Sunday, September 26, 2004

Horrible Web Monstrosities

Posted by Hello

Afraid So: Welcome to the Dark, Grim, Hideously Unusable Web

Some web sites are so creepy, they should be shot in the head. They have "nightmare unusability" and are a real pain to deal with, especially when it's late, you're tired, and you need information fast, or you need to perform some task quickly.

A web site seems ugly, grotesque, alien, and even sinister, when you really need it to be nice and user-friendly, but it's not.

It mocks your attempts to find the relevant content you're sure is in there somewhere.

It scares you with it's slimey, freakish pit of hellish difficulties and gross uncertainties.

It angers you with its smug, callous indifference to user experience, as evidenced by its macabre mis-labeling of links and its hard to decipher, dimly-lit categories.

The nightmarishly unusable web site grows darker and more frighteningly pathetic the deeper you plunge into its awful quagmire of uselessness.

If you think I'm being wildly critical, just wait until you've been working for hours on your computer, then, right before retiring for sorely craved sleep, you suddenly realize you need a bit of information that's on the internet.

You go to a web site you're confident will provide this needed data. And it's next to impossible to track it down and obtain it. Or any similar situation where you need a web site to deliver the goods easily, quickly, and without your jumping through all kinds of hoops to get it.

What makes a web site creepy?

*Excessive hype about the company.

*Irrelevant features forced upon you.

*Site registration required, prior to performing any tasks or searching for the information you need.

*Information categories defined or organized poorly.

*No "search this site" function.

*No easy to understand site index or site map.

*Poorly written summaries of article contents.

*Confusing arrangement of information.

*Failure to cite references for information, and providing no links to the sources, making the information suspect and virtually worthless.

*Site-induced disabling of user's Back button.

*Dense, lengthy blocks of web text that's misery to try to read.

*Failure to use short paragraphs, bold sub-heads, copy chunking, inverted pyramid style writing format, blue/underlined hypertext links.

*No indication of visited links, so that, in your rush to locate information, you repeatedly, mistakenly visit links you've already seen.

*Poor indications of link destinations.

*Failure to specify that a document is a PDF (Pretty Damn Frustrating) file that, when you decide you don't want to download it, and you click on (select) "Decline", the monstrous PDF program keeps running anyway, causing your computer to freeze up, and making it difficult to turn your computer off and start over.

*Flashing, blinking things.

*Intrusive pop-up ads.

*Other forms of "visual noise" and cognitive dissonance.

Anything that gets in the way of your attempt
to accomplish your purposes.

Anything that slows you down.

Anything that doesn't work right.

Anything that conveys the arrogant message:

"Do what WE want you to do NOW,
and maybe you'll get to do
what you want to do LATER, if at all."

What YOU Can Do to Stop the Preservation and
Proliferation of Horrible Web Monstrosities:

1. Immediately send an email to the site owner,
telling them that you will not tolerate such
shabby workmanship and will tell others to
avoid their ridiculously unusable web site.

2. Go to the This Is Broken web site ( and
submit a screenshot of the culprit site,
with an explanation of what you were trying
to do, and what prevented you from doing it.

3. Abstain from returning to, or imitating
the errors and faults of, the offending site.

4. Help others to spot and avoid such sites.

5. Explain to other users that web usability
principles are well known and easy to implement,
thus there is no excuse for these sites.

6. Compliment user-friendly web sites loaded with
relevant content via emailing their operators.

7. Encourage other users to visit the sites you
have found to be highly credible, informative,
and usable.

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