Over the centuries, writers have demonstrated you can tell more truth with satire than non-fiction. So when I recently had an opportunity to do a fake presentation for FakeHEWeb09, a satirical non-event for those unable to attend this year’s real HEWeb09, I picked the topic of Web Site Unusability. And in the process, came up with an all-too-real formula of how NOT to make a user-friendly Web site.
I scrawled the presentation in about 5 minutes and gave it via Twitter. The key points included:
* Welcome to the session on Web Site Unusability! Click here to continue!
* Web sites are all about you! Users are overrated.
* Who should your Web site please? Look in the mirror. That guy! (Or girl!)
* Always use an animated musical splash page people have to sit through. Preferably on an old version of Flash.
* A splash page says: “Wanna attend our college? Then you’ll have to sit through crappy gif animation and music composed on a Casio keyboard!”
* Seek a CMS that’s as hard to update as possible so your minions won’t use it. Don’t they have better things to do?
* Put all important information in pdfs. Again, make people *really want* your information!
* In addition to pdfs, inaccessible/slow-loading videos are a great way to share critical information.
Putting users last:
* Use your organizational chart as your guide for Web architecture. Who cares if it makes no sense to rest of the world?
* When writing for the Web, use as much dense academic jargon and obscure acronyms as possible.
* If prospects easily find what they want in 2 clicks, you’ve failed. You want more hits. Go work in sales.
* Make sure no two department pages look alike in colors, structure, organization, navigation, anything.
* Actually, why bother even putting the name of your college on your pages? You know where you work! Good enough!
Anyone who’s worked in Web content for any length of time realizes how absurd such recommendations are. And yet … how often do you see real estate spent welcoming people to a page, readers told to click here as if they’re a trained dog, splash pages and pdfs and videos making information as hard to get as possible, Web pages organized by unknowable institutional divisions, copy no one outside of academia would understand and a glaring lack of consistency. Many of these bugaboos are all too familiar.
Making the fake session all the more interactive, the audience added their own pet peeves about user-unfriendly Web design and not one but TWO people linked to this cringeworthy Appalachian State promo video. It almost makes me wonder if there’s a very real hour-long presentation one could give on this subject.
So what would be your tips for making a Web site hard to use?