation of 2008 #6 to 10


1. TeacherXPress

The worst web page for navigation in 2008

Categories: Navigation and Links

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.

On the other hand, the copyright date is 2002. As I've always said, if you use dates, keep the dates current. If I see an article dated 2003, I'm going to ignore it — no matter how good it is or how relevant. It's old and old is a sin on the Internet. Wait a minute. Under that definition, I'm a sin.

Sadly, TeacherXpress' current website was suspended in 2011.

My YouTube video commenting on the site
Same video hosted at SmugMug

Here's the Archive.org version from December 25, 2010.

1. (Honorary) University of Nebraska-Lincoln Architecture

should have won

Categories: WTF? and Navigation

Yes, Teacher X Press sucks worse than a broken vacuum cleaner, but a recent version of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Architecture web site sucked worse. Much worse. To paraphrase a quote about software engineering:

"If architects designed buildings the way they design web sites, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

What in the name of God is wrong with architects? I hate stereotypes like "White people can't dance," but it's a fact that "Architects can't design web sites." Take a look at these architectural gems if you don't believe me.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not the only person who recognizes that architects have problems with their web sites. treehugger takes architects to task over their web sites. I’m going to add these suckers to my Bad Architects Sites. treehugger isn't the only group to "appreciate" architects. Here are some more articles about bad architectural web sites from bd and the Guardian.

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.

Vincent Flanders' comments: 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 subpages aren't as horrific as the home page. If you're a parent, the text could be too small to read. If you're a student, it's probably OK. The home page link on the subpages is at the bottom right of the page. If you click what you think is the normal home page link — the logo at the top left — you'll end up at the home page of UNL.

Since I clicked on the logo at the top and ended up on the UNL home page I looked the page over. It's very clean looking, with a nice use of white space and it looks like the navigation covers most of the major topics folks want. I also like the fact there are no JavaScript menus.

The final piece of silliness on the unl-arch home page is the faux Matrix Text Effect. It looks like the architects went to this site to learn the technique and then modified it. Then again, they could have gone to a few million places to learn this technique. They should have kept going.

Architects like to think they're Neo, but the truth is they're really Agent Smith.

Here's the YouTube version of the original site
Here's a higher-quality video of the original site

2. E-Trade Hub

The 2nd worst web site for navigation in 2008

Category: Navigation

Submitter comments: A friend of mine sent me this web site as a “Christmas Present.” Not only does the contact box float across the screen, but it will rebound off the corner when it reaches it! Besides the fabulous contact box we have scrolling boxes, pop out images, and a super bright green and orange layout. I wish all the Christmas presents I received were this excellent!

Vincent Flanders’ comments: Your friend’s taste in presents is…uh…interesting. One of the major complaints people have about web sites is not being able to find contact information. This site found a unique solution — unfortunately, it sucks but I give them extra points for creativity.

I’ve never seen a page where scrolling went in two different directions. It's unique, but also sucky and the straw that broke the designer's back and made this the #2 Worst Navigational Site. Like the submitter said, contrast and color choice are problematic and a 1.25Mb page size is excessive.

McAfee has problems with E-Trade Hub as you can see in this screenshot

3. Julie Garwood

The #3rd worst navigational web site

Category: Navigation

The first sign that it’s going to suck like a bilge pump is that it uses Metaphor Navigation — in this case, the metaphor is a desk. I don’t need to tell my audience that if there ever was a hackneyed metaphor it’s Desk Metaphor Navigation. I love all the Mystery Meat books in the bookshelf — itself, another cliche. On the other hand, the author is quite prolific, but that has nothing to do with design.

I thought the navigation at the top would match the Metaphor Navigation, but it doesn’t and that’s why this site is a Daily Sucker. The author obviously is successful and has money to burn. This site could have been much more effective for far less money.

Other comments #1: Seriously…as an actual software developer who does almost exclusively web applications I get so tired of the arrogant artsy-fartsy "web site designers" that have no skill other then the first four chapters from a Flash book. Flash is a cool technology to accent a web site. A crappy little static-sized window is NOT a web site. It is a single Flash application that just happens to consume an entire domain (and lots of bandwidth). Useless.

Other comments #2: Yeah, I hate all the abuse of stuff…And I know I'm going to be flamed for this, but I don't like all the "Web 2.0" crap either — mainly because it's misused. Flash and frames also make bookmarking the page impossible. What I hate the most are Flash ads that emit sound. If only I could punch people in the face over the internet…

Other comments #3: Authors seem to love this sort of thing. J.K. Rowling did something very similar. If I want to poke and prod around, open doors, drawers, etc., I'll play Myst. The fascination with this sort of things wears off after about 5 seconds.

Julie Garwood

4. The Connext Project

The 4th worst navigational web site of 2008

Categories: Navigation and Mystery Meat Navigation

Submitter comments: The amount of MMN on this page is amazing — not to mention the fact that they are using 36 links to point to approximately five different pages total (which they already have links for right at the top), and didn’t even bother to organize the links into any coherent order. I think one link is repeated about nine times and another is used only once. Have fun finding it!

Just keep an eye on your CPU performance (at least in Firefox). Plus, I personally found that mouseover effect on the actual readable links at the top of the page to be obnoxious.

Vincent Flanders’ comments: After looking at this site it should be obvious why Mystery Meat Navigation should never be used.

Other comments: I know music sites usually get a pass, but I think that pertains more to bands or fan sites. This one is being used to market an event and it's ridiculous to try and navigate whether you're into this kind of thing or not. I don't think being a fan of techno music is going to make it any easier to get around. I also agree that it's ironic that the ticket information, arguably the most important page on this site, is the place they emphasize least.

The Connext Project

5. Sprint: Plug Into Now

The 5th worst navigational web site of 2008

Categories: Navigation, Focus, WTF?

I’ll give them credit. Somebody knows how to use Flash. Unfortunately, it’s an ADHD cesspool. I was a little surprised to hear a voice say, “Feel free to touch it” and a little disconcerted to discover that the #11 search on Google (at that moment) was “brad pitt tattoos.”

It took me a bit to figure out where the important link was located. This link took me to another Flash page, which was also strange, but it had information about how to get mobile broadband. My main reaction is “Huh?”

Other comments #1: When widgets attack? I can't even figure out what the marketing benefit would be. What's the call to action to drive someone to this nonsense? I do know how I feel about that snotty voice insulting me for not doing anything with the page. I hope I don't hurt its feelings when I close the browser without having done anything with the site.

Other comments #2: As is the case in so many situations, you have to be astonished at the fact that someone, who probably has considerable responsibility and likely makes a hefty salary, actually approved this train wreck!

Other comments #3: Wow! For a second there, I thought I was God…watching everything happening in the universe at one glance. As for web site design, it sucks. I guess if you are a large enough company, you don't worry about search engines.

Sprint: Plug Into Now