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Six and a Half Keys to Creating an Ugly Web Site

By Dave Carlson © 2005

1. Use Too Many Colors

Let’s put brown, purple and orange on the same site and see what people think. I don’t know who designed some sites, but they must have never learned about complementary colors on the color wheel. Or if a designer hasn’t chosen non-complementary colors, they choose to put too many colors on the page. It’s almost as if a rainbow had vomited on your computer screen. There are colors everywhere. If you want an ugly web site, put as many colors as you can think of to design with, go crazy. You might win an ugliest web site contest.

2. Use Too Much Movement

When I first started designing web sites in 1996, one of the cool things people did on sites was to have blinking text or rolling text within the page. I worked on a site this past year that had three animated .gifs that boggled the eyes. I was able to convince the client to lose one of them, but it still creates havoc on a visitor’s eyes. If you want an ugly web site, make sure you have at the very least three graphics moving in some fashion.

3. Don’t Have Good Navigation

There are sites out on the Net that don’t have navigation on every page. You have to use the back button to get back to the previous page. Other sites also have different navigation on the pages so you get lost. So if you want to have an ugly web site, have inconsistent or non-existent navigation. This will surely irritate your visitors.

4. Use Images that are Not Optimized

Graphics on web sites don’t need to be greater than 72 d.p.i. (dots per inch). Some people create graphics on their site that they’ve blown up graphics from small graphics. This creates jaggedy edges on the graphics. There are also sites that don’t optimize their graphics so they appear faded or pixilated. They have run the graphic through an optimizer but it didn’t quite work. Feel free to use any of these tips if you truly want an ugly web site. BTW, you can also use badly scanned photographs that are too dark or have crud on them.

5. Don’t Take into Consideration People have Different Sized Monitors

People have different sized monitors and they have their screen set to different resolutions—like 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024, and 1600 x 1200. These are all in pixels. Some ugly web designers set their width at 100 percent, which can really make the site look ugly for people who have their screens set at a higher resolution. I normally set the width for my pages at 765 pixels wide (so it shows up okay in an 800 pixel width resolution). I also like to center it, even though it can create gaps on either side. There are some who set the width at wider and it can cause scrolling or bunch up the graphics in an odd fashion. If you’re serious about designing an ugly site, please set your width at 100 percent.

6. Have a Distracting Background

I have a client who sends me emails that are a template from her Outlook. When I reply, the template blends in with my words and make it difficult to read. The same thing will happen to you when you have a distracting background. Some ugly web designers like to put a watermark of some sort in the background. I don’t mind these if they aren’t too dark. The times I’ve done these, I set them at about eight percent gradient and then have them a neutral color. It can look cool if done right. And it usually helps if it’s a more solid logo or image. But if you want to have a truly ugly web site, have a darker, distracting background.

6.5. Have a Silly Splash Page that Does Nothing for Your Site

Most of the people I talk with about web sites hate Flash splash pages. It normally doesn’t add anything to the site and just wastes time. Nobody wants to waste their time on something that’s useless. I like to reserve Flash for the top of the page, navigation or a tutorial within the site.

So, I think you’re ready to go out there and create an ugly web site. Just use my easy six and a half steps, and you will be the proud owner of a truly ugly web site in no time. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

About the Author:

Dave Carlson owns Green Chair Marketing Group, an Internet marketing firm in Denver, Colo., specializing in driving visitors to web sites by search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, and web site design/redesign. Call 720-922-3124 or visit his web site at