We've all been to sites that are completely useless. Maybe you were looking for information about a company's products -- maybe some documentation to solve a problem or to make a buy decision -- and spent an hour pawing through graphic-heavy pages filled with marketing speak and devoid of useful information. The site exists for the simple reason that someone in management was convinced it has to, but no one thought about why someone would want to use it.
Most websites have been built with two audiences in mind -- the company's stockholders and executives. Someone reads an article about companies that are doing well financially and have web sites, and makes the bold decision that in order for their company to do well, they
have to have a website, too. Since there's no budget, they ask corporate communications to "re-purpose" a brochure. The result is a useless, confusing, frustrating
site that does more harm than good.
Such websites are marked by "cool" features that are meant more to showcase the designers and programmers of the site than to communicate or provide a service. JavaApplet
s for animation, or animation that acts solely as eye-candy. Large, beautifully detailed graphics that are probably tolerable on the LAN, but which are usually aborted during download by most users.
This is the realm of PopWebsiteDesigners
. The most useful feature will be the company's annual report -- it may be the only
useful feature on the site.
"Pop" is used here in the same sense as "pop music," not "pop in the nose." (Contributors: PhlIp
Another feature of sites created by PopWebsiteDesigners
is that many of them are written in 100% MacromediaFlash
with fancy effects, animations and other pointless annoyances. Because of this, only the most recent web browsers will work.
for a great take on this.
It's worth mentioning here that the design goals of "persuasion" and "enabling" (or "form" and "function" or even "cool" and "usable") are not necessarily opposing forces. Many many Flash-built sites lack consideration for the average user. However, a truly bad design fails _both_ the "persuasive" and "enabling" goals; being inscrutable, obtuse, or challenging can be a legitimate design goal in some cases. I agree that e-commerce would almost never be one of those cases.
Indeed, some websites are designed primarily to be pretty, because there is very little content behind them. Many websites for music bands have very little content, because there's just comparatively little to say. So, the designers of the site concentrate on at least giving the viewers something pretty to look at. In this case, the website is more of a toy than an informational tool; a mild amusement to manipulate for a few minutes, but nothing more.
I don't think the web designers should necessarily be blamed. Sometimes they warn management about the difficulties certain designs may impose on users, but management may ignore such concerns.
See also SacrificingLegibilityForCoolness