Web Development

Web designs gone wrong: A gallery of digital horror

Todd Fluhr scoured the web for ten of the worst web design examples he could find for those who profit from negative reinforcement. Don't do any of this!

If "bad website" were a genre, it might well surpass the giant internet porn industry. Some bad websites seem the product of Luddites drawing on monitors with Sharpie markers. Others are constructed with all the efficacy of a monkey slinging poo at a wall to see what sticks. Yet others might be viewed as the abstract actualizations of artists under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms. And then there are the ones that truly stand out.

Dismiss for the moment sites suffering from inept coding or poor standards. These are legion and far too numerous to merit consideration as "bad websites". They are simply technical failures and amateur attempts. No. The sites that demand our attention today are true tragedies of design and despair. These are the sites designed for  Businesses and Celebrities who should have known better, but didn't. These are so "over-the-top" bad that one must wonder if perhaps their web designer harbored some secret grudge against their client.

Without further ado, allow me to assume my best "Rod Serling" to present a Night Gallery of digital horror.  Welcome to this exclusive showing of ten websites, each a collectors' item in its own way - not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a screen, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.

I've provided the quick links to the websites themselves below, but you will probably want to page through the gallery, "10 web design tragedies," for the full effect with commentary on the visual assault you see before you.

Here's a little taste from Number 10 (yeah, you really need to view this full-size):

Quick Links For impatient masochists

About

Todd Fluhr is a freelance writer and multimedia designer. A self-described "Shockwave Rider" of technology, culture, and creativity, he has been involved in the interactive entertainment industry since the early 90's. He hopes to find time to sleep ...

50 comments
LocoLobo
LocoLobo

zombo.com was a parody on bad flash sites. Am I wrong?

DaniPat
DaniPat

Ha ha. I agree, when I first saw the website I thought 'what on earth is this crap' I still look at it and laugh BUT like Ling said, she is very successful and its all done to thie website. With all these websites saying how bad her website is and putting in the link, she is on top of Google for the very competitive keyword 'car leasing' thank to the 'crap' website! Clever if you ask me :)

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

I've seen that website before...isn't that just a joke website?

stubucks
stubucks

I have to say, if these are the ten worst web sites out of the 7 billion on line, what are the top ten best? Ling, don't take this too seriously, this is very subjective. One person's trash is another's treasure. I found these sites most entertaining.

kolbeb
kolbeb

The site may look confusing from an aesthetic point of view. But, for someone who want to lease a car, it is efficient and informative. With a few clicks only you get where you want to. Also, scrolling is not excessive. That the layout does not follow school web design is not necessarily bad. And this site can serve as an example of unconventional, but effective, creativity. Not bad at all.

tereks
tereks

Not the worst website, I'll grant you that; but still makes my eyes bleed. As far a "web design" goes, maybe it's a good site technically. As far as aesthetics, it truly does SUCK. It just looks dodgy. At face value, you wouldn't get any of my business. But you're right, the author's website sucks too, if that's any consolation to you.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

I've been to dozens of sites that are as bad as any you show here, including my bank. Very hard to negotiate. Oh, yeah, how about showing Facebook a thing or two? Talk about getting totally lost!

Regats
Regats

I like Rowling's website - it's fun and a bit puzzling and mysterious, not unlike the Harry Potter style, and quite witty. In fact I think it is of the better websites I've come across. Not everything has to be spelled out and laid out in front of you. The personality, humor, and style of KD Rowling is nicely displayed. On the other hand Hutchins's is a cluttered pile of ignorance but has a similar property to Rowling: Both clearly reflect the intellect of their respective hosts: Rowling's wit and the Harry Potter fantasy, and Hutchins's simple-minded and destructive Tea Party agenda.

ian3880
ian3880

I choose to use Opera browser for a number of reasons. I know web sites designed poorly usually don't work well in Opera. The converse is true - if a site works in Opera it will work in any browser. Basically, if a site doesn't work, I move on because if someone can't be bothered getting their site correct, I don't want to do business with them. Then try the next site in the Google list. That said, Site #10 sucks outright. View it in Opera and it looks like ... well ... a coloured mess that is unintelligible. Not only poor layout, but extremely bad coding as well. Moved on. The Rowlings site was unusual, in that it actually loaded quite well. Couldn't make much sense of what it was trying to tell me, but it loaded well. Moved on. Ling, as others have said, anything that needs 50 turns of the mouse scroll wheel to get halfway down the page is ... boring. Stick to selling cars, get someone knowledgeable to re-design your web site. Moved on. The others couldn't be accessed in 10 seconds. Moved on. Yes, truly a list of bad design and bad coding. The saddest part is the designers (quite honestly) believe their site is the greatest ever. The second saddest thing is that there are many more like them.

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

So some of the sites (like #1) aren't by award-winning graphic artists. At least it doesn't take any time to load. "fashionable" sites spew as much .jpg vomit as #10, they just hide 90% of it where you don't see it --like the 20-photo gallery (which only displays the first picture, unless you decide to click through it) you didn't want to flip through, or the 10-minute video that plays automatically and doesn't tell you anything you didn't read in 60 seconds-- and make you sit and wait while your computer loads it. Not to mention all the Facebook and related social sites' plug-ins. Huffpost is horrible about it even on an 18 Mb connection, there's a noticable delay, it can literally take MINUTES to load a page on slower connections. TechRepublic isn't exactly innocent, either.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

Check out the author's website and you see a striking resemblance to JK Rowlings's one - it almost looks like he's copied it. And the use of primary colours on the blog section...ha! People in glass houses...

SteveWisc
SteveWisc

@Ling. This has NOTHING to do with your nationality. It has NOTHING to do with your gender. This has *everything* to do with the design of your web site...IT SUCKS. Seriously, congrats on the success of your business.. You've made a very successful life for yourself. And congrats on your notable clients. All of that still doesn't change the fact that YOUR WEB DESIGN SUCKS. I would say that REGARDLESS of your gender or nationality.

aajmjeff
aajmjeff

Hey I thought the web pages were great. Definitly not boring.

Dan Messenger
Dan Messenger

The TechRepublic image gallery! While not a total eye-sore, it is a right pain to use!

LINGsCARS
LINGsCARS

I am Ling. Hold on to your keyboard, you sloppy journalists at TechRepublic. First, I am not "Mr" Ling. I am (unbelievably in the male-dominated car industry), female. So that just about sums up the deep and careful research put into this article by TechRepublic child journalists. Second, if anyone at TechRepublic cared to do any research (at all), including at Companies House in the UK, they would see I am just about the (if not THE) most successful independent company in this lease-car sector in the UK, and that I manage this 100% online. That is no mean feat, considering some of the opposition are $Billion car dealer groups, manufacturers, banks and about a million smaller players. On that basis, would it not occur to TechRepublic that my customers might just LIKE to scroll and see colourful bouncing car deals? That people might just like to enjoy a little fun and madness and excitement when choosing a new car? Instead of the thousands of dull, inaccurate, out of date and boring car sales sites that predominate (due to ineptitude and laziness and corporate boll*cks). The demographic of my customers is so high. I have CEOs of listed companies, top policemen and senior armed forces personnel, UK MPs (I understand that's not saying much) and many celebs taking new cars from me. As well as hundreds and thousands of normal, high quality customers. Who else can TechRepublic identify who solely makes a web-business out of such HIGH TICKET items? How easy do TechRepublic think it is to get sales and commitment for such massive items, often the second largest decision in anyone's life - a new car? Using just a website with NO offline communication. My customers are committing to spend 10,000GBP or 20,000GBP, over 2 or 3-years, purely based on my website which has a full own-built CRM behind it that gives (proven) the BEST customer experience in the UK car industry - maybe in the world. My customers are DELIGHTED. My customers take over 3 million GBP of new cars every month, just from my website, no offline infrastructure at all. No showroom. No physical contact. I order and supply over 36,000,000GBP of new cars a year, on lease contracts. All from this "horrible" website. This should not happen as I am a non-franchised, non-manufacturer supported female Chinese immigrant. Yet it does, all from my website. Which, I admit, is colourful... BECAUSE IT BUILDS TRUST AND EMOTIONALLY ENGAGES PEOPLE. But TechRepublic journalists should hang their heads in shame at the lightweight, useless critique provided in the article above. I hate to think how accurate your serious articles are... I have UX plaudits from people like @Zeldman and congratulations on my marketing from people like Seth Godin... so basically, TechRepublic - get new sunglasses, use adult journalists and stop making cheap shots. Maybe a lone Chinese - UK immigrant with a website is an easy target? Idiots. Sheesh. Grrrrr. And don't tell me that THIS joke is the author's website? http://www.ctfluhr.com/social.html hahahahaha! Oh - dear. And by the way, your useless code strips out the UK "pound" sign, Ling Valentine (Mrs) @LINGsCARS

AllenT_z
AllenT_z

The worst thing about these is, if the creator of any of them should see this, he/she will probably say "Why in hell did you have my great design in there with those nine horrible ones?" and continue to churn out more of the same garbage. Allen

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Everything's becoming compartmentalized and vomited out through self-contained, barely customizable templates. (Which makes SOME sense, don't get me wrong...) But they won't spend on a design overhaul if the profit won't be there. Never mind the other old adage: "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Or the other one: "'Good enough' is good enough". Indeed. Rowling's famous and yet her site still looks like a 1999 Flash page... once she comes up with something new, maybe the site will get overhauled...

jkameleon
jkameleon

10, 9. Everything nicely on one page, no link clicking and searching, which most of the people hate. Look pretty much the same as paper catalogs I'm getting in the mail. 8. Awww, man! :))) Something unfinished, obviously. I managed to click on something, and it says "Sorry this is not working right now. ThankZ for your patience." 7. Yuck! Classical collection of "Do not"s 6. Pretty accurate depiction of the webmaster(s): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0NckiD9Qgw 5. Just an average eyesore at the first glance, but try to click something... ouch. 4. "Religious nutcase" style on steorids 3. Rather typical "conspiracy nut" style 2. Another collection of "do not"s 1. OK, I guess... save the background color

fjpoblam
fjpoblam

But number 10, especially, was masterfully breathtaking. Bravo! Tip of the hat! I drink to you, pard. (Burrrp!)

Slayer_
Slayer_

#10 WOT says is bad, can't trust the other sites either.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Got to go now and buy some Play Toys off it. ;) However it was far better than any of the others even though it was more than a lot busy and took ages to load. Col

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

I remember a blog post a few months back with some mention of your site being one that "sucked"...hehe! Sorry, probably brings back painful memories, but you should have known someone would point that out! ;)

LINGsCARS
LINGsCARS

Simply measure by the amount of money the websites make. Mine makes over ??100,000GBP in profit/year. How complicated can this be? I'm glad you are entertained, I quite like the polarising of people. But the main thing is, the site must make money or there is little point in getting out of bed. There is a lot more to a business than a website, though :) Ling LINGsCARS

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

The random, disorganized, pot-luck style is not. How on Earth do you find what you want? What a headache to veiw! This is not an ad, it's a nightmare!

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

I never said Rowling's site wasn't pretty, just that it was pretty hard to navigate quickly and intuitively.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

How does it suck? Did it take long to load before displaying? Was there stuff broken by browser incompatibilities? Were there security issues with loads of cookie dependencies? Qualify your assessment, please. Web design is not the same as page layout. A "bad" layout can very well be a qualified marketing strategy, and effective, too. So "bad" layout is only bad if it's unintentional.

seanferd
seanferd

Clicking on menu links either 404s (or 86es?), or starts the mailto protocol. It has a rather home-made feel to it, though. If it suits their customers, I'd leave it mostly as-is with a little cleanup (weird links and giant badly re-sized picture).

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

Thank you for your insightful comments regarding your unique website. I am glad your business is highly successful and your chosen web design has served you in a manner which pleases you. My article was not a commentary on the business effectiveness or performance of your site. No. In fact I included it on my list due exclusively to the design aesthetics. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And as I beheld your website, I saw no beauty. I wish you continued success with your website. Yours, Todd Fluhr

robertocasiraghi
robertocasiraghi

Ling Valentine has appeared a couple of times in the UK TV series Dragons' Den and is sort of an iconic figure in the UK for her excentricity but also for her ability to achieve success against all odds. She was able to prove wrong a lot of megastar investors who denied her the investment she was seeking only to find, a couple of years on, that she had gone from strenght to strenght purely on the basis of her incredible belief in herself. That is a very American trait of character, I would think, so I am surprised that so many commentators are ridiculing her website. Maybe they don't know who she is...

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Well done! I agree. I think Mr. Fluhr's website should be on this list. I don't know where he gets off thinking he is in any position to be a critic. I make simple websites myself. Mine do not have the flashy problems that are pointed out here. Quite the opposite. People tell me my sites are too utilitarian and boring.

Zudjiian
Zudjiian

I really dont think this was a race or gender issue Ling.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

the readership here can usually tell when bloggers are letting themselves off easy. Did your site register more hits after this?

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Your page does not render properly in IE7... Don't ask why I am using IE7 right now but let's just say that some people have to use it.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

I didn't flag your message, but I would have. Most sites don't allow such spamming. Otherwise I'd have done it a long time ago... but I digress. Despite it all, yours has a nice layout (overall), but I can think of a few tweaks... especially with the animated aspects, buttons doing nothing when clicked, and maybe the placement of certain buttons... amongst other nitpicks... but, surely, your logo says "SMASH" but looks like a splash of water. I made a similar mistake in typography class (the wording should match the graphic representation), what compelled you to put in a water splash to represent "Smash"? Why not "Splash Webmedia"?

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

I've never claimed my work doesn't suck. Just as Shakespeare might "suck" to a person lacking in taste or education, or cilantro "suck" to some palettes, all work sucks to someone.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

but by the eye-sore graphics and design.

LINGsCARS
LINGsCARS

The answer is that most people don't know what they want. There are no "unacceptable" cars these days and most people consider alternatives. Actually, many cars are clones and a Peugeot (for example) will be similar to a Citroen etc etc. So, it's worth to force visitors to experience many different car offers. The one thing I do do... which hardly anyone else does... is to "normalise" my deals. I think this is important. So that cars can be compared on level playing fields. Most other competitors have a mix of initial rental terms, hidden fees, they often hide VAT, all in the holy grail of a cheaper headline price. I do not do that. I simply make sure all my deals are comparable. If you are in the market for a new car, I think you will share my feelings. However, if you are just doing a technical critique, you will not. I know which people I am targeting... the real customers. Also, my cars bounce. Important, simple and fun. People love bouncy cars. :) Ling LINGsCARS

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

In fact my first impression is that it was a scan.

toddfluhr
toddfluhr

You're probably right on all counts.

smashwebmedia
smashwebmedia

Actually that site was under construction. Now it is done well. Regarding of logo, designer thought that to keep "smash in cool concept". However thanks for your advice...

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I only ever got to drive them and never own one. Though the Group C 911 that was a company car was quite nice. The reason why so many cars appear to be clones of each other is due to Government Regulation which is effectively Join the Dots to make the external shape of the car and the fact that so many previously separate Car Makers have now been merged. So things like Pug's and Citroens effectively come off the same drawing board and are little more than [b]"Badge Engineering"[/b] and most times the same factory door. They are the same car with different badges only difference and even then that's not much of a difference. :D Part of the reason why New Cars are no longer what they used to be. Government Regulation killed the Car Industry. ;) Col

seanferd
seanferd

Ling's and some other sites have the layout of newspaper ads or or buy/sell/trade circulars/magazines. The one site looks like the million-ads-to-a-page pages in the backs of some magazines. They apparently suit their intended purposes.

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