Bad designs, were they really all that bad?

19 04 2008

Barcamp presentationWell today is the first Barcamp in Canberra and it’s shaping up to be a blast.

To follow what’s happening at the event, you can follow on twitter by adding @barcampcanberra.

At this event along side a gamut of much more fantastic presenters than I, have played my part and put together a little something for us all to have a look at.

I did a presentation on bad designs, and explored a bit in a short 15 minute window, a few points that take a bit of the ‘dis’ out of reviewing a bad design.

The slide pack (bad-design-at-barcamp) and at slideshare goes through a few gems from the 90’s, and some points as to why they mightn’t be so nasty… from a certain point of view.


I laid out a challenge to all who attended, and you to, to nominate a horrible site, and either thump down a case for why it sucks or why it’s great, but still sucks.

The rules are pretty simple:

1. no questionable material if you please.

2. you can’t just nominate a site, you have to state why it’s good or why it sucks.

3. sites must be truely horrible.

So to participate, just comment away.

I’ll be participating as well, and I’ll be trying to stand behind any of the horrid, torrid, utterly nasty sites you find.

Game on everyone.




8 responses

21 04 2008
Simon Pascal Klein

Alright, here’s one – (copy and paste link please) – it’s got ups and downs: it’s complies to a semantic DOM structure (given uses the CSS Zen Garden XHTML template and the CSS as well as XHTML validates. Other than than, everything else sucks. 😉

21 04 2008
Simon Pascal Klein

Also wanted to say thanks for your comments re the presentation and event – I’m glad it was such a successful event and I was quite happy to hopefully de-suck the web a bit more. Thank you.

23 04 2008

Hey Ben, looking forward to hearing and / or seeing the presentation.
Here’s my contribution:
Down Unda Thunda Radio

Flash Fotos & Graphix (found via Gascoyne Dash – best viewed in Firefox)

24 04 2008

Unfortunately they improved the design on this site below- which previously was also the ugliest site on the planet. However I am pleased to report that from every other perspective (speed, usability, balance, consistency, logical flow) this website still scores horribly:

8 05 2008

well, regarding our first candidate:
(cut and paste link)

Aweful? sure thing. It shames me to state this but:
1. it actually took me over 60 seconds to realise that this is a CSS reskinning of the CSSzengarden site, demonstrating the “power” of CSS.

Well, there is power there alright, it took a well versed professional a full minute to notice what had happened.

2. It’s so aweful, that to my well trained eye, he/she must have done it on purpose, and if I were to start bashing around with a CSS in this fashion, to keep myself amused, I’d probably go the uber tack on it also.

Now there is the reverse engineering in action.

The site looks terrible… why?
because the author of the CSS was probably fooling around, trying something out, and was most likely doing what I would call engaging in geek play. So therefore it’s highly likely that the author did what he/she did to experiment and keep the learning activity they were engaging with entertaining.

I see similar behaviour in people who are learning photoshop, where they cut peoples heads off and stick them on other peoples bodies or into movie posters. Making the learning fun and entertaining improves the overall experience and thus it’s value.

8 05 2008

And to look at our second contestant!


Once I stopped reeling from the visual assault of all manner of design no no, and was able to put my analyst hat on.

1. The design at first cut, and probably second cut also, looks not that dissimilar to many of the other radio stations websites.
From my experience, media companies typically don’t pay for anything, they usually (and forgive me if I’m getting this wrong, and will gladly stand corrected.) work on a trade style agreement for advertising or other such bartered service.

Subsequently because of this, higher end design firms typically don’t land the media company jobs, unless the media company is all up on what is on offer at the pointer end of the skills trade there.

2. Again, because they are a media company, it’s most likely that there is little investment in terms of management of what is going on there, thus it posesses many “good ideas” but the execution or delivery of said good ideas, is less than elegant. Symptomatic of not enough dedication and care. Not saying that they don’t care, more that the return on that investment has more than likely not been realised as yet or ever.

3. Dare I say it, as a continuance of point 2, it’s almost a mashup! looking into the stats page is the most obvious example of this, and a symptom of many mashups is that unless the mashup is pure data, there’s some sort of predfined visual widget which appears on screen in the recipient site, which unless careful styling is done, will stick out like a sore thumb.

4. In the About us page, I note that the author hasn’t been in the web scene for very long, and is not actually a stupid person at all. So I upon reflection, get the sense that this site, is actually the handywork of a DIYer with some support from some more savvy friends. Thus for a DIYer, it’s by far not the nastiest visual effort I’ve ever scene.

Tell tale signs of the support and the effort are the rendered headphone image used, the mash-up of various free to web widgets (web counters, stats package, listen now broadcasting in various formats), and the icon in the web address.

So was the designer mad? no. not likely, more likely enthusiastic and doing a damned fine job at having a shot. This “i’ll have a go at that” attitude is where a lot of the internet came from in the early 90’s. I know… I was there. *shudder*

14 06 2008
Nana Mex

Ben, you are pretty much spot on, we are doing this on NO budget at all. The site has improved a bit, and will continue to do so Thanks for taking the time to make your evaluation.

We didn’t intend to ever make top website awards, but are in this for the musos, to give our Australian Indies a fair go.

Our webmaster has done every bit of this in his spare time and without invoicing us because he believes in what we are doing. New graphics for DTR and the awesome design for our third station at are done by GreeneHouseProductions, also w/o invoice. Would love to have you review that site.


Nana Mex

16 06 2008

Hi Ben

Hey Ben! Like your concept here. Good for keeping some of us on our toes. I certainly respect and welcome all the constructive crits. Pity poor Sarah couldn’t do a better job with the links in her comment.


“Hear the Thunda Downunda on the Radio”

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