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The Hostile Web
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 33]

There are many ways to ill-treat, discourage and annoy the patient visitor of our web site. We will explore a few of the most effective ones.

Splash pages or Front doors 

Are those pages that serve as a front door to the web. Usually they contain nothing interesting but a link to the actual contents of the web. They are especially annoying when the spectacular graphics or the flash presentation that they have placed there to impress you make you waste more than one minute waiting for the downloading or the end of the execution.

Pop-up windows. 

Those new browser windows that the web site activates without your permission. Some of them contain advertisements, others some information you requested. The worse ones are those that open up over your current window with exactly the same size and location. In that way you believe that another page has been presented, but what you get is two different browsers open at the same time. Consequently you've lost the "Back" button along with its history without guessing why it doesn't works anymore. If you've got several windows open it's easy to get lost. Moreover the windows are being opened by them but it's you that has to shut them down…

Density of information. 

It's quite annoying to wait for the downloading of a screen that contains mainly white space, possibly along with an image that doesn't contribute anything. Either the web site has very little to say or the information is spread through a pile of half-empty pages that we'll have to navigate through and wait for their downloading.

Confusing menus. 

In many cases the hierarchical structure and the menus make sense for the designers and, maybe, for the staff of the company but not for the user. Ambiguous menus like "You", "Us" or "Data" don't give hints about their contents.

Animated graphics. 

Those small (and not so small) images that are continuously moving distracting your attention from what you are really looking for. If there happens to be many of them together next to the text with small typefaces the visual mess they produce is more than noticeable. The Flash presentations, if not used with a specific and clear purpose also contribute to complicate the life of the user.

As an example of a compendium of all these practices, two recent experiences.

The web of Menta, a cable broadcast service provider in the area of Barcelona, the region where I live. My objective was simply to know when the cable would arrive to my location. I propose to you finding when the cable will arrive to a particular city. (Unfortunately it's only in Spanish, but even if you don't understand Spanish it's worth taking a look.)

The other case is that of Oringe, a company that creates web sites for third parties. Especially annoying is the text that moves in the opposite direction to your mouse.

Unfortunately there are many more examples of how to ignore the user, as can be seen in the amusing and somewhat exaggerated How to make an annoying web page and in  Webpages That Suck

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