Bad web design is a matter of perspective. While Google has created the UXA Material Design, and that seems definitive, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, the Google UXA is my go-to design bible for good design practices, but it’s only relevant in that Google has a really good idea of what they’re talking about, and it’s probably a good idea to trust their experience. But as the old adage goes – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am here to tell you what I think is beautiful, and what I think are bad decisions. Clean, simple design is what we’re looking for. Subdued but occasionally rich colors. A dash of technical wizardry is good, but don’t overdo it.
The following is a list of my web design pet peeves. Feel free to take what you read here with a giant grain of salt, but also know that I have a 15 year background in web design. I’ve created gorgeous, clean, well designed web pages, but I’ve also created some horrendous monstrosities (not recently) so I’ve seen both sides of the coin.
Web design No-Nos:
1. Busy, low contrast image backgrounds. these background makes it difficult to read text and washes your webpage into a swirl of colors.
2. Small or non-relevantly sized text. Keep in mind that your text will be read on both high-def computer monitors and smalls screen smart devices.
3. Text that isn’t padding, and butts up against elements on your page. This can be addressed using the CSS Margin and Padding rules.
4. Poorly optimized graphics that cause your web page to load slowly and don’t ad to the overall user experience.
5. Tables used as design elements. As much as I hate it, tables are still necessary when displaying repetitive information, but if you’re using tables to lay your page out, you’re doing it wrong. (Ever hear of CSS?)
6. Animations – yick. Unless you are operating a meme or animated gif site, this technique is well out of date. It was great back in the olden days when see a moving picture in a web site was a technical feat, but it’s about a decade and a half out of date.
7. Sound: No. Just no. It’s generally a given in the social circles I operate within that sound on a webpage, unless specifically asked for by the user, is a gigantic no-no – but just in case it’s not clear: No!
8. “Mystery Meat”. Yes, that’s what it’s called. Mystery meat is a type of navigation that leaves the user at a loss for where a link goes, and the only way to find out is to interact with the links either by mousing over them or actually clicking on them. I’m not that bored. I know what I want.
9. Poorly implemented cross browser compatibility. It’s great that your website looks awesome in Chrome (assuming you’ve followed just a few of these rules), but what about Firefox? Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari? You must standardize your code, find the CSS and HTML elements that work in ALL browsers.
And now for the fun part. It’s easy to criticize another person’s work, but remember – the pendulum swings both directions. I’d like to think that 100% of my work is bulletproof, but the fact is when it comes down to finishing a website on a timeline with management standing over your shoulder, sometimes it becomes necessary to use shortcuts. It’s up to you to minimized ill-formed elements for the web pages that you make. And if you’re just starting out, just now dipping your toes into this wonderful, creative world – you’ll have to make these design mistakes to understand that they don’t work.
You can find bad design all over the Internet, but for these purposes I have chosen websites that have been updated recently, ruling out the possibility that they are just well out of date. Oh no, these sites are current. Here’s a few gems just for you:
The Slide Rule Universe:
Oh God, please let me fix your website. I’ll do it for free.
Burlington National UFO Center
Center For Advanced Studies
(and bad web design)
(Caution: may cause vertigo)
Goetz Theatre Showtimes
(Caution: may cause seizures)