by Dennis Yang

Filed Under:
design, mistakes, web design

martha stewart living omnimedia

Websites Still Designed For People Who Don't Use Them

from the design-matters dept

When the executives at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia redesigned their site this year, they replaced a clean site design with new snazzy one filled with images, flash, and video. Unfortunately, while the redesign looked really pretty, regular users found it impossible to actually find any of the content that they were actually looking for. The web has already been around for more than a decade now, so it's sad to see that companies are still failing to understand why people visit their site and designing sites that people find frustrating to use. Every day, millions of internet users still click on the "skip" to get through the ubiquitous flash introduction screen that still stands as an annoying sentry to many websites. At what point will companies stop repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again? With the "Websites that Suck" awards now entering their 12th year, we're clearly progressing at a very slow rate. At least we're taking baby steps -- it's been awhile since I've seen an animated "under construction" sign.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    SilverSurfer, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Personally, I tend to avoid the sites with flash content that causes epileptic seizures and fugues. If you want to hawk your wares, then just keep it simple, schmucks. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of common sense among web designers, executive officers and marketing departments these days. And it just keeps getting worse as time goes by.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    claire rand, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:17pm

    this is right up there with companies that want to make it as hard as possible to get information from their sites, like prices etc.

    I know they generally want to avoid being scraped by comparison sites but at work it would make the job of putting price quotes together soooo much easier if i could pull prices in bulk then filter them locally in excel.

    you knwo the old "make it easy for people to give you money" routine.

    also got adblock, noscript and flashbock installed. guess what if your site doesn't work the competitor gets the order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Uncle Deercamp, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:34pm

    Some of my clients demand that they have to have a fancy Flash based site. But when I ask them how many times they click the Skip button when they're surfing, they usually get a clue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    testy mctest, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:37pm

    How do they know users don't like the site

    What's performance measurement plan? Do feedback buttons work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Yo Designer, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:47pm

    I agree, all you need is some nice clean graphics and your site will look nice. All the cools stuff is fine but after about 5 seconds it gets annoying. I don't understand why companies make such a mess of their websites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Chris Borokowski, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:48pm

    Simple, 1997-era designs work best

    People expect to read, to use fixed menus, and to navigate a page with a left side column of what's on the menu, a right side of incidentals, and some kind of stuff (divided by chronology) down the middle. Everything else just gets in their way and keeps overrated web designers paid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 12:52pm


    just send an email to webmaster@ and tell them how much you hate it

    wait nobody monitors their webmaster email anymore

    as an experiment I asked our sysadmin to add a webmaster address and forward it to me. this is a substantial .com business, over 1 million uniques per month. I didnt get any spam. There is no excuse not to answer your webmaster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 1:15pm

    I recently did a revamp for a university sport site. The biggest complaint that I got was "get someone who can add some 'flash' to the site". I then asked those complainers to show me some sites they liked more, they had many suggestions. I then asked them to find on those other sites several specific pieces of information about the teams, games, and athletics in general. It took most people over 5 minutes to find all the items I asked for. Compare that to the 40 seconds or less on my non-flashy site. They agreed it was worth the trade off. This was a "test" done with the members of the university fan site. The people who really use the site!

    Ease of use is always the number one priority. I have been successful in web design because I will not lower my standards of giving the client what is best for them just to satisfy their desire for flash. If they want a flashy site that doesn't increase business, they can go somewhere else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Joe Smith, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    gaming sites

    Over the last few days I've been visiting gaming sites (trying to get that incompatible POS Bioshock to work on a brand new machine running that POS operating system officially known as Vista) and lots of them still use cluttered web pages with low contrast lettering on a black background. You would think the competitive marketplace would have weeded them out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Wilson, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    I don't understand why people can't see that a clean and "uncluttered" site is so much more appealing than one with flash all over it. Just look at people's myspace pages. How can they think half those things look good?? If I can't find what I want on a page, then I am moving on to the next guy. If I want to see their "flashy" ad then put a link at the bottom, and I will click on it if I want to look at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Matthew, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Re: How do they know users don't like the site

    Two things I skip are flash intros and pop-ups asking for feedback.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    Flash should be dead.

    I heard a long time ago that flash was dead. I guess I heard wrong.

    I surf most of the time on a 6 year old server. I have a gaming PC but the server is always on. It doesn’t do flash. It can but not well enough to work. I can't even guess how many times I went to Dominos just because I couldn’t get to the number on Pizza Hut's site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Botch, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 2:27pm

    Blame marketers

    In my experience, I blame marketers. Many of them view their users as dullards who will be impressed by anything flashy. They also seem to think a website should be more like a television commercial. But you'll have to forgive them: marketers and advertisers aren't really human like the rest of us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    JRM, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 2:40pm

    Flash websites

    I don't care if the website supports flash, but if they want me to use it, it better be acessible without flash. Indeed, the site should be useable, if with reduced functionality, without javascript. My default browsing configuration is no javascript, java, or flash. Only if I have a strong reason to trust the site will I allow javascript.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Marthas site, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 2:46pm


    I agree that flash is not a good web-design technique. However, I do not agree with the criticism of The site is, in my opinion, easier to use. The photos and video are an essential element in Martha's magazines, and they are great in her website. The navigation for the site is not flash-y, and it is easy to find everything you're looking for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Jimmy the woureiuwe, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 2:47pm

    I thought everyone loved the dynamic flash embedded website that doesn't have anything you are looking for on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Sep 28th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Blame marketers

    In my experience, I blame marketers. Most of them are dullards who will be impressed by anything flashy.

    There, I fixed that for you. ;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Hozer, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 3:26pm

    ask mom

    i have designed a few websites and know how critical it is to have a site that is easy to navigate. i just ask my mom to go through it, if she cant find anything i know something needs to change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    ECA (profile), Sep 28th, 2007 @ 3:37pm


    Bells whistles, ding dongs, and gadgets...
    Im tired of needing to OK, 6 sites just to view 1.
    Between adverts being grabbed from random sites for DISPLAY, and the SAME being posted so that I' NEED to ok them Just to SEE a front page...AS well as those sites NOT useing AV on those adverts to protect me/customer...

    Then comes some OLD concepts.
    Optimization...You dont need 300dpi graphics on the NET.

    800x600 site. Yes, dont you LOVe having to use a FULL display to see a site? There used to be a way for the SITES to auto adjust to WHAT you wanted to display. NOW you have to display a Full 1080 page on a small/Big screen and it takes over everything.

    Picture sites...WOW, everything, and every word is a graphic/php/gif/tif/jpg/ActiveX/Java/ect and so forth..
    THERE arnt any words...

    Then comes interesting problem..HOW deep do you have to make a URL.. 1 line? 2? A whole PAGE??? Who ever is doing the directory structure should BE SHOT..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Clueby4, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 4:56pm

    MSDN's site

    Microsoft MSDN's is pretty bad, not on the fancy and flash stuff, but rather making constant, whimsical, and unnecessary design changes. Which I really would care less about except for the fact the URLs to existing content more time then not are destroyed, making 3rd party (ie google, script sites, etc) link worthless. And don't get me start on the FRELLING javascript links, which render "Open Link in New Tab/Window" unusable.

    But that pretty typical since most website designers choose form or function

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 5:37pm

    Re: How do they know users don't like the site

    It's always been easy to get detailed stats of what's happening on your site.

    Feedback is useless because lousy sites don't induce people to give helpful opinions, they chase people away.

    Also, who gets to read the feedback, the guy who designed the site?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Random Thoughts, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 6:35pm

    One-up-manship ...

    ... is the real problem. Almost every technique employed by websites has a proper use. Unfortunately, web designers and marketers aren't paid to do a solid, professional job. They are rewarded for one-upping the other guy. So, one guy gets a raise for going a bit over the top. The next guy, to prove his worth, is more likely to going a bit more over the top and add a little extra flair on the side and blinking crap becomes blinking crap that changes colors and pretty soon every button flashes, changes colors randomly and makes a different sound depending on which button you mouse-over.

    Back in the good old days, marketers got paid for increasing sales, or more correctly, for increasing profits. They did it by knowing their customers, learning their needs and then making sure the needs get fulfilled.

    Now, a sales spike because of a new ad campaign is viewed as the work of a marketing genius. And an over-paid marketer sits in his plush office asking some web designer if he can make the company's web page randomly rearrange itself every 30 seconds like the one he saw in a game.

    When doing a good job depends on the end result, not the immediate result, maybe things will get better, but I'm not counting on anything except that it will get a lot worse before it gets any better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Jesse McNelis, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 7:58pm


    Companies contract designers.
    Designers think they are artists.
    Designers don't understand interactivity.
    Companies don't know any better.
    Websites are then confusing for users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. Websites Still Designed For People Who Don't Use T

    The logic behind this is simple. Big companies are never satisfied unless they squander money. Do they care about their customers? No of-course. They don't care what the customers think or desire. What they care about is what they think will impress the customers. And that is the idiocy of it all. Because if you really care about the customers, you would survey them or buy a research report to know if the customers really want all that razzle-dazzle, bells and whistles difficult-to-load, flash-in-the-pan website.
    If after Martha did some stints in the slammer and still she does not get it, you may give up because she would never get it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    Vincent Clement (profile), Sep 29th, 2007 @ 5:28am

    You mean like this:

    As best as I can tell, about 75% of the page is taken up by ads and other non-news items.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Charles, Sep 29th, 2007 @ 11:01am

    Flash and Hype

    I agree with just about every comment. I use the internet for INFORMATION INFORMATION INFORMATION--Not entertainment. I don't and won't spend more than a few seconds searching for what I'm seeking. If I don't find it quickly and easily, I'm off to another source.

    And the comment about hidden prices; amen to that! I just hate drudging through pages of hype only to find I have to click on the order page to find the price. My new practice: If my questions aren't answered quickly, I just move on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    lefty, Sep 29th, 2007 @ 11:55am


    sad to see that companies are still failing to understand why people visit their site and designing sites that people find frustrating to use

    Not to mention operating systems.....

    -greetings from the no-flash, no-cookie, no-script browser - one of the few, apparently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Don Jones, Sep 29th, 2007 @ 5:24pm

    Test, test, test some more...

    What MSO shows is the apparent lack of usability testing. Or perhaps bad usability testing.

    If they'd done it right, they would have learned about the problems before they went live.

    This is simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Scott the Menace, Sep 30th, 2007 @ 8:03pm

    More web sites that suck

    Web designers are no different than their application programming counterparts. they design to technology and not to user needs. I doubt that they ever actually use their own sites (and testing doesn't count as using). If they did they would understand how useless they are.

    With this in mind, I would add the following to any list of the suckiest websites:

    1) Any web site targeted at a specific browser (usually IE). I mean, come on. Seriously?

    2) Any web site that does not work in any browser or OS combination. They're called "standards" people. Use them.

    3) Any web site that places a flash or scripted advertisement ON TOP OF CONTENT. The concept behind covering up the only reason people go to a web site simply astounds me. I would love to stand in front of these web designers with cardboard ads every time they change the channel on their TV or turn the page of a book to see how they like it.

    4) Any site still using pop-up windows for any reason. Guess what guys, pop-up blockers are outrageously popular for a reason: pop-ups are annoying and stupid, and exemplify lazy design.

    5) Any site that is a web "application" (e.g. PeopleSoft, SAP, etc.). The user experience is generally hideous and not universally accessible (see #2).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    David Barak, Oct 1st, 2007 @ 11:17am

    Re: Wonders

    For the most part, I've stopped organizing pages into directories. Images go in one, PDFs in another, etc., but my PHP pages (pretty much everything I do is PHP-based) all go in the top-level directory. Easy to maintain, easy to navigate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    bob, Oct 1st, 2007 @ 2:45pm

    my way

    I've had a hundred guys over the past 7 years telling me what i was doing wrong and all faults with my web site...

    finally, someone understands what makes it work!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    John, Oct 1st, 2007 @ 5:12pm

    What is with these websites?

    Who designs websites? The marketing department and the graphic designers. Who is never consulted about the design of the website? Usability experts. (Huh, who are they?)
    So, you get websites that look pretty and have all the bells and whistles, yet are unusable.

    A few months ago, I tried to use a restaurant's website to find their nearest location. Their site used Flash, which was the first pain. But, the worse issue was that their menu contained "hip" terms like "Click Us", "Bake Us", etc.
    Please, just use the words "Find Location" or "Where we are". A suggestion: if people are trying to find you to GIVE YOU BUSINESS, don't confuse them.

    So, I wrote them a nasty e-mail saying that I couldn't find their locations and I would be eating somewhere else.

    Recently, I went to the Disney site to look up some information. I forget which page I was on, but it actually said "Flash 9 is required to view this page", and some bull*** line about "providing the best interactive experience".
    Guess what? I don't have Flash 9 and I'm not going to install it for one site, for one visit, to look up something. If I don't need Flash 9 for the other 99.999999% of all the sites that I vist, why do I need it for your site?

    And what about the people who are behind a corporate firewall and who can't install Flash 9 or whatever plug-in your site requires? Are these companies really willing to risk losing business because they force users to install the lastest bleeding-edge plug-ins?

    And what's with the "Best viewed with IE" crap? It's 2007- why so you care what browser your vistor is using? Or, again, does your company use bleeding-edge plug-ins that require the latest build of IE... which people can't install because they're behind corporate firewalls!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Bill, Aug 11th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Focusing on your target audience is important even for website design. For instance, if you're designing a site in order to sell winter coats, you're not exactly going to have a beach themed background with Joe Strummer tunes playing upon entry. Keep your site closely related to its targeted audience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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