Graphic Design Portfolio

What Makes Horrible Websites? – Amateur and Corporate Sites

One of my classmates made this statement in one of our discussions:

I have stumbled upon so many sites that are difficult to navigate and are poorly made websites…most bad websites are the result of clients not doing enough research and just choosing the first and cheapest designer that they can find.

It prompted me to write the following post that talks about horrible websites – amateur and corporate.

Ugly Amateur Sites

These are interesting comments. There are truly a large number of websites out there that are horrible representations of what is possible with the web these days. With new website creation tools and millions of templates, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can become an overnight website creator. However, as you wrote, many of the websites are difficult to navigate and poorly made. There is often no consideration of design at all, only function. Users upload images, but don’t know how to resize or position them correctly. Navigation menus are too small and cramped, yet also overdone and linked to too many other places. In fact, there are often too many colors, too many images, too much decoration, too many font variations, and not enough breathable whitespace. PSDFan.com has a post that links to quite a few inspiring redesigns that are well worth checking out. (Tom, 2010). In fact, many of the redesigns weren’t commissioned, but were undertaken by frustrated designers. If the owners of original designs appreciate these redesigns, then it can be a great way to gain new clients.

However, I have to disagree when you say that “most bad websites are the result of clients not doing enough research and just choosing the first and cheapest designer that they can find.” In fact, there are many kinds of bad websites. Individual and small-business sites often suffer from having no designer at all, and relying mainly on templates. Many of these people are more concerned with adding content to their pages than investing a lot of time into designing them – and rightly so – as many people are convinced that merely having a website will promote their business and make them money.

Ugly Corporate Sites

On the other hand, most of the bad websites that I have problems with are those of large companies. One example is American Airlines, which designer Dustin Curtis was so frustrated about that he redesigned it and posted his new design as an open letter to the company. A competent designer within AA, Mr. X, responded with these comments:

The problem with the design of AA.com, however, lies less in our competency (or lack thereof, as you pointed out in your post) and more with the culture and processes employed here at American Airlines. Let me explain. The group running AA.com consists of at least 200 people spread out amongst many different groups…We have a lot of people touching the site, and a lot more with their own vested interests in how the site presents its content and functionality. (Curtis, 2009).

The problem with big websites seems to be that too much research has been done, and too many experts brought in, from too many departments, and with too many ideas. A redesign from a lone freelancer probably has very little chance of making it through the bureaucracy of dozens of departments, each with their own idea of what works and doesn’t work.

But, Don’t Be Afraid to Challenge the Status Quo

However, I don’t think that should stop designers from challenging the horrible websites we encounter. It is always good to challenge the status quo, and hold others to high standards of excellence. Additionally, providing redesigns or even just discussing them can bring many things to light that the companies didn’t ever realize or stop to consider. Redesigns can take an old idea and make it new and fresh, and can take any problem and challenge it from a different angle. And although a redesign might not ever be adopted, it may cause a company to more seriously consider what part good design can play in furthering their business.

What about you?

What horrible websites have you come across? What makes them so bad? Have you ever tried to redesign one of those sites to show the admins where they went wrong?


Tom. (2010). Incredibly Inspiring Redesign Projects. On PSDFan.com. Retrieved June 4, 2010 from http://psdfan.com/inspiration/web-design/incredibly-inspiring-redesign-projects/

Curtis, Dustin. (2009). Dear Dustin Curtis. Retrieved June 4, 2010 from http://dustincurtis.com/dear_dustin_curtis.html

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