Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass about Websites

Previously, when I talked about things that irritate me, I used kind of a scattergun approach. I talked a little about this, a little about that. What can I say? I’m a generalist, a lot of things bug me and I like to spread my ire around.

However, today, I’d like to concentrate on one subject in particular, websites. And specifically websites run by mainstream media. The simple truth of the matter is that mainstream media does a pretty lousy job of website design – unless their actual goal is to piss me off that is, in which case they are doing just fine. I mean, come on, you’d think people who specialize in mass media would have a better grasp of how not to irritate the ever living hell out of their readers, wouldn’t you?


Yeah, it’s just me. Sure.

I mean seriously here folks, nothing chaps my ass more than to click on a headline in Google News Search and instead of the goddamned story I get wiggling jiggling giggling blinking bouncing flash animation like some schizophrenic's nightmare or any random Tim Burton movie (which come to think of it is basically the same thing).

I understand that some of these sites have to make a profit, I do. But Jesus Hairy-Eared Christ, does profit have to be so Goddamn irritating?

Let’s start with advertising, shall we? Pop-up ads are bad enough, but most modern browsers can be programmed to block them. In fact there’s a whole slew of add-ons and optional controls to prevent pop-ups. So you’re think that the dipshits who work in Marketing would get a clue. Oh hell no. The fact that 99% of the Internet using world blocks pop-up ads means one thing to Marketing people: We need even more annoying pop up ads! So what did they come up with? Splash ads. This is the equivalent of a midget with a sign jumping in front of you when you’re trying to look at something on the store shelves – which is where the sport of Midget Tossing came from. Just sayin’.

And speaking of ads, how about those sites that put advertising above the content? Or bury the content in advertising so that it’s damned near impossible to tell which is the ads and which is the story? My personal pet peeve is the ad in the middle of the text, with a little note “Story continues after the jump.” It’s not a jump, you wankers, it’s a fucking ad. You might as well say “the story continues after the woolly mammoth,” that makes about as much sense. Story continues after the jump, no shit, really? Hell I thought when you hit the ad, that’s it, end of story. Good thing they told me that story continues. I love it when when a website basically calls me a drooling moron right to my face. But hey! Buy our stuff!

How about posts that are broken up across multiple pages? What in hell is this all about? Every mainstream media publication pulls this bullshit. Of course, they’re trying to get you to click on their site repeatedly, that way they get more advertising dollars – and yeah, I’m not so stupid that I don’t understand this. But for crying out loud, how about a little common sense? How about more than one line per page? Today in Washington D.C. … (click NEXT to Continue) President Obama and his Llama (click NEXT to continue) conducted an Easter Egg hunt on the White House La… (click NEXT to Continue) |1|2|3|4|5|

Hyperlinking. For the love of God, there’s either too much or none at all. Seriously here, some sites hyperlink every damned word – like some conspiracy nut footnoting his footnotes. And just to add in two scoops of extra crunchy annoying flakes they turn the hyperlinks into a minefield ala those pop-up preview gadgets. I’d like to kill whatever paste eating nerd that came up with this idea. You move your mouse around and shit starts leaping out at you like some kind of half-assed carnival house of horrors. Or it’s just the opposite, nothing. No references, no links, nothing. The story will mention that Dick Cheney is now giving online hunting lessons, but there’s no link to his site. Seriously, if you don’t understand the basic concept of hyperlinking, you probably shouldn’t be publishing shit online in the first damned place.

How about the Automatic Video or Sound Ambush? I like to read the news and surf the web on my tablet while watching TV in the evening (Really, how the hell did people watch TV before the Internet?). I leave the sound turned up on the laptop, because occasionally I like to watch a video clip, or listen to a news broadcast, or whatever. If my wife is in the room, I put on the ear phones so as not to bug her. She does the same. Last night I was reading about Michael Steele’s firm stance against and/or for a woman’s right to choose or not to choose or choose to not have an abortion or whatever the hell it that idiot was going on about – and all of a sudden the computer speakers start shouting in Nancy Pelosi’s annoyingly confused shrill whine. Jesus Hopalong Christ! If I want to watch Pelosi’s bizarrely confused reaction to Steele’s bizarrely confused bullshit, I’ll click on the play button – though I admit, unless that wan, limp dishrag of a majority leader is announcing her resignation or describing how the Wizard of Oz gave her a pair of actual platinum coated testicles, I probably won’t.

Now, as long as we’re on the subject of video and audio – I’d like to point out that using a non-standard, proprietary media player plug-in is just a big fat pain in my ass – and I’m looking straight at you CNN. What the hell is this all about? Look, Flash, Quicktime, YouTube – pick something where I don’t have to download some kind of stupid one-use only plug-in. Really, I don’t like your site enough to download special software. It’s nothing personal, I don’t like anybody’s site enough to download non-standard software. And hey, if you’re using non-standard video formats because you think that it’s keeping people from stealing your shit, well then you really haven’t been paying attention – because seriously, Media Moguls, your shit was hacked before you even filmed it. That’s just how it is.

Registration. Somebody please explain to the Los Angeles Times that I’m not going to register to read some two paragraph five-page story about the chimp that bit off that guy’s nuts. I’ll just go elsewhere. Here’s the thing, it’s an AP story, I can read it, verbatim, in the Mumbia Mail or the China News or Poughkeepsie Plowhorse. When you get 99% of your news from international news sources, you don’t have the exclusive – and you don’t have any damned reason that I should give you my name, age, sex, and phone number in order to read something I can get elsewhere. And people wonder why the traditional newspapers are going out of business. They’re like giant dinosaurs, standing there watching that big fucking meteor flaming across the sky, and them with their little tiny pea sized brains and inability to adapt. Smell that, fellas? Yeah, it’s called extinction.

Fixed format pages. Fixed width? Non wrapping text? Pictures and embeds not dynamically anchored? What in the hell is this? Print media? I can’t resize your site to fit what’s happening on my screen at the moment? Or resize to suit my browsing habits? Who the hell still uses this shit? Well, aside from Adobe and their fixation with that1979 PDF format. Seriously, if you insist on fixed format you’d better be having some Goddamned stupendously interesting content, because if it’s not George W. Bush being stuffed naked into a 2x2 sweat box at Gitmo with an rabid angry lesbian badger, I’m going elsewhere. And hey, as long as we’re on the subject, print and email formats. I browse a lot of mainstream cooking sites, I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe. Here’s the thing – I generally don’t bring my expensive computer into the kitchen! Neither does anybody else, I know. I print out the recipe, I’d like to do that without having to print your whole damned website complete with adds and hyperlinked minefields. Same with email, don’t include a print or email button if you’re not going to provide a stripped down print or email format. Thank you.

And finally, navigation. It’s the 21st Century. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never live on Mars, let alone travel to the stars. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never own rocket boots or a flying car. I’ve come to terms with the fact that Rap music is not a passing fad. But I’ll be damned if I’ll put up with sites that don’t incorporate obvious and intuitive navigation. Symantec, Microsoft, MTD, and the list goes on and on. Stop trying to be clever, really. Just include some basic obvious navigation tools and a decent search function will you please?

I hope this clears things up.

So, what pisses you off about websites?


  1. You move your mouse around and shit starts leaping out at you like some kind of half-assed carnival house of horrors.

    I HATE THIS SHIT. Seriously. It makes me want to reach for my cleaver so that I can use it with extreme prejudice.


  2. OH, we've hit the Interdweebs button and HARD! I'm with you!

    I'll add to your happy happy joy joy list:

    - Contact information! Sometimes I just need a street address, or a phone number to talk to a real person. AND put address, phone and email all on the same page!! Is that REALLY too much to ask? It is? TOUGH SHIT.

    - Those "windowshade" ads - you know the ones that roll down as the page finishes loading and you can either watch the ad or click a teensie button to close it. Then it lives in the site banner, so if you pass over it while doing what you came to their site to do, it starts up again. A lot of the media outlets here in Atlanta are using them. YucK. It's how they're getting around pop-up blockers.

    - CNN is across the street, shall I throw a copy of your missive over to them?

    - Not a fan of the blinking, rapping, flashing crappola either, especially as I'm prone to migraines.

    - I've started using print preview bunches when I need to print out something. I will usually let me select stuff and target print.

    - I'm sure there are more, I'll ponder on the way home, I think the Boss is about to cut me loose here in a minute or three. Yeah, I know, it's nearly 7:30pm here, but we have court deadlines and them there supreme court folks just don't like to wait on the likes o' me!


  3. Oh, and I'll repeat one of my peeves.

    If you're running the website for some local paper or TV station, wouldya please, ferfucksake put down the name of your city and state somewhere obvious? No, I don't know which fucking Allendale you're covering!

  4. 1) Sites that don't put ANY navigation links on inner pages. Hello? I found your page via Google. Too bad you've given me no easy way to see if you have anything else of interest.

    2) Sites that take forever to load/sites that refuse to acknowledge that not everyone has access to a T1 line. One of the things I emphasize when teaching web design is CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE. Don't assume that everyone has high speed internet. That's a false assumption in many areas of this state. Even with DSL some sites are slow. Know what happens then?

    I LEAVE. I will not stick around. The first page of a site should load up FAST FAST FAST.

    3) Do you have ANY idea how easy it is to create a print style sheet in CSS? It's amazingly, fantastically simple. And since you're probably already using style sheets, there is NO REASON you can't apply a style sheet that will NOT print out navigation bars, side bars, full color photo ads, and with four inch margins that give you two inches of text causing your single paragraph to print on five sheets of paper.


    I could go on, but I won't.

  5. Oh, and I saw one of those little dancing ads the other day and the little 'X' to close it kept moving around the damned screen. I couldn't catch it so I used the big 'X' and just closed the whole page.

  6. Damn, Nathan hit on something I meant to mention in the post - Time/Date/Location stamps on News Articles. You're writing for a global audience, dumbass, not everybody knows where Allendale is or can magically infer what time and date you wrote the damned story.

  7. Actually, time/date stamps are important on ALL websites.

    1) If someone uses your page as a reference, they're supposed to put in creation and last update date. needless to say, this is often a fail on both parts and all you get is an "accessed date."

    2) I'd like to know how up-to-date your site is. I've found book sites for authors, trying to find if the authors has written anything new, and five minutes in a discover a sign the site hasn't been touched since 2006. Not so helpful.

    Everyone should have at least a creation date on every page in their site, if not a recently updated page.

    Jim, are you trying get me to replicate the "lectures" from all my web design classes here?

  8. Well, you know, Michelle, I'm not asking or anything - but should you feel the need to lecture a bit I wouldn't object :)

  9. I have to say it's much better in person.

    As you may well be able to guess, I'm a very animated teacher.

    And I don't use my inside voice.

  10. Music.
    That I can't turn off.
    (and why is it almost always BAD YUCKY LOUD music?)
    I really hate that, and it will cause me to leave a site faster than you can say Bob's your uncle.

  11. I agree with most of what's been said here, especially with printing. If there's any chance a page will be printed, have a print style sheet that removes unneeded images, background colors, etc.

    Jim, I will argue that multi-page content is often necessary. People won't read long pages, and Google won't index the text in them beyond a certain point. However, the better sites do give you an option to read multi-page articles as a single page should you choose to do so.

    Michelle, date and time stamps are something I urge clients NOT to have on their sites unless the content on the page requires them. If the page has a news story or has content that has an expiration date (for example, programming information, technical information, science content), then I agree, date and time stamps are necessary. But static pages that have little reason to be updated often simply don't require them. For example, item pages in an ecommerce site don't require such stamps.

    I will say that sites that need to pay for themselves while not requiring viewers to pay for their content can only do so through ads, and some way to convince people to view them and demonstrate that they've been viewed. I agree, how it's done now is mostly annoying, but I'm not sure I have a solution that removes the annoyance factor and still accomplishes what an ad should do.

    And speaking of annoying ads, the Flash ads that suddenly cover half the page and to close them, you have to find, to quote Wendy, the "teensie button to close it."

  12. Vince, YMMV. Don't forget, I'm coming from an academic setting, and often see pages that are put up and abandoned, but you can't tell that just by looking at a page. So you have no idea whether the content is accurate or not.

    Vince, I'll argue with you about the long pages thing. The main pages in your site should be short. If someone comes into your site's front page or main page, they're almost certainly wanting to find something, so your navigation should be front and center, with clear links back to the main page. The important stuff should all be visible without having to scroll down.

    Once you get into the content, however, I agree with Jim. If I'm reading a news article or a science article or a book review or whatever, I don't *want* to have to keep hitting the next page link. Additionally, multi-page navigation actually makes browsing more difficult for people who aren't good with a mouse. (My work with the life long learners verified this)

    Consider for a second, someone who isn't very good without a mouse. One your front page you tend to have large navigation buttons on areas that are easy to click. You find what you want, then you're confounded by having to click on a teeny "1" or "next" to read the rest of the content.

    That's bullshit. It's a pain in the ass for *me* and I'm good with a mouse.

  13. In my work I have always stressed for the designers on the idea of KISS.

    1. Do not use multi-level navegiations.
    2. Flashy stuff is not as important as the content.
    3. MOST people know that you can do a beautiful site, stop showing off. You can do minimal and still be aesthetically pleasant.
    4. I would have to agree with Vince about multi-page thing. Most people hate scrolling :) I am one of them.

    BUT WHAT I DO HATE is an ad between the pages. I really really really hate that.

    Thank you everyone for listening me stating the obvious.

  14. Konstantine,

    Can I introduce you to the Page Down button?

    That, along with its neighbor Page Up allows you to move up and down a web page, one screen at a time.

    Add in their cousins Spacebar and Shift+ Spacebar to move up and down and you never need to scroll with the mouse in the web.

  15. Here's a peeve that cuts across all media types: If you are announcing an event or a closing date for submissions, would you PLEASE put the fucking DAY OF THE WEEK next to the date? Let's face it -- our lives are controlled by schedules. I am not likely to go to a concert on a weeknight. I am certainly not going to stand in line for tickets to some primo event at 9am on a Tuesday. Some of us still have jobs in this economy. Come to think of it, I don't stand in mob lines for tickets to primo events anyway -- that's what the web and credit cards were created for.

    As for submission deadlines, 31 May 2009 is a SUNDAY. If that's the deadline for postmarks on hardcopy submissions, you're gonna have to finish that piece and post it on Saturday the 30th. So the deadline isn't really the 31st, is it? And let's not forget 25 May 2009. Which is a Monday. And Memorial Day (Observed). Anybody who has to publish future dates needs to look at a bloody calendar FIRST.

    (Looks around and blinks.) What? Where'd everybody go?

    Dr. Phil

  16. The print thing really strikes a chord with me. even if you are willing to leave all of their ads and crap all over the print, most of the time they are using some 12-zone overlaid format that doesn't print at all. last week my wife and I spent about 30 minutes (and a LOT of paper) trying to print off a page, I finally ended up doing a printscreen and then printing it from paint..

    One thing that really bugs me is location-based information that doesn't give the location. "We are on the corner of 3rd and "A" streets" - how about what CITY and STATE you are in so I know if I am looking at something useful...

  17. Regards printing - is copy/paste to a text-editor out of the question or something?

  18. No but it's a kludge. An extra klugey step I have to take.

    And if I'm really lucky, there'll be all kinds of extra html coding that comes along with the cut and paste and transfers into the text editor and I have to fix.

    I just want to push print. Period. That's what computers are for, taking care of the details and the mundane bullshit.

  19. Days of the week? come on brother o' mine, who ARE you kidding? HA! That would mean THEY (those evil deadline setters) would have to look at a calendar. And, ya know, like, that would, like, be just, like too much like work, ya know.

    At least in most legal deadlines the state code or local court rules state that if the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the whatever can be submitted/postmarked the next business day.


  20. MWT,

    Yes, it is too much. It is extremely simple to make a print style sheet. Most web designers are already one or more style sheets for screen and perhaps mobile devices. I want to think the print style sheets I've made contain less than 50 lines of code, almost all of which were copied from the screen style sheet and then modified.

    If they can spend time trying to make pop-up images that get in your face, then they can make it easy for you to print their information.

  21. Oh, I'm not saying that the website designers aren't crappy for not making print easy. But it sounds to me like copy/paste is fewer actual steps than some of that complex stuff the rest of you are describing. o.O

  22. Well, it may be more complicated for web designers, but it would be easier for me - and you, that's really what's all about


  23. I can't stand sites for businesses which hide their name and contact information in a graphic because some incompetent ninny thinks it looks "cool." I can't copy and paste an image into another document or a map site, ya twit.


    Oh, and a workaround for the LA Times: If you accept cookies, they don't seem to require a login anymore. (At least, I read them most days and haven't run into a login prompt in ages now.) Now, the Washington Post... ugh. And the worst part is they can't even manage to be consistent about which pages require logins. One columnist will have 5 columns requiring a login and 2 not requiring login one week, and then the next week all the columns require a login. I got tired of it and I just stopped reading the Post other than the chats.

  24. Nina,

    The reasons *names* often end up in logos is because it allows the web designer to present the name in a font and size that they can control. For example, West Virginia University prefers the name appear in Goudy Old Style, which isn't available on many computers. So in order to make sure the name appears consistently across all websites is to place the name in an image and use that image in place of text.

    However, there is no excuse for placing *contact* information in an image. And all such information should be repeated at the bottom of the page.

  25. Unless it's email addresses. Turning parts or all of an email address into an image is a spam-defeating measure.

  26. This website is particularly egregious. Turn off your pop-up blocker prior to clicking on the link; you won't regret it, I promise. :-D

  27. Bawahahahahahaha

    I wonder what somebody surfing in from teh intertoobs thinks when they hit that site without any kind of warning?

  28. MWT,

    Actually, one of the things I teach in my web design is that when creating an e-mail link, the e-mail address should be part of the link, because there are more people than you'd think out there who are surfing from public computer and do not have an account on the "default" e-mail program on that computer.

    If your e-mail address is not visible or readable so they can copy and paste or type that address into their own e-mail program, then they aren't going to be able to contact you.

    The solution to the spam deluge is simply to create an e-mail account on yahoo or gmail that you link to your website.

    The address on my website goes to a gmail account that is forwarded to personal gmail account.

    gmail's spam filters are so good I get perhaps one piece of spam come through a week.

    It's not as big an issue on personal websites, however, if you are running a university or business website, then the webmaster account e-mail address should be the hyperlink for having people contact you.

  29. "So, what pisses you off about websites?"

    The fact that I feel I have to have one.

    Also, when places like Facebook change everything without the option to opt-out of the changes.

    (Hey, I'm easily confused, okay?)


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