6 Stupid Features Professional Websites Still Use
When a local business or elementary school has a crappy, outdated website, that's fine, and even expected. We're not going to these sites with the expectation of good design. We're going there to learn karate or find children to practice karate on.
Karate instructors have entirely the wrong skillset for making websites.
Making websites isn't that easy, and the standards for good design and technology are constantly changing. It really is a job for professionals, which is why it's so amusing when professionals fuck it completely up. Here are six rotten web-design elements that plague really, really high-profile websites.
Too Much Clicking
A fairly common online shopping experience for me is when I sort of know what I'm looking for but not quite. So I'll put in some purposely vague search terms ...
And end up with 15,000 things to look at. And that's fine; I'm totally cool with looking at 15,000 things. But I'd like to do that sort of efficiently, and not like this:
Looking at these products in chunks of 15 or 24 at a time, with a click and lengthy pageload after each page? That's how cavemen shopped online back in 2006. I pick on Home Depot here, but essentially every online shopping site has the same issue. I don't claim to understand the sorcery behind websites that allow infinite scrolling (see Twitter, Instagram, Cracked), but this feels like a problem we solved several years ago.
Websites That Make You Log In For No Reason
John Cheese covered this a few years ago, but it's still a problem, and in some cases has even gotten worse. It's no longer just e-commerce sites trying to get you to create an account while you check out -- at least there you can still browse the site and see what's available without giving them your email and thinking up a hilarious username. Now, huge sites won't even show you their most basic content without you signing up first. This even includes social networking sites, whose sole reason for existing is making it easy for people to share things.
Two women enjoy a picture of an erect penis.
For the longest time, I never used Twitter, because Twitter is an ugly garbage site if you don't have an account. The Twitter homepage is incredibly unfriendly to someone who isn't logged in, with absolutely no hint of the content the site has to offer. And for the longest time, even if you directly went to the profile page of some celebrity or person you knew, you'd see nothing but hot nonsense, a half (or third or quarter) of a confusing, reverse chronology conversation. The conversations have sort of been filtered out now, but the reverse chronology remains, and in general it's still not a great look at what Twitter offers.
Pinterest is even worse. I can't claim to have many friends that use it, but on occasion someone has sent me a link to look at some of their "pins." Is that right? Did I use that term right? I wouldn't fucking know, because even if someone explicitly invites you to look at their goddamned pins, you can't unless you sign up for a goddamned Pinterest account.
"WHAT IF I DON'T WANT TO SIGN UP? WHAT THE FUCK AM I GOING TO DO WITH
MY POORLY DESIGNED HOUSEBOAT THEN, DICKOS?"
Slideshows are useful for one thing, and even then, only just barely. They show images one after another. That's it.
They also remind ad men of their tortured past.
On the web they still do that, though there kind of are better ways. Most slideshows require a carefully aimed click to advance to the next image, while just dumping all the images on a page allows the user to use their Page Up and Page Down keys, arrow keys, mousewheel, or whatever. The web's really good at scrolling, you guys. That's, like, the first thing they figured out.
"No longer will we have to build an entire different computer to display a second page!"
Sure, there are technical reasons why websites prefer slideshows. Depending on the implementation, slideshows can increase ad impressions, which is distasteful, but maybe a necessary part of the shitty web economy. And, on a purely technical level, slideshows don't consume bandwidth sending dozens of images to someone who gets bored after the third image. (That's, I think, the reason Cracked uses them in a few places.) But the slideshows that are nothing more than text articles broken up into 13 pages? That's nonsense.
WebMD, sir, I am hung to the tits right now and do not have the patience for careful clicking.
Based on the highly accurate instruments I keep in the seat of my pants, I would say that, in general, the Internet is getting faster every year. Pages don't take 10 or 20 seconds to load anymore, and, on the whole, I see less spinning globes and more delightful content. Things are getting better.
Which it pains me, a professional Internet baby, to admit.
But then why, oh why are there still loading screens on the Internet? These spinning widgets and loading bars are an anachronism, a bizarre holdover from a more primitive age. Amusingly, they show up most often on those Flash and multimedia-heavy sites of people and companies that are advertising their creative or design services. Like illustrating that you have no idea what people look for on websites is an advertisement of your design savvy.
"I'll tell the users what they want, and they'll be thankful for it."
More high-profile are all those travel websites. These make heavy use of loading screens, and, sure, there might be technical reasons for that. These sites do supposedly have to poll external databases to get the hottest, tautest deals to you. I remain a little skeptical about that -- there are backend techniques to minimize that -- and many of these loading pages feel unnecessarily drawn out, with their "Hang On, We're Searching For The Perfect Vacation For You" messages, like they're using the loading screen less as a technical necessity and more as an excuse for branding.
I have no idea what this means.
And, last but not least, maybe the highest-profile site in the world uses a loading screen. That's right. Motherfucking Gmail.
Yeah, it's fast; I'll give them that. But it'd better stay that way. We're watching you, Google.
Still With The Pop-Ups?
Pop-ups have been the bane of the Internet for longer than many Internet users have been alive. For a few years there, though, it looked like the practice had finally faded away. Pop-ups had gone extinct.
And there was much rejoicing.
But something's changed in recent years. The bastards have come back. Although they rarely spawn additional windows now, modern websites can create what are called modal windows, pop-ups within the same window that obscure the website beneath them. You'd think these would be used for ads, and I imagine in many cases they are. But far more common are pop-ups for things like newsletters or prompts to create an account or download the site's app or whatever. These just seem so misguided to me, begging for attention while at the same time concealing the one thing that makes the site worthy of attention. What kind of solvent-huffing id- ...
Actually, hang on. I love pop-ups. I love pop-ups and newsletters and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Let's all sign up for some newsletters today.
Fucking Facebook, man. Fuck.
There are like 12 different places you have to go to set your privacy settings.
What the fucking fuck is this fuck?
It's not just the settings. To set your privacy settings properly, you have to use something called a Timeline Review (which is the same or different from an Activity Log; I'm not sure) where you have to go through your entire goddamned Facebook history one line item at a time.
Why is this so fucking difficult?
What the hell is this bullshit?
Who's responsible for this?
Is it this fucking guy?
Is that it? Is that why Facebook is such a bizarre mishmash of garbage? Because it's programmed by a dinosaur pulling on three fucking levers?
Oh shit, it is, isn't it?
This is the guy who knows all of our secrets.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and knows some of your secrets too. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
For more from Bucholz, check out 5 Tips For Talking To Your Parents About The Internet and 7 Horrific Internet Ads We'll Soon See.