Sometimes I get the urge to vent a bit. Here goes...

It really annoys me to see websites that are designed in a stupid way. There are a lot of ways you can design a website and quite a few of them lead to problems that the designer didn't think about.

Designing websites isn't always easy. You need to be able to figure out all possible corner cases and prepare for them. Usually things go wrong right in the beginning. Developer picks a tool and decides that the tool is really nice and sticks with it. The thing is that the tool doesn't really make the website. It helps you to create one! A big part of creating a website is fine tuning the output of the tool.

The most common problem with web layouts is the orientation to the content. Most designers think that website should behave like a newspaper and have columns. Usually the right column has a menu and left column has ads or some other "relevant" information. The problem is that while doing this, designers usually opt for tables and images. Now, this presents us with a problem images fail to scale well and the table becomes static in width. What does the designer do? Opts for 800x600 or 1024x768 layout, depending on who they assume to be their target customers. This leads to horrible layouts, like the following.

While allowing the text to flow properly on the full window will get you some initial readability complaints, this is caused by the fact that people don't use 800x600 or even 1204x768 windows. Shocking, isn't it?! So we have web designers creating websites for window sizes that nobody actually uses.. What is the point in that?

Another thing that bugs be a lot is the use of JavaScript and cookies. Don't get me wrong, both of them are a good thing. There are a LOT of websites created with dynamic html which works really well. The problem is that too many sites rely on JavaScript and cookies when there is absolutely no need for either of them. Most of the common JavaScript tricks can be done with plain and simple CSS and too many sites use session to store data when there is no need to use a session. What makes things worse is the fact that hardly any of these sites check if cookies work or offer alternative navigation if JavaScript isn't available.

I just visited UPS which first presents me with a nice page about selecting my location. Since I use NoScript to block all scripts (yes, it makes the web a friendlier place) it alerts me about not being able to run scripts. Since there is very little on the page, we could assume that this is one of those "change the value of this drop-down and automatically submit"-scripts. Selecting the correct language and selecting submit brings me to a blank page.

Inspecting the front page a bit more reveals that the JavaScript actually changes the link to point to a completely different page. What this means is that if you ever visit the UPS front page with a browser that doesn't support JavaScript at all, you can't access the content at all.

In fact the whole selection is quite pointless. Yes, it brings me to the 'Finnish' page. The language is still English and there is hardly anything different from most other countries. Why was I forced to select my country? Why didn't the website guess? There are pretty accurate IP databases out there that can pinpoint the city you are accessing the site from. Language can be detected from the headers the browser gives your website. The whole front page is pointless and wastes my time.

In the end of this all ranting I must say that getting a website right doesn't happen by chance. It is possible with a lot of hard work and patience. And I appreciate those who manage big sites and get it right.

I was going to give more examples, but had a hard time finding them...

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