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Fewer Bad Web Pages. Posted on 09/22/2002.

One of the frustrations in teaching web user experience design is that, over time, it becomes progressively more difficult to find good examples of bad design. It's like people are figuring this stuff out or something.

Happily, bad design hasn't been eradicated. Clicking through the Fortune 500, I found the homepage for TIAA-CREF (launches new window), which seems to have been put together in 1998.

- Navigation links that look like normal body text! (under "Great Features")
- Navigation graphics with no clicking cues ("Ask TIAA-CREF")
- Value-less stock market updates (Everyone loves a ticker!)
- "Market News" that has nothing to do with you (Tell me more about the Germans)
- Mystifying section names like "Retirement Illustration" (A drawing of people golfing?)
- Main navigation utterly lost on the right-hand side
- The ability to Search in "admin" (what's that?)
- Alogical groupings in the banner navigation (Account Access and Retirement Illustrations? Contact Us, Meetings/Counseling, and Bookstore?)

and, perhaps my favorite,
- The word "Prospectuses." It sounds like a kind of archaic aquatic creature. (And, yes, it's actually the correct plural... it's still a funny word!)

Anyway, it took me far too long to find a page that so well exemplifies professional, yet poor, design. Folks out there have other favorites of this ilk? Please post them in Comments.

7 comments so far. Add a comment.

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Oh, Peter, there are so many examples that I can't possibly list them all here. A few, though:

- Java applets as rollovers. This one seems to be rather big with non-profit organizations, oddly. The unfortunate side effect of one I viewed was that the "Home" button was cropped to say "Ho" in Mozilla. Ooops.

- Abuse of a:hover. I think that the hover psuedo-class is very handy. But one of the biggest abuses I see is changing a link to ALL UPPERCASE, which throws off the page layout and makes text dance. Interesting, and annoying.

- "Last updated". A co-worker firmly believes that this line should fall away, and I tend to agree. We've seen sites last updated in 2000 and 2001 lately. Embarrassing, in a sense.

- Finally, there's a search engine which comes with Netscape's old servers that is really rather poor. Check it out on the City of Chicago's site. A common term such as "pay parking tickets" comes back with odd results. The results, as a bonus, are really unusable; try to figure out what that little document button in the left column does, for instance.
Posted by Paul @ 09/23/2002 07:19 AM PST [link to this comment]

What is this fish-in-a-barrel week? This one's on me.
Posted by kevination @ 09/23/2002 08:37 AM PST [link to this comment]

Gee-- I find myself boggled and confused by bad web design all the time. These sites must be a lot easier for teachers to navigate than mere users.

One that I find a littled muddled is, especially the section announcing upcoming events scheduled for May, June and August...of this year. Another pretty messy site is But it is admittedly amateur and more like a basket of Easter eggs than a high tech assemblage.

But what's wrong with a Ticker on a financial web site? Or international market news? I would think is just what a financial web site should offer its users.
Posted by BJMe @ 09/23/2002 11:21 AM PST [link to this comment]

Oh, Peter, quickly we forget. Wasn't it just last week you were in the Land of the Rising Corporate Garbageheap Website?

It's too easy, like - yes - shooting fish in a barrel.
Posted by Adam Greenfield @ 09/23/2002 08:50 PM PST [link to this comment]

Peter, Peter, Peter. You know what they say about people who live in glass houses ;-)

Hmmm, let's see. Adaptive Path,
- Huge, bright green header bar that keeps tripping my eyes making it difficult to read the rest of the text.
- Busy 3-column layout with excruciatingly tiny Arial text, hard to read.
- Outdated events still being listed
- red headlines?? Ouch.
- If you are going to use tiny text, how about more line-spacing (leading) between the lines of text. Makes it soooo much easier to read.

and so on :-) :-)

Bad design? It's right under your nose ;-)
Posted by Sherif Tariq @ 09/24/2002 07:38 AM PST [link to this comment]

I've found that many sites whose content is not backed by corporate funding need help with their designs, especially small nonprofits. Try looking at web sites for SPCAs across the country -- that's my favorite example.
Posted by Marti Hearst @ 09/26/2002 07:18 AM PST [link to this comment]

Over here in the UK, one of our faves to illustrate usability to clients is this:

They are an opticians. Check the small and poor contrast text on the home page.

Perhaps it will encourage us to get our eyes tested... Oh the irony !

Cheers, d
Posted by David @ 10/08/2002 03:12 AM PST [link to this comment]

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