Design Lessons From The World’s Worst Websites

Even the very worst has something to offer. This post offers what NOT to do…

Website design is an ever-evolving artform, and there are always new ideas to be gleaned from successful sites and design studios. From the intuitive and responsive Virgin America portal to the crisp LA Times homepage, sleek minimalism is gradually replacing the more cluttered homepage-heavy sites of a few years back.

Cutting-edge websites provide useful pointers on how to design a new site, but we can also learn a lot from sites that are even more deserving of raspberries than Webbys. Some websites launched in recent years have unintentionally showcased everything online content shouldn’t be. From baffling navigation to ludicrous content, here are some of the design lessons we can learn from the world’s worst websites…

Too many sub-pages.

Research by web analysts Kissmetrics has concluded that our short-term memory can only process seven navigation items on a website’s homepage. As well as benefiting SEO, reducing the number of navigation links simplifies the task of finding information that’s relevant to us. It’s a lesson that alternative medicine portal Mednat should have learned. Its ludicrously cluttered homepage features links to hundreds of equally burdened sub-pages.

Incompatible display.

Modern websites need to automatically resize and be equally easy to use on any platform. One of the reasons HTML5 has become the universal standard for modern web design is because it displays well on any device, from an iPhone to a Windows tablet or Linux PC. Conversely, Tag Team Signs decided last year to launch a Flash-powered website that looks lovely in Chrome and IE, yet won’t display at all on modern Android or iOS devices.

Text-heavy homepages.

Attention spans have plummeted in recent years, and a widely-reported survey by Chartbeat has suggested most people now spend less than 15 seconds on a website. Concise writing is vital for keeping your audience engaged, yet the official website of acclaimed novelist Suzanne Collins features 42 quotes from critics on its homepage alone. Broken up only by misaligned photos and randomly-positioned captions, the end result is hardly a gripping read. Ironic really!

Confused messages.

Each webpage should contain one or two core messages, which are immediately discernible and memorable. The page shouldn’t be more than a few screens deep, and color needs to be used sparingly. All of which is wilfully disregarded by the eye-watering Ling’s Cars homepage. Headache-inducing GIFs and garish, part-submerged content (all in different fonts and contrasting colors) creates a sea of clutter that drowns out every potential message.

Illogical navigation.

You might be surprised to see one of America’s Ivy League institutions mentioned in this article, but Yale University’s Art Department website is almost unfathomable. With HTML links randomly suspended inside Windows 95-style boxes across the homepage, its compact Arial sidebar links are completely lost amid reams of monochrome text. This site might be a wiki, but that’s little excuse considering the fact it’s regularly updated. You can learn a lot about how not to design your new website from here.

Outdated design.

Web design in recent years has witnessed the curious emergence of New Brutalism, where hipster designers create sites featuring plain white backgrounds and blue hyperlinks. No such faux-retro affections can justify the official website of multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, which looks like it was coded in Netscape Composer twenty years ago. For a company worth an estimated $255 billion, this is a shockingly dated and dull portal. You have been warned.

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