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Trouble in Electric Ladyland

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The web site designers your mom warned you about

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From the people who brought you Autonuke: software to warm your heart. Introducing Bidnessbot

Taking your Business online? Look before you link
The web site that launched a thousand (annoying) e-mails.

Do unto Microsoft
Our top ten alternative punishments for Microsoft...

The Motley Fool
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You're thinking something. Tell us what it is.

When you start talking about what makes for good web site design you quickly run into a problem. All design is subjective - there's no arguing the point - aesthetics vary widely, from person to person and culture to culture, even from region to region.

Remember the scene in "Fools Rush In" where Salma Hayeck redecorates the apartment of the character played by Matthew Perry? The Perry character, an east coast WASP, almost drops dead when he walks into the redone living room, which has been transformed into a Kaleidoscope of warm Mexican colors.

The movie may have been a bit silly, but the point is well taken.

There are at least six schools of design in action on the web today. (An expert could probably break these down into a couple of dozen sub-categories). We've included them for reference.

1.Utilitarian Awful.
It goes without saying that some less professional Web sites lack a certain level of artistic sophistication.

Text is arranged like blocks of code. Links glow in odd subhuman colors. Backgrounds can be hazardous to the health.

2.Macromedia Flashback.
These sites rely heavily on animation, often created using Macromedia Flash software. Don't be surprised when a company logo spins across the screen and boomerangs off into space.

Can be neat when done right, otherwise boring boring boring.

3.Commercial Ugly.

The banner ad is the single most destructive force in design today. Combine ten or twelve banner ads of different shapes and sizes on the same page with some creative commercial copyrighting and you're doomed.

A little better. These designers understand the limitations of the medium and plan their sites accordingly.

The problem? They all look eerily familiar.

5.Neo Startup.

Plaster site with pictures of cool-looking people and use javascripts at all times, even for the most trivial tasks.

This is done to emphasize how hip and vibrant your trendy young company is. Heavy use of cleverly positioned advertising buzzwords to sucker stray VC.

Note- this strategy can backfire horribly if you buy the same stock photos of cool-looking people other web site designers are using on their Neo Startup sites. Then your site runs the risk of seriously-pissing-off/amusing wandering journalists and web site reviewers.

6.Star Trekesque

- Little did Gene Rodenberry dream. Create futuristic shapes and designs using your image editing software, in homage to the most important television series of the 20th century.

So what if everybody else is doing it - your web site evokes the spirit of episode 57. Now if only you could find a way to make your pages load at warp speed.

Web Pages That suck should be a required destination for anybody thinking of going into web site design.

Good web site design may be difficult to quantify, but bad design tends to be a little more obvious. Site creator Vincent Flanders uses a witty sense of humor and lots of examples of bad taste in action to show you what to avoid.

The examples he provides are startling evidence of how derivative design is becoming in a medium that is terribly vulnerable to trendiness.

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