5 Awful Official Websites of People Who Should Know Better
Back in November, I wrote about official websites that were shockingly terrible-looking. I made a promise in that column, a promise that, as long as there were websites in the 2000s that were loading their pages with shitty backgrounds and gifs like it was the '90s, I would be there. To make stupid jokes about them.
Today, I uphold that promise.
George Double-R Martin is the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the insanely popular book series on which HBO's insanely popular Game of Thrones show is based. He's very rich, very successful, very beloved, and one of Time magazine's "most influential people in the world" (2011).
He also invented time travel, because he clearly transported himself to 1998 so he could hire me at 13 years old to design his website, using only the lessons learned from GeoCities and a rudimentary understanding of how color palettes work.
"Three different kinds of purple is a palette, right?"
It's not just a bad-looking website; it's also got the kind of quirky little bits and pieces of annoying design crap that flourished in the silly '90s. If you drag your cursor over any of the link-badges that line the top of the page, the badge spins and spins!
Just pretend these are spinning.
The site could only have been designed by Martin, or someone in his family, because if he'd hired literally anyone who has ever designed a website before, they never would have landed on this particular look. To the site's credit, it's not aggressively loud or bright, like a lot of other terrible websites, but it's still unforgivably simple, and not in an elegant sort of way. More in a "Bullshit, I'll bet you $500 I can design a fully functioning website in 12 minutes, just watch me" sort of way.
This is one of the pages!
There's also been no real thought to organization or upkeep. There's a "News" section, but also an "Updates" section. There's a link to a T-shirt store that doesn't exist anymore, and a "What I'm watching" page that hasn't been updated since 2006.
I mean, I think it hasn't been updated. It's possible that Martin hasn't seen a single movie since The Lake House, but I hope not. If that's true, someone should tell Mr. Martin that movies have gotten a lot better since then. Inception. No Country for Old Men. Wall-E. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. These are just some of the movies that came out in the last six years that were better than a Sandra Bullock movie about trying to have sex using time travel and the United States Postal Service.
If you click the spinning link called "Not a Blog," you get taken to George R.R. Martin's regularly updated LiveJournal blog!
You could afford to have the 10 best designers alive all design you a page SIMULTANEOUSLY.
He even lets you know what his mood is with a little alien-head gif at the end of every update!
If you read that thing, you'll be overwhelmed by how Martin is just, like, a dude. Sure, he's writing the most epic fantasy saga that ever was or will be, but he also writes LiveJournal blogs about the New York Giants and TV shows he likes. Just like me! God help me, but this website makes me just love George R.R. Martin so much. I don't care that he heartlessly [SPOILER ALERT]-ed my favorite [SPOILER ALERT] by brutally [SPOILER ALERT]-ing his head clean off with an axe in front of his own daughter, I still just adore the guy.
You've probably heard of Los Angeles. It's either an amazing place full of promises and beautiful people or a festering shitpile loaded with shallow, lifeless fame-whores, depending on how cool you are, and how you feel about the show Entourage. I think it's pretty nice. The place, that is. Not the website. The website was I think designed by the same woman who made the homepage for my middle school.
If you went to middle school in the '90s, this woman also probably designed your website.
Ugh. Just go to the site and watch that slow, idiotic and pointless animation at the top about calling city hall. It's the only site where "Enabling Text Only" makes it actually look more interesting.
Text Only Enabled.
Come on, Los Angeles, you're the second most populous city in the entire country. What's more, you're where I live, and where I keep all of my things. Whenever I visit other states and take women out on dates, the first thing they ask to see is the official website for the city in which I live (this is standard for everyone, right?). Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have to show them this?
"Yeah, come to sunny LA and I'll stabilize your rent ALL NIGHT LONG."
The fonts are terrible, the colors are flat and boring, and there's not a single link or button that looks appealing. I'm not expecting games or anything, but I am expecting a website that doesn't make me want to hang myself.
I found a reason to live! There's a link for the LA City website for kids!
It's almost exactly as boring as the rest of the site, except now you get to meet a bunch of original cartoon superheroes I've literally never heard of despite living here for the last four years. If you hold your cursor over (some of) the heroes, a word bubble appears and you get to read all about their story. Like the "Clean LA" fella with "super octopus strength," or the obvious Batman analogue named "The Grease Avenger" who lives in the sewers!
Yep, that's how a word bubble is supposed to look. Just let it cut off wherever you want. Excellent comic book font choice, too.
There's "Mr. Recycle," who is a robot determined to teach kids recycling, and a blue recycling bin with googly eyes taped to its face, which is a functionally identical but far less exciting version of the recycling robot.
There are a bunch of other characters on the page -- a crab, a plane, a train, some birds -- but you can't click on any of them or learn anything else about them, even though one of them is HOLY SHIT A BIRD FEEDING A HAND TO A SEAL!
Black Belt TV is the "World's Martial Arts Network." I don't know what that means, but their website is terrible.
Here's my biggest problem with this site: I'm afraid to click around because I can't tell what's a link for the site and what's an ad.
I think I can probably trust that second link, because it knew without even asking me that I'd have trouble loading the video player. I had loads of trouble, thanks for checking, but no, I'm not interested in clicking anywhere to resolve that problem. I don't know what video is supposed to be playing there, but I do know all of the volume buttons on the player don't work, and I don't like not being in control of how loud your shitty martial arts music video is.
Also, if you hold your cursor over any of the buttons, they change colors, but, like, horrible colors.
Hey, is that Darth Maul? Damn, I don't even have time to get into that.
... is the site's background image. I don't know if that's a logo or a Japanese character or a crude snake orgy or if the designer's cat just got on the keyboard and made a bunch of squiggles, but I DO know it makes my eyes mad!
Suzanne Collins is the incredibly successful author of the Hunger Games book trilogy that is now going to be the Hunger Games movie trilogy. She's pretty good with words, but no one ever told her or whoever designed her website what to do with space.
A lot of people say "simple is better," and that's true, but a lot of other people also say "that doesn't mean it should look like crap. You're a professional, it's 2012, step your game up."
(I don't know for sure that a lot of people say that.)
Collins isn't about loading her page with badge after badge of news links and blog links and store links, like George R.R. Martin; she just wants to focus on the essentials. Which is why it's even crazier that you can't actually buy her books anywhere on her site.
She has four buttons:
If you click "Works," you get taken to a list of her books.
And if you click on one of those books, you don't get taken to an Amazon link, or anything. You just get a bunch of quotes about and awards for that book.
There's a "Quick Links" section at the very bottom with links to Amazon, Scholastic, Barnes & Noble and every other well-known bookseller ...
... but those links don't take you to a page where you can buy one of Collins' books, they literally just take you to the homepage of Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Scholastic. Just helpful links, in case anyone needs to know how to get to Amazon.com.
I know she's just aiming for the basics with her site but, really, "Buy my book HERE" should absolutely be considered one of those basics.
You're adorable. Don't ever change.
Cracked.com has a superfan who sends our office a care package every single Christmas. Since this superfan is from Hawaii, the package contains a bunch of Hawaiian calendars, coffee, pancake mix, post-it notes and other various pieces of Hawaii-related stuff. She's a great gal, and we look forward to getting the package every year.
Not long ago, I started wondering what company SENDS all of these things. What one company has access to all of these items? I did some digging, and I found it. SipHawaii.com.
This is the part where I'd show you images from the site, but I don't want to be held responsible for any seizures it might cause. If you want to go to the site, you can proceed at your own risk. It's roughly this:
I never have any idea where to look. There's no guide or style to this site, it's just a lawless frontier of oddly shaped links and buttons competing for attention. It's the Wild West of crazy Internet sites, where anarchy rules. They go back and forth between different font sizes, sometimes switching in the middle of a sentence, and every time they spell the word "variety," they make every single letter a different color. It's horrible.
I'm sure there's a way to, like, do things on this site, but every time I click on the link, I just end up yelling "Stop it!" until one of my co-workers shuts off the monitor. So I'm probably not the best judge of the site's functionality.
Literally anything, but, remember, you've been warned.
Special thanks to my wonderful Twitter followers for the research help!
For more from Daniel, check out 4 Inexplicably Huge Internet Trends and It's Surprisingly Easy to Accidentally Pick Up a Prostitute.