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The Ugly Showcase of Military, Intelligence And Defense Websites

Members of military and intelligence forces around the world risk their lives daily to defend their countries and assist in peacekeeping and aid missions both at home and abroad. The men and women who make up the world’s defense forces make sacrifices that most civilians wouldn’t consider to serve their countries.

So, with everything they do for us, shouldn’t they be represented online by website designs that reflect the honor and responsibility they undertake every day? Unfortunately, that’s not the case in many countries out there. Many military websites out there are some of the worst designs in any industry. Whether they’re outdated, broken or designed by amateurs, some of the websites showcased below are bad enough to make you cringe.

There are some good ones, though. A number of countries have obviously dedicated the time and resources necessary to project a professional and polished Web presence for their members. A number of other websites have obviously put in some effort and are pretty close. If you know of examples of other great military or intelligence websites from around the world, please add them in the comments!

The Outdated Link

The websites featured here might have looked great 10 or more years ago (which was likely when they were created). But either their designs haven’t been updated in a very long time or their designers are still borrowing conventions from the late ’90s.

Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Argentina1
Everything from the color scheme to the header image to the skinny three-column layout dates this design.


Royal Bahamas Defence Force3
This website wouldn’t look quite so dated if it weren’t for the drop-shadows behind the content blocks.


Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela5
The overall layout of this website screams early-2000s.


Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Belarus7
Very minimalistic website. Unfortunately, gradients, tiny links and many &nbsp-empty spaces make it look dated.


Colombian National Police9
Here’s another great example of a website that would have looked right at home in the late ’90s or early 2000s.


Hellenic Navy
The thing that dates this website the most is its width: it would look right at home on a screen with a resolution of 800×600.


Macedonian Ministry of Defence
The layout, the partially rounded corners and the drop-shadow against the background all date this website.


Pakistan Maritime Security Agency
Using an image like this one as a background was very popular in the ’90s.


Serbian Ministry of Defense11
The layout here is almost grid-like, but it doesn’t quite make it. The color scheme is the most outdated, though.


Slovenian Armed Forces13
Another website that would have been current 8 to 10 years ago.


Spanish Armada15
The rounded colors and glossy buttons would have looked great a few years ago, but now they just harken back to the earliest days of the Web 2.0 style.


The Russian Federation Ministry of Defence
The design has a striking resemblance to traditional Google AdSense blocks, and the line-height property for the content area certainly should be increased..


Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence17
The color scheme and typography here are definitely reminiscent of Web design 5 to 10 years ago.


U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation19
The skinny layout, color scheme and overall look of this website feel at least 6 to 7 years old.


U.S. National Reconnaissance Office21
This website screams late ’90s and early 2000s, especially the navigation and typography.


Uruguayan Air Force23
This looks like it was based on a standard template from 5 to 10 years ago.


The Poorly Coded Link

These websites might not have been so bad if they were cross-browser compatible and adhered to Web standards even a little. But they are all so poorly coded that they don’t render correctly in browsers such as Firefox or Safari.

Luckily, there aren’t too many of them.

Brazilian Army
The coding on this website isn’t noticeably horrible… except for all the thin white lines running through the backgrounds and borders of the content blocks.


Pakistan Navy25
I don’t even want to begin figuring out how they got the rounded-corner background to repeat like that in the main content area.


South African Army27
This website wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the giant gray bar running down the main column, effectively blocking half the content.


United States Special Operations Command
The headers for all the content blocks here are fine, except the one for the news feeds, which prefers to be higher up on the page.


The Poorly Designed Link

These websites are just poorly designed. Some look like they were based on stock templates… bad ones. Others look like they were designed in programs aimed at hobbyists or those needing to set up personal websites (in any case, definitely not appropriate for government agencies).

Venezuelan Bolivarian Army29
Between the color scheme, the header (which doesn’t come close to spanning the whole design) and the broken icons, this website just doesn’t look good at all.


Cuban National Defence31
I’m not sure where to begin with this one…


Egyptian Armed Forces33
It looks like they couldn’t decide whether they wanted a minimalist website.


Republic of Fiji Military Forces35
This looks like your classic template website, with minor modifications.


Ministry of Defence of Georgia37
This wouldn’t be so bad if the content areas weren’t so disjointed.


Indian Air Force39
This might have been salvageable, except for the horrible alignment.


Kenyan National Security Intelligence Service
The padding and margins in this website aren’t adequate, and the alignment is off in places. The concept is sound; it just needs to be better executed.


Lebanese Army41
This website might not have been so bad if the colors complemented the camouflage background, rather than clashed with it.


The Philippine Marine Corps
This is another one for which I’m not even sure where to start.


Polish Land Forces43
Forget for a moment how amateurish this one looks. Notice how the text doesn’t even match up with the navigation buttons.


Portuguese Army
From the header alone, it’s not so bad. It’s the lower area of this website that doesn’t seem to have any aim.


Romanian Land Forces45
I’m still trying to figure out if that white bar across the top of each column is supposed to be there. Beyond that, they should have paid more attention to how the header colors go with the rest of the color scheme.


Royal Thai Army
There’s just way too much going on here, and no focal point to grab your attention.


Turkish Air Force
This almost made it into the “Not So Bad” category below, except that it doesn’t have any focus, and the alignment of some elements is off.


Ministry of Defence of Ukraine47
The ads on this website should be better integrated in the overall design. Other than that, the design looks very dated.


United Arab Emirates Ministry of Defence
Where’s the content?


Zimbabwe Ministry of Defence
There’s no color scheme here, and the entire thing looks like something a kid did in class.


The Not-So-Bad Link

The websites here aren’t terrible. In most cases, only minor things hold them back. Most of them could be great with just a bit more work.

Ministry of Defence of The Republic of Armenia49
Other than the width of this website (which is a bit narrow for even an 800 x 600 display), it’s not a terrible design.


Australian Secret Intelligence Service51
This design is just fine, other than being a bit boring. And the text could be slightly enlarged for easier reading.


Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina
If more attention was paid to the baseline or vertical rhythm, this would be a reasonably good design.


British Secret Intelligence Service
The angles in this design should either be better incorporated into the other elements or removed altogether. Other than that, it’s not bad.


This is one of those websites that doesn’t have anything particularly wrong with it. It’s just underwhelming.


Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China55
The elements on this website don’t quite have enough continuity, but the color scheme and overall layout are good.


Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia57
This website is also underwhelming. Nothing particularly “wrong” with it, but not impressive either.


Ecuadorian Army59
The header here isn’t that bad, but the rest of the website doesn’t match up, and it feels a bit like a generic template.


Ecuadorian Navy61
Parts of this website are great (the slidehow in the header, for instance) but other parts don’t quite match up, particularly the buttons on the right-hand side and the off-center navigation elements.


Armed Forces of Honduras
This website isn’t bad. But again, nothing makes it stand out.


Norwegian Ministry of Defense63
Another example of a website that doesn’t do anything to stand out.


Peruvian Air Force65
The idea here is good, but the result isn’t very interesting.


Portuguese Ministry of Defense67
Another inoffensive yet unimpressive website.


Portuguese Navy69
This would be great, but it has just a little too much going on. Some negative space would make a huge difference.


Saudi Arabian Ground Forces
This website is more interesting than some of the others here, but it doesn’t quite pull it together.


Sri Lanka Navy71
Here’s another website that looks like a template. The use of white space could be better and makes everything look a bit disjointed.


Swiss Army73
Another underwhelming, uninteresting design. At least it looks professional.


US Air Force75
A professional yet boring design. But maybe that’s how military websites should look?


US Central Intelligence Agency77
This website is way too narrow, and overall it’s just not eye-catching.


US Department of Defense79
Too much is going on here, and the social media links (the icons especially) on the left look out of place.


US Navy81
The icons and banners in the header don’t really fit the rest of this design.


A Few Good Sites Link

The websites below are the stars of this post. They are well designed, easy to use, professional and worthy of representing the armed forces and intelligence services.

Austrian Armed Forces83
This one’s clean and well laid out, with plenty of white space and a great color scheme.


British Army85
A professional-looking website, with a background that’s more interesting than most.


British Royal Air Force87
Another website with an interesting background and a clean overall design.


British Security Service MI5
The color scheme here is great, as is the overall aesthetic, which is a cross between minimalist and magazine-style.


Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria
A clean, well thought out design that makes good use of textures and gradients.


Chilean Navy
The header here is fantastic, and the rest of the layout works well.


Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces of the Czech Republic89
Another great header design: this one doubles as navigation. Each section of the website has a different color scheme, while maintaining the same basic look.


Defence Command Denmark
A minimalist layout that leaves plenty of white space.


The Finnish Defense Forces
A clean and organized design, with double-tabbed navigation bars.


Netherlands Ministry of Defence91
The purple color scheme here is unexpected, but it works well and sets the website apart.


Polish Ministry of National Defense
This is one of the nicest designs in this post, especially because of the header.


Swedish Armed Forces93
A good clean design with a minimalist aesthetic and great typography. The transparent titles over the images on the right really take it up a notch.


US National Security Agency95
Professional, easy to use and coherent: everything an intelligence website should be.


US Army97
The US Army website brings together a lot of content of various types while maintaining a usable and consistent user interface.


US Marine Corps99
This website stands out mostly because of the grid used for the main content area and the ample white space everywhere else.



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Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of The Smashing Idea Book: From Inspiration to Application.

  1. 1

    Callum Chapman

    June 23, 2010 3:02 am

    A great follow up to my article for Noupe some months back now: “The Ultimate Ugly Showcase of Current Government Websites” (

    There are some quite decent ones here, I like the British Royal Air Force site. Good work Cameron! :)

    • 2

      A great follow up comment to crow bar a link to your article.

    • 3

      Dylan Parry

      June 23, 2010 3:56 am

      Indeed, it’s definitely a follow-up to your article. I recall ~50% of comments saying how bad your article was btw, and the same criticisms can be made of this one.

      • 4

        This article is not that perfect, but it’s a hundred times better than your shameless plug link. No, definitely not a follow-up.

  2. 5

    tot ugly to SHOW in every CASE.

  3. 6

    Haha funny to see this. Luckily the Dutch army does things better:

  4. 7

    Cameron, what about Kosovo Defense Ministry,1 which category would you put it?

  5. 8

    The website of the venzuelan Ministry of Defence is not “Bolivian and Venezuelan”… It’s “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”

    Very ugly site, BTW

  6. 9

    It’s called Bundeswehr not Brundeswehr ;) as a german website you should know that

    btw, some look really good, and i guess it’s just some of the countries don’t put much effort on their sites or don’t want to pay a professional designer

    • 10

      Smashing Editorial

      June 23, 2010 3:27 am

      Thanks, Daniel. Corrected the typo. :-)

    • 11

      Well… it isn’t exactly not the ability for hiring a good designer…
      But in Bundeswehr’s case it is certainly the overall administrative approach which prohibts more excitement…. Just google and you might find the online-Corporate Design manual for the Bundeswehr…. it is detailled and comprehensive… even though it is quite outdated…

      But the PR work of our armed forced is traditionally subtle and kinda less bells ‘n whistles… compared to e.g. the U.S. Military…

      It reminds me of the case of the fired America Airlines designer who responded to the critisizm of their corporate website…
      It’s all structures and procedures after all…

  7. 12

    Is it really useful? I think you are wasting your time with those kind of showcase. Did Smashing Mag ran out of good content?

    • 13

      Smashing Editorial

      June 23, 2010 3:30 am

      Gab, we are trying to be open-minded and cover both interesting and useful content on Smashing Magazine. Please take a look around, and check previous articles if you don’t like this one. The point of the article was to present the current state of the military / defense web design.

      • 14

        Pete Morley

        June 23, 2010 7:05 am

        To be fair, as a web designer, I find this article neither interesting or useful SM.

        • 15

          This article isn’t writen for you especially. I found the advices usefull, we can analize those websites in detail and we will know exactly what to avoid. As a designer, i always learn something.

          Good luck,

      • 16

        I work full time as a web designer in a government agency. This article was really helpful. It is also nice to see that it can be done. One would be surprised how many user interface challenges I see, not to mention the political/bureaucratic website dogma.

        • 17

          In a “design-by-committee” world or a “I-grab-all-the-power” situation, I imagine the web designers were being threatened to make changes by “creative” government administrators, holding a nuclear missile to the designer’s head.

          Obviously the request to the designer was to fit 20 liters of information into a five liter bucket while being given directions for content and not functionality or beauty. One of those jobs where you collect your paycheck and get drunk a lot to forget.

          • 18

            Interesting thoughts.. However, the-powers-that-be tend to be more concerned with the visual elements than the content. This is usually my biggest challenge: little to no content with grand ideas.

            …And it is a lovely paycheck. :D

    • 19

      I feel the same… lately the only bit is really worth visiting is the Smashing Network…

  8. 20

    Just and FYI. It is not the Bolivian and Venezuelan Army, its only the Venezuelan Army. The official name includes Bolivariano, in recognition of Simon Bolivar. And the Bolivian website is actually from Venezuela, same thing.

    Oh, and my eyes hurt. You would think if an army can afford a tank, they could pay for decent web designers.

  9. 21

    Federico Capoano

    June 23, 2010 3:25 am

    Military risk their life everyday. YES for who? For us? To protect us?


    They risk their life for MONEY. Most soldiers have no other choice than join the army to sustain their family. They get BRAINWASHED.

    They risk their life every day for big reconstruction companies, weapon industry and the corrupted expanding bank system.

    They risk their life every day for the people who KILLED J.F. KENNEDY – for this reason I wouldn’t even dear to work for them or to be interested in checking out their web-site.


    • 22

      That’s a very ignorant comment Federico…

      …And you have the freedom to post ignorant comments like that because Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines are out there everyday, risking their lives, defending those freedoms… which you obviously take for granted.

      • 23

        Please tell me you’re joking Drew.. Didn’t you learn anything at high school? Defending our freedom, yea right. Oh wait, you’re american..

      • 24

        Federico Capoano

        June 23, 2010 1:57 pm

        Defending Freedom??

        Do you know anything about J.F. Kennedy?
        Do you know why they killed him?
        To shut him up because he wanted the people to be free from the corrupted banking system and secret societies.

        So you believe you are free?

        “The worst dictatorship is the one in which the citizens think to be free”

        These are not my words.
        Think about it


        PS: if you think I’m ignorant, well you should start to open your eyes
        In my opinion this is the crapest article here on SM. Ugly web-sites, sad subject.

    • 25

      Savarage and Federico Capoano if you’re not – from America – next time when you are invaded by alian forces don’t call America to save you butts. Call The UN they will help you for Sure.
      Get a life.

      • 26

        Federico Capoano

        June 23, 2010 1:59 pm

        Italy and America are ruled by the same people, so there’s no need to call the UN, they’ll send their global army in case of need.
        Open your eyes.

        • 27

          the world is controlled by a secret society that killed jfk, faked the moon landing, removed conan from the tonight show, something something vaccines, and orchestrated 9/11! wake up sheeple!!!

    • 29

      You should be thankful they are willing to do this so you don’t have to.

    • 30

      I don’t usually advocate deleting comments, but if I were SM, I would delete this one.

    • 31

      Wow dude…. you are on the wrong website…

    • 32


      June 23, 2010 8:47 pm

      I think Federico here needs to change out his tin-foil hat. Seems to be getting a touch rusty.

    • 33

      The military risks their life for whatever reason they choose. I was in the Army and I was not brainwashed or anything like that. I joined simply to protect my country and do my part. Brainwashing implies that the military wants drones to do whatever is commanded of them. While I can’t vouch for other countries on that respect I’m sure they don’t either. A soldier should be a free-thinking individual who can carry out orders in the best way possible in a changing battlefield.

      As for all the other things you mention, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’m not arguing any point just putting my two cents in.

  10. 34

    I agree with @Gab above. This is a total waste of time and look at the design of how it is presented here!
    Also i noticed that the american armed forces websites do not figure here at all.
    This leads me to believe that the writer is either
    A. From the american armed forces or,
    B. Employed by the American Armed forces or,
    C. Has a very limited dataset to play around with.
    D. Biased.

    • 35

      Saulo Maia Neto

      June 23, 2010 3:47 am

      No american armed forces websites? Did you read the whole post?

    • 36


      June 23, 2010 3:49 am

      Most US military sites use PKI so the user would have to have a client certificate issued by the DoD trusted root. That being said the American Armed Forces are represented 10 times in this article. That’s 4 more mentions than the closest runner-up. They appear in all but one category, the poorly designed.

      Bias indeed…

  11. 37

    Edgar Leijs

    June 23, 2010 3:29 am

    Phew! The Dutch Ministry of Defence site made it in the ‘good ones’ section.

    (Yeah, I’m Dutch!)

    • 38

      Marijn van de r Werf

      June 23, 2010 3:34 am

      Let’s hope they’re NOT gonna switch that one to the universal design as well. I really liked the old ministry sites a lot better…

      • 39

        Gert Hengeveld

        June 23, 2010 8:32 am

        They will, before januari 2011 most government websites will use the same branding. Here is a list of the organisations involved:

        I personally like the fact that the government is taking it’s websites very seriously, by developing the web standards for government websites (see ) and a single ‘corporate’ branding.

  12. 40

    I don’t think you can tell good professional design apart from others

  13. 41

    Cosmin Negoita

    June 23, 2010 3:33 am

    I really do not see any reason why this kind of web site should be other than ugly. I mean, there’s no point in spending a lot of money for a cool design. They just need to share the info, that’s all…

    • 42

      Smashing Editorial

      June 23, 2010 3:37 am

      Right. However, every site needs to be user-friendly and have a proper presentation of the content. Visual design is indeed not important, but usability should certainly play an important role, don’t you think?

      • 43

        Cosmin Negoita

        June 23, 2010 12:12 pm

        Of course, I agree. But think that those sites aren’t visited by designers, so they do not have so many critics. All those websites are in a way or another user-friendly. I really do not like to call them ugly. Actually, that’s what a professional website is, even if nowadays “professional” doesn’t have the same meaning anymore.

        I could design a better website interface, but that doesn’t mean I am much better than the one who designed one of those. This is just what a site of that kind is needing…

        • 44

          “… so they do not have so many critics.”
          I totally can’t agree with that: isn’t anybody who visits a website a critic of the visited website? And, by the way, if someone likes the design of a site, he or she will stay longer – the more information a visitor reads, the more he or she knows about the organisation behind. Maybe he or she will recommend the website, if it looks nice; not many people will recommend a website which has no good design. I think, it has immense impact on an organisation, whether its website is eye candy or just offering information in an average way…You would also rather look at a model in a nice dress than at one who wears a gunnysack, wouldn’t you? Even if you were interested in the character of the girl.
          And especially on the internet, a good design means the possibility to survive and not to drown in the mass of bad designs…

        • 45


          June 24, 2010 1:50 am

          I kind of agree with this.

          The fact is good design and usuability needs to follow on from who the target audience is. Us looking at the site as a critique from an aesthetic point of view is pretty pointless. Yes I think some of the sites look ugly but thats merely an opinion. If 90% of their target audience are finding the site usuable and pleasing then it has done it’s job.

          These “professional” sites shouldn’t be taken out of context that they were designed for.

      • 46

        Henry Hoffman

        June 24, 2010 12:55 am

        “Visual design is indeed not important” – Smashing Editorial

        …. what?

  14. 48

    Steve Jones

    June 23, 2010 3:38 am

    Looks like lots of opportunities for some enterprising person to get some new business ;-)

  15. 49

    The French one would fit in the “is this really an official website?” category:

  16. 50

    Alexandre B

    June 23, 2010 3:41 am

    Great article, few ones are really stunning !
    French Minister of Defense could be in the outdated designs don’t you think ? =>

  17. 52

    Cesar Valente

    June 23, 2010 3:43 am

    In the “poorly designed” section, the “Bolivian Army” shows the site of Venezuelan Bolivarian Army. Bolivia is another country. Great post, btw

  18. 53

    Saulo Maia Neto

    June 23, 2010 3:45 am

    The first site in the “The Poorly Designed” section is also from Venezuela, and it has NOTHING to do with Bolivia. In Spanish, Bolivian is “boliviano”. “Bolivariano” refers to Símon Bolívar, a hero in several Spanish-speaking countries in South America.

    As for the designs, there is absolutely no design I would consider very good. Don’t the military hire professional webdesigners?

  19. 54

    So , you rated websites solely on their design, not content? As I understand, color schemes are GIVEN and defined by national color.

  20. 55

    Well this is interesting, especially the “few good sites”, because most of them are terrible. Chile, Czech and Poland have great, even fantastic headers? And the British army website is “professional-looking”? Give me a break.

    Considering the available resources of these institutions, overall their web-presence is a complete disgrace, and there’s no sugar-coating it. I’m not surprised, though, because the military tends to be one of the most conservative institutions out there.

    Not saying there aren’t any good ones, though. The Finnish and the MI5 do stand out.

    • 56

      I’d agree with this. It seems like while she was writing the article the overwhelming mediocrity of these sites wore her down and by the end of the post up was down and right was wrong.

      The one from Chile has the worst header- they didn’t even change the default photoshop settings on the outer glow before they collaged it all together. It’s better than a broken website from 1995, sure, but it still ain’t great.


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