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Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

“Form follows function” is a widely accepted — albeit controversial — principle that most designers in a variety of disciplines have adopted since its inception at the turn of the 20th century. On the web, we commonly refer to function as usability which is the ease of use and navigation of a website in order to achieve user’s goals.

In this showcase we present websites that sacrifice usability for beauty and present issues related to clutter, loading, navigation, archiving or visibility. Unfortunately, although the sites featured in this showcase are visually appealing, they are quite difficult to use. By studying such examples, we can learn what mistakes we can avoid in our designs and how not to strive for strong aesthetic appearances on the account of usability.

Visual Clutter Link

Where do I look? Where do I click? What do I do? Visual clutter is one of the most serious issues a designer can present to an audience. Not only is the user unlikely to achieve the desired goals (because it’s hidden in the clutter), chances are they’ll just leave out of frustration before they do anything.

Creative With aK7
Navigation overload! Not only are we unsure of where to look, we’re unsure of what’s clickable! Having to scan around the design with the mouse is not helpful for usability. And that’s if, and only if, you get past the load screen with no load progress bar. In addition to that, it takes a while until one has figured out that the welcome screen has to be closed to enable the actual in-site navigation. The inexistant scroll finally lets potentially interesting content disappear under the frame of the browser window.


Marc Ecko
Marc Ecko is an extremely successful businessman with countless ventures and he definitely wants us to know it. The problem is, he’s got so much business we don’t know where to start, provided you get used to the almost erratic horizontal scrolling feature! Getting the information you are looking for will take quite some time.


Content Of
Even after reading the “About” page and randomly clicking links, we’re still not sure what this page actually is about. Our best guess is a portfolio, but due to link clutter and no solid explanation of what the navigation does, we’re left confused.

There Studio9
Half of the circles that look clickable aren’t; the other half jumble into a new rotation if you drag and drop them. Granted, the movement makes sense for the philosophy of the company, and there isn’t too much clutter, but it took us a minute to figure it all out and that’s 58 seconds too long. If you feel the need for more bubbles, click and drag on the empty space to add more to the confusion.


Loading Issues Link

As bounce rates increase, and time-on-sites decreases web-wide, it is becoming increasingly important to grab people’s attention immediately. By the time all of your effects load, chances are your user is back on Google or Facebook looking for the next cool site. Loading times, skip buttons, missing instructions on navigation and many other issues are all subject of considerations here.

Coke Light
One of the worst things you can do as a Flash designer is force an introduction on your audience. A long intro and no skip button means this site is likely to be abandoned by most of its visitors before they get in. Add an unclear “Call to Action” and no visual navigation indicators and most people will never encounter the beauty this site has to offer. Long transitions back to the home screen waste time the visitior could have spent successfully “travelling the world”, searching for the numerous balloons hidden within the map.


Design Sul
We’ve never seen so many load issues on one site. Multiple load times for different elements, re-loads once you’re in to the site core, and no clear indication that loading is finished make for an extremely confusing and difficult to use website. Actually, discovering how to reach the content takes some time, what it all has to do with milk cartons is a different question.


Nicola Walbeck11
A big loading wait-time at the beginning of the site is excruciating, but sometimes manageable once you enter a beautiful, usable website. Scratch that here, because once you get in, you’ll have to wait again and again for each individual image, forcing you to stare at blurred photographs. A better idea would be to use loading bars on the image to indicate that the image is loading. If you are on a broadband connection, then it’s fine, but if you are not, you start to get nervous very quickly. Add the fact that there’s no prominent back button and the experience could be a bit frustrating.


For content/category heavy sites especially, navigation is extremely important. Imagine driving without a map, or the grocery store with no aisle indicators. Navigation tells us where to go and how, or — in these cases — tells us very little. You might consider taking a compass with you, these examples make getting lost easy.

After quite a long load, this site requires the user to click “enter”. Okay, we’re in. Unfortunately, although there is a quick-menu, it does not draw attention and the user is required to blindly scroll over images to see categories. Navigate with caution and carefully look out for navigation buttons!


Prism Girl13
Unusable sites have actually developed conventions. When we don’t see clear category navigation on a beautiful site, we poke around with our mouse looking for the category links. This site is beautiful (and complex) enough to poke around for an hour, but you’ll probably never guess you have to click on the mouse trailing icon to enter. Other than impressive design work, this site does not have much to offer.


On Toyota’s Mind15
Slow load time leads to an unclear ‘Call to Action’, no visually clear navigation as well as a hard-to-find back action. Our question: What crossed Toyota’s mind when conceptualising this site?


No button to skip intro. No visually clear navigation. Slow transitions. And here’s the kicker, a separate page to mute the music player. When visiting the site using a fast connection, the animations make the visit even less enjoyable.


Archiving/Category Issues Link

Your site loaded fine, it’s clear what you want people to do, you have a solid navigation, but once the user begins moving around, they can’t figure out your category structure. When you want meat, you go to the deli, not the dairy aisle. Some sites, unfortunately, get it wrong.

Self Titled17
A hidden quick menu and unclear category organization make this site difficult to navigate. The actual information one gets when entering a category is rather scarce.


Image slivers make-up the category composition on this site, giving us very little information as to where/what to click on. If you’re new to the site, you are likely to spend a while until you find what you were looking for.


Grip Limited20
The website does tell you to “click and drag” but finding this instruction amidst what looks like a typographic poster is something we suspect many people weren’t able to do. Realizing this might be a problem, Grip did create an “Open Menu” bar at the top of the page, but what are the chances you’re going to look there?


Kyle Tezak22
Another example of an extremely talented visual artist who has great design work, but a small usability problem makes the user experience less enjoyable. There is no actual navigation on this page, just a floating header and illustrations of Kyle’s work. To find the designer’s contact information, you need to click on the “Information” link in the upper right corner. Using more traditional wording would improve usability: e.g. putting an e-mail right there or naming it “Contact information” or adding contact information at the bottom of the page would help. A nice example of how one little detail can improve site’s usability.


Visibility/Scrolling Issues Link

A site may be uncluttered and have great navigation, but if the magnification is off, or scrolling is dysfunctional, no one is going to see it. Visibility issues can quickly turn to invisibility issues as users navigate away from your site.

Real Casual
This site is invisible until you start hunting with your mouse, at which point different areas of the screen appear. A long roll-over hunt is followed by long load times, during which fade effects additionally take your chance to get a good look at content.


Lego Click
Scrolling is conventionally top to bottom or left to right, but this site starts at the bottom which is confusing. Add to that an inability to retrieve closed elements, and several other minor issues, and you get an extremely frustrating (but beautiful) website from Lego.


Journey to Zero24
This site is rather large, but you wouldn’t know it. It starts magnified with no suggestion to drag scroll, leaving the user wondering where all the content is. If you scroll too far on the other hand, you might end up in empty regions of the site, making it hard to get back to the content. Very beautiful website that is difficult to use.


Faub26 (currently offline)
Another beautiful site that starts magnified and does not let you decrease the magnification, or suggest dragging for navigation.


Uniqlo presents what looks like a beautiful and usable online store. That is, until you’ve added 10 items to your cart only to find out there is no check-out. Turns out it’s not a store at all, just a wishlist! A truely frustrating experience for every consumer willing to spend!


Bio Bak30
Another drag navigation site that’s just too big for its own good. This is one of our favorite sites from a beauty/having fun perspective, but it does an awful job of presenting the design agency from a usability perspective. Using the mouse wheel by chance let us discover that the site has more to offer than what is visible on the first glace.


Summary Link

Design for function and communication. If your website ends up beautiful in the process, you kill two birds. Design for beauty only if the primary function of your site is to convey beauty.

Be wary of visual clutter, especially in navigation and on landing pages. Designing with too much clutter can make an audience unsure of how to use your site. In the worst case users won’t be able to load your page in the first place. Web customers don’t like to wait. Ensure that your site has a fast, clear load that conveys an easy understanding of how long it will take and when it is finished. This minimizes your risk of losing visitors to other sites in the meanwhile, keeping them occupied with joyous anticipation.

Once users arrive, you want to direct them to certain pages on your site. Always make clear what and where your navigation is, and what each element of your navigation does. Don’t make users guess or poke around to find an answer. On big sites, with lots of content, archiving and categorization is especially important. Make sure people can effectively navigate your archives. Try to make your menus self-explanatory, saving the users time, letting them invest it in effective exploration of your site.

Visibility is a huge issue most people don’t consider. In addition to designing for minimum resolutions, make sure your audience can clearly see the content you want them to at all times. If you’re designing to sell, make sure you’re designing to sell. This is especially important as your goal is to promote purchases. The more difficult you make it to buy your product, the less likely you’ll make money.

(ik) (vf)

Footnotes Link

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Daniel Eckler is the founder of Piccsy, an image bookmarking site for creatives. Glenn Manucdoc is the creative director of Piccsy.

  1. 1

    I agree with Lazlow. Just from the screenshots these websites look horrible (except a few but), then again. Upper management often like to screw things up. Reminds me of The Oatmeal’s “How a web design goes straight to hell” to be honest.

    • 2


      November 25, 2010 8:13 am

      Sadly, I agree. Sucks people are disliking your comment just because you’re honest. I knew what to expect coming here. “Beautiful but Usable” seemed to suggest they were atypical but still UX-friendly. Just from the look of the screens I am inclined to disagree. They seem way more design-centric.

  2. 5

    I have to admit, I’m disappointed. Not in the article (it actually features some interesting sites), but in the author. One should be clear on what one writes of. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that many of the websites in the list are what are called ‘experience sites’. Sure, those too could have a clear path to follow, but they don’t necessarily have to. Best example: the Toyota site. Now, if this was Toyota’s main site, the critique would be in order. But it’s not. It’s an ‘experience site’ to offer, well, experience. Now, one could argue that the experience should, as well, be clear and simple and, quite frankly, dull, maybe even? I disagree. Sure, I love a site gone through the endless jaws of usability experts (whom have a wonderful ability to organize chaos, I tip my hat for you), but only if I need to find certain information ASAP. So called ‘experience sites’ are for fun, for promoting, for sitting back. For both, the visitor or the customer, and for the maker or the company. These are the sites where both can ‘get crazy’. Why can they? Because offering certain information isn’t necessarily top priority, it’s experience, emotion, fun. Why should they? Because they offer experience, emotion, fun. A nice change for dull companies and designers with no imagination who think “Buy now!” signs in side-columns make visitors want what they’re offering.

    I agree that some of the sites featured in the article made my head spin for wrong reasons, but there’s a whole bunch in there which where meant to, I’m sure, and glad they did. It was a nice experience, for a change.

    So thank you and no thanks.

    • 6

      Experience sites? You must have just made that up, because I’ve never heard of the term or concept before. How about stupid sites? For the bloated ego. Some of these sites aren’t even beautiful. Most are a bit silly, especially considering the load times, and IMO simply make the company/artist or whoever it is behind the product or brand, look bad. If you want to make a real ‘experience’ then you should just hire a director and make a music video, TV commercial or better yet, a movie.

      • 7

        I’m sorry you’re not familiar with the term ‘experience site’, but that does not mean I made it up. Please, go ahead and Google it. I’m sure you’ll find some Ubisoft experience sites in the first 10 answers. They’re actually titled as ‘experience sites’. You could also go and check out award winning North Kingdom’s portfolio. You’ll find that theres lots you’re missing, I’m afraid. The world of interactive design spreads well beyond grids and sidebars.

        • 8

          This article is about sites which deliver a poor or fail at user experience. How could you possibly argue, for example, that a site like the first one (Creative with AK) is any good at user experience? Take for instance Mark Ecko’s site. Even when you zero in on the actual about page (which isn’t easy to find), it is written as an interview which is sort of hard to follow. As an end-user I would rather just read a couple of paragraphs on who this person is. I will admit, I have never heard of this guy before. After visiting his site, I tried to find out who this person is and what he does, and after about 5 minutes I left the site. I still don’t know who he is or what he does. And I read the about page. I don’t feel like ever returning to his site, because the first impression I got was that it was clumsy to use and secondly, whoever this guy is, he immediately looks and sounds very full of himself. Does that sound like good PR and usability to you? Experience, perhaps. But not both. NO WAY.

          Shouldn’t good experience be enhanced to include good usability? That’s the central point you are missing. If you want to label everything that is mystic and out of this world as experience and art, well then I can’t argue with that. That sort of definition can apply to almost anything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      • 9

        Go back in your cave kid.

    • 10

      Thank God. One person with some imagination and the willingness to explore and experience. I completely agree with your term “experience sites”. There are so much wonderful printed material out there that requires exploration in order to appreciate it. Some people can tear themselves away from the usual rush of ‘functionality! efficiency!’ etc and experience it. Others immediately tear it up and throw it away. Guess it’s the same with the web, or probably even worse.

    • 11

      I must say a new analysis, today we are so much into the functionality and usability….
      The list breaths a lil fresh air into that.

    • 12

      I totally agree.

    • 13

      Experience sites may refer to a “good experience” or “bad experience” in these cases: a terrible one… you have no point

    • 14

      Just because you name something different doesn’t mean this article is wrong. “Experience” sites or not, the term was coined to excuse bad user-design in favor of showcasing an agency/medium/channel’s “glam” factor. Much the same way people excused away poor user-design with “Splash Pages”.

      Call it what you want, heck, call it “Intentionally Poor Usability Sites” if you want. The fact remains, it showcases that the designer is really good at making a site that looks good but is a headache to use and when you’re a business, having users stop for a second in awe at your flashy-lights and sounds doesn’t get them to fill out the lead form you didn’t see before bouncing and going to a site that couples good design with good direction.

  3. 15

    Hopefully the designers/coders of the sites mentionied above read this article, and the word gets to them. Way to go Smashingmag!

    • 16

      Yup. But agency sites aren’t for regular visitors or even for clients. They’re for potential hires. These people often understand and appreciate the quirky navigation. Horizontal scroll FTL! But whatever, I had fun.

      • 17

        Maybe u didn’t understood the direction os those websites. Most of them didn’t suppose to be portals, blogs, with narrow and flat navigation.

        They are mostly focused on experiences.

        Also, some of them have coding problems and not navigation or usability problems.

        Sorry but it was bad post…

        • 18

          Nicolas Franz

          December 4, 2010 7:59 pm

          Can’t agree with you, Web Design is based on “USER” experience. I have no problem to design a website with an innovative experience, and I love to pass some hours looking for Inspiring Websites on the net, but when we start to forget who’s the one that will be exploring it (by the way, the user).. then we are not talking anymore about design, but art.

          Then we are bringing life to a ‘piece of art’, and to many interpretations under million perceptions.

          • 19


            Web Design will never evolve if everyone continues to blindly follow this pop rhedoric of usability trumps all.

            Form should follow function, but did you stop to think about the creators function before you pick these sites apart based on your personal opinion?

  4. 20

    A really great collection, as ever. Form should *never* trump function.

  5. 21

    Great list. Can we get a showcase of sites currently using modern JS libraries and HTML5.

  6. 22

    Isn’t that basically like every showcase of ‘beautiful’ sites on SM? :snark:

  7. 23

    But the creators of these websites will be happy or not for this report?

  8. 24

    Great post! But does your advertiser who is promoting Flash sites know it looks like an idiot in context?

  9. 25

    Awesome compilation! This is a perfect study of where web art and web design are very different, and while I agree that many of these are pretty to look at and interesting conceptually, they truly fail at user experience. I would love to see a list of sites that find the happy medium – breaking out of the grid while still maintaining utmost usability.

  10. 26

    Personally, I’m glad there are sites like these out there. They have their place and it’s not as if EVERYTHING has to follow a set of rules ;)

    • 27

      I agree Liam.

      Bio Bak and Journey to Zero (and all the other work by Iamalwayshungry) are a couple of my favourite sites. They may be harder to use than your average grid-based wordpress theme but they offer an entertaining and imaginative experience. Surely there is a place online for this, or are we aiming for total homogenisation?

  11. 28

    From the thumbnail, I’ve always wanted to love Grip Limited… until landing on their site and trying to do something.

  12. 29

    Moeed Mohammad

    November 25, 2010 8:48 am

    Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash. I think there is a trend.

  13. 30

    Thanks for a much needed article!
    The web site for Le Gavroche, Britain’s poshest restaurant, takes an agonising 1’45” of mind-numbing white-screen boredom to load on my 2Mb connection and once you get there, its hard to see why they used Flash anyway.
    And, in my experience, all architect’s web site are guaranteed to be absolute stinkers.

    • 31

      Maybe there’s something wrong with your connection if it takes so much time to load. It took me 2 seconds. Really.

      • 32

        Thanks – appreciate your comment.

        I don’t want be be pedantic, but I get a subliminal animation at 15″, which I didn’t count, then a white box until 55″ retrying it this morning and my speed is 2.35Mb. That’s on Safari with Click-to-Flash enabled (and clicked, obviously)

        • 33

          It took me 3 seconds to enter their site. But I agree – it should be done in flash.

  14. 34

    In the UK the shopping cart for Uniqlo works perfectly, and we have successfully purchased from it many times, so perhaps in the US there are other issues at work, rather than poor web design.

  15. 35

    Great title for a blog post! And I’m glad none of my website creations is shown ;-)

  16. 36

    Once users arrive, you want to direct them to certain pages on your site. Always make clear what and where your navigation is, and what each element of your navigation does. Don’t make users guess or poke around to find an answer. On big sites, with lots of content, archiving and categorization is especially important. Make sure people can effectively navigate your archives. Try to make your menus self-explanatory, saving the users time, letting them invest it in effective exploration of your site.

    And while we’re at it, all movies should have a clear storyline which is told from start to finish. There shouldn’t be any visual effects that isn’t 100% necessary to convey the story. All actors should have a clear personality that is easily, and immediately, grasped by the viewer. Dialouge should be clear and consistent, the viewer should never have to think about if the character in the movie meant something else/more than what was actually said….

    Bah, BORING! This is the same “let’s hate on flash and everything else that is mildly experimental” stuff that feeds the stupid flash vs html5 war. Get over it! Let people have fun! Stop being so phreakin’ BORING!

    • 37

      I don’t think movies and websites are the same thing.

      When watching a movie, you go into it knowing that you are going to invest a certain amount of time for plot development, etc. You are purposely turning over the next couple of hours of your life to the director and actors. Most important is the fact that you are going there to be entertained.

      I would venture a guess that most users visiting corporate or shopping websites are not going there to be entertained. They are looking for something. Information, or a product, perhaps. I don’t know why a business would want to make it difficult for them.

      With the bazillions of websites out there fighting for our attention, if someone can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they may move on to the next site. They don’t have to, and may not choose to, sit for two hours trying to understand the navigation the way they will try to understand a movie.

      With that said, if a designer knows his or her audience, and, based on that knowledge, chooses a purposely chooses a confusing navigation (or other usability issue), then it might work.

      But if business is the name of the game, why risk it?

      • 38

        I think the main problem with this “business” argument is that it’s so black and white. Many websites are not THE single point of entry for a potential customer. And not ALL websites have the purpose to sell. Take the Toyota site mentioned above. This isn’t we’re talking about, this is one (of maybe ten at the same time) ongoing campaign, which highlights ONE message that Toyota want’s to convey to the customers; Toyota is eco-friendly.

        Now, they could just have written that on the website, but who would have spent more than 5 secs on that page. And who would have taken their word for it. So they make this “experience”, that is basicallty all smoke and mirror, I agree. But it serves a purpose, and adds value, to Toyota as a brand. Anyone who denies this, should take a marketing course and read some analysis on the effect of actual campaigns.

    • 39

      Yeah, and actually it’d be lot better if movies would simply feature a narrator telling you the plot with no emotion, showing a black screen. You get the info, right. So everything should be okay. Who cares about emotion anyway?

      I agree, boring. Really loved this comment. I thank you : )

  17. 42

    November 25, 2010 9:16 am

    Very Dangerous piece. These are beautiful sites, but hopefully the designers/codes do not get annoyed by it. I am sure they understand the design process and the demanding needs of clients “ideas & suggestions”, and they way you sometimes have to bend over backwards for them.

    On the sites above there are lots of user-ability issues and long load times but its good to experiment. Right or wrong people are always learning.

  18. 43

    This is definitely a big issue… For the most part it’s better to have a really plain usable site then a good looking site. The object is to inform not impress. To impress is a display of selfishness in the sense you’re bragging about yourself to win the client. To inform shows that you are thinking of the customer and “THEIR” needs. ;)

    • 44

      I think you need to look at the intended audience for a particular site too.

      Most sites listed here are NOT informational at all. They’re meant as fun experiments or pieces of art. Almost like a video game for some.

      So clarity sometimes is counter productive. We want to lead the user through the experience and have them think, solve problems.

      If this drives people away from the experience, perfect! That’s probably a person who is too stoic to have appreciated it in the first place.

  19. 45

    I read smash a lot and one thing I consistently see is the writers and audience seem to not be able to differentiate between a site whose purpose is to provide information, and one whose intent is to provide an experience.

    Let’s take our site: Grip limited. A Cannes winning ( and a lot of other awards I might add) site. The site has recieved praise for it’s unique but intuitive navigation. It has been recognized by the Hoelfer foundry as a “typographical tour de force”. The designers of this site also designed and

    Not the different approach to navigation and information layout. We consider out audience and the experience we believe they want to have. The result is award winning effective interactive design. Design that drives business. Design that inspires instead of restricts.

    Not everything needs to look like a pretty instruction manual.

  20. 46

    re: grip website. Yes, it was really hard to click and drag my mouse around the screen. I totally see what you mean.

  21. 47

    Aleksandra Boguslawska

    November 25, 2010 2:07 pm

    Oh my. There should also be a category “music playing when you open the site”, where a lot of the above websites would fall.
    I mean, we all know that people put music on the sites for the artistic sake, and sometimes it’s even bearable. Still, when I have my volume on the highest level, and the sound just explodes in my ears, my first reaction is to close the site immediately!

  22. 48

    stef hamerlinck

    November 25, 2010 3:18 pm

    Thanks for listing some great artworks !

  23. 49

    Lester Bambico

    November 25, 2010 3:37 pm

    I just have to comment early,

    Honestly I haven’t read the article yet, but the title itself has struck me. Way to go, these are the types of showcases that should always be featured haha
    nice one SM.

  24. 50

    As Jacoub said “Not everything needs to look like a pretty instruction manual.”

    Not everyone wants everything spelled out, some people like to think for themselves and, they don’t get confused by anything that takes a bit of effort and some thought put in to understand.

    Boring people will always like boring things, like a basic site, huge twitter button, huge facebook button, welcome message and a set of instructions.

    This is the poorest shit I re– skimmed all day.

    • 51

      Depends on what your need and urgency is at that point of time. Let’s assume that you’re having a few seconds for an urgent nature’s call, you sure don’t want to find yourself in an international restroom with weird functionality that you weren’t aware of in the first place.

      People who don’t have much time to invest in such cases, to explore and figure out for themselves will surely want an intuitive approach. Unfortunately that’s the way average humans are programmed to be. Average users prefer certainty and uniformity, and websites must cater first to this particular need of their user group’s average population.

  25. 52

    Great article – always good to look at bad examples of websites to learn from their mistakes! :)

  26. 53

    [quote]Moeed Mohammad
    Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash. I think there is a trend.[/quote]

    Isn’t the trend right now to get away from Flash? With all the new CSS3 + HTML5 options?

    • 54

      I think that is the point being made! …of these “unusable” sites, there is an awful lot of Flash going on. Maybe there is a wee connection between “unusable” and Flash?

      • 55

        Not really. You can make unusable sites without Flash, too. It´s not the tool, but the one who doesn´t know how to use ist properly.

    • 56

      Unfortunately canvas or SVG animation directly in browser have typically very low frame rates on Internet Explorer and are currently not usable for production sites. Flash is often the only realistic option for complex or even moderatly simple animations.

  27. 57

    oops – I broke the LEGO site (for me)… I clicked “Zoom In” on a youtube video because it was so small, and upon “Zoom Out” the site remained at ~150% of its original size w/o any horizontal scroll bar, so almost half the content (and the up-and-down scrollbar!) isn’t visiable anymore….

    Now, if an adult breaks it so quickly, how will it endure the mouse clicks of a kid (= target audience)? The block sure last longer than their web site.

  28. 58

    This is a poor article.

    I agree with some comments, but how can you say Uniqlo is an unusable website because you don’t understand the difference between ‘adding to your favorites list’ and a shopping cart.

    Also, all these sites target a particular demographic/user. You wouldn’t expect everyone to find them usable.

  29. 59

    I appreciate articles like this just so that us designers and devs can have a reference to show to company managers about posing potential issues with usability. Im sure all of us on here have no real problem browsing the sites listed and getting the idea rather quickly, its just that the common person looking at the site with their pandora open and having 10 tabs opens, things might be getting a little sluggish. Yes, these sites are crazy fantasy and fantastic designs, but in a way selfish because on a normal laptop i can only view a couple of them before my browser starts going nutz…

  30. 60

    I seem to have a disagreement on eContent website. Which really great!
    WOW design, perfect flow, Easy loading & Good navigation too where you have listed it!

  31. 61

    Hahaha one of the most refreshing showcases I’ve seen in a while. Not so much a worst-of list, but these fancy high-traffic websites really do still have problems that need to be examined.

  32. 62

    I came across Marc Ecko before and I enjoyed interacting with it somehow. I noticed that the article is inciting disapproving reactions cos these sites are really creative and still usable in some sense,except for those with loading issues….

  33. 63

    Adam Beizsley-Pycroft

    November 26, 2010 3:12 am

    A lot of people commenting on this article don’t seem to understand that “Experience Sites” should be usable too. In fact, I’d argue that making them usable requires greater creativity. The vast majority of these sites have been created to support marketing campaign objectives and clearly the graphic designers involved had the artistic vision to delight the eye. However, what we must not lose site of is that users apply mental models whenever they visit a site, essentially comparing it to a previous online or offline experience and ulitmately that “interface vocabulary” determines the path they take to acheive their objective on the site. As a result, we need to ensure that we operate within the constraints of this “vocabulary” whilst using our creativity to make the experience look and feel unique.

    Looking through the list of sites above, as with most pure Flash websites these were probably created by agencies who had been commissioned by those with pure marketing but not neccesarily digital backgrounds. Unfortunately, the “digital experts” from the agencies probably didn’t challenge their clients’ thinking to educate them that User Experience matters.

    In conclusion, as members of the design community and experts in our field we owe it to our clients and their users to use our creativity to deliver both visual brilliance and a superior User Experience educating those who misunderstand the web as a medium.

    tl;dr: Usability and aesthetic beauty can and should co-exist.

  34. 64

    Some sites can, and indeed should push the conventions of UX. It’s all dependent on the site’s objectives and your intended audience.

  35. 65

    Łukasz Adamczuk

    November 26, 2010 4:19 am

    Usability always comes with simplicity

  36. 66

    Any feature, app, web site, catalog, etc. has its function. Otherwise, it´s just a piece of art, with all respect.
    Design have function, especially the function of communication. What I saw in this article are just beautiful art.

  37. 67

    I don’t have many RSS subscriptions but Smashingmagazine is currently one of them and it’s in my list because it sometimes has very good developer focused articles covering technical resources on developing websites such as JQuery and CSS.

    Very quickly I realized that this is not a magazine a graphic designer would ever look at for design reference or articles covering how to design, for those kind of things I would go to Creative Review or one of the design blogs such as FormFiftyFive. I therefore skimmed this article with some amusement. For those of you that agree with this article you are free to pitch your own designs to the same clients, to apply for the same graphic designer jobs in those agencies winning the work and to build your own portfolio sites as you think best.

    I’m sorry to see this article in Smashing Magazine, I hope in the future you will continue the very useful coverage of developer issues and leave bigger design questions to other magazines.

  38. 68

    flashtrabation… you gotta love it.

  39. 69

    I found Grip Limited a massively usable website. That site shouldn’t be on here.

    Just because something isn’t conventional it doesn’t make it unusable.

    • 70

      I agree – i actually really like the grip limited site – it’s interesting to me and the interaction it gets from me as the user keeps me on it longer. Not sure I agree that it should be on here.

  40. 71

    Good list, funny that they are almost all Flash sites.

    Flash is great for certain tasks but it sure does tempt designers to over load their sites with unusual navigation etc.

  41. 72

    Good post! Another one to add to the list is H&M’s website. I think there’s many problems with their site, like have to wait for almost every page to load separately and up until recently the fashion pages loaded repeated images that filled your browser window. Plus I don’t know how a retail company as big as they are does not have an online store.

  42. 73

    those sites are not for register train tickets or buy goods online. they have their own targeted users. i think their idea is intended to make some madness/creativity :)

  43. 74

    Great examples of what NOT to do. Many of the sites were very aesthetically pleasing but they were very frustrating to use.

  44. 75

    No 2Advanced website on here???

    I think that’s one of the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) examples of beautiful but unuseable websites ever!

    Good list though!

  45. 76

    Decent article, but it seems many of the commentors here just don’t get it:

    “does your advertiser who is promoting Flash sites know it looks like an idiot in context?”

    “Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash. I think there is a trend.”

    “Maybe there is a wee connection between “unusable” and Flash?”

    “Good list, funny that they are almost all Flash sites.”

    The point of the article was not to hate on flash, it was to point out some sites with serious usability flaws. There are TONS of examples of excellent brand experiences built in flash, these are just a couple bad ones.

    We all know you developers get hard-ons when thinking about JS and HTML5, but lets understand that flash has its place as well. Also, I have to disagree with the critique of the Uniqlo site in the article. Just because you don’t understand the difference between a list and a cart doesn’t make it a unusable site.

    • 77

      I agree Kev,

      First of all it’s a pain to create (at that time and for the moment – still) such sites with interactivity and creative freedom without flash.

      It’s like blaming a 4×4 when going ofroad, doing crazy stuff the changes of damage to the vehicle are greater then compared to a famely car on the highway…
      They have the ability to go offroad – giving higher risk of damage… But do you see someone with a famely sedan taking a rocky 31° climb or mudholes of x feet deep?

      So it’s almost obvious that in this categorie most sites are build with flash.
      At least most of those sites CAN be equally unusable in IE, aswel in FF or Chrome or Safari or …


  46. 78

    Usability vs beauty, the neverending story -_-

  47. 79 should be in this list.

  48. 80

    This is arrogance. These pieces are not being judged by their own merits, but rather on some type of universal standard only entirely known to the authors. The message here is uneducated and ignorant of idea.

  49. 81

    I agree. Design should always be purposeful.

  50. 82

    Thanks for the mention ( We did the site as a “creative exercise” almost 2 years ago. It’s crammed full of inside jokes and jabs at our co-workers. While it was a fun diversion from our everyday work, it was indeed a “throw away” in the sense it was not something we use day-to-day or promote in any way.

    Bad experience or not, our clients enjoyed looking at it – and several commented on how much they liked it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win. I don’t get the sense they had a “bad user experience.”


  51. 83

    I wish I worked on Marc Ecko’s site :) …meaning I would have gotten some major $$$ just to play in flash.
    Now I understand how huge agencies who ‘specialize in flash’ stay in business….they get ego-suckers for clients.

  52. 84

    Definitely a great list! Would be very interesting to check back with them in 6 months to a year to see how many have made upgrades or improvements based on these observations.

  53. 85

    Some great examples of sites with issues. Thanks for sharing.

  54. 86

    most of the sites work as intended for me, and are pretty good.

  55. 87

    Some good examples of how not to design a website.

    A criticism here though, considering how slow some of the sites you’ve linked are perhaps having links open in new tabs would have been a better way of doing this.

    Yes, i know you can right-click but that not the point…

  56. 88

    Yep I agree with all your usability points but considering i have no requirement for these sites, its quite nice to look at pretty things once in a while. Although then they might be best as graphic art pieces rather than usable (or unusable) websites.

  57. 89

    Really? You never guessed to press the floating ball that constantly follows around your mouse on the prism girl site? That didn’t occur to you? Have you used flash before? Or played a video game for that matter?

  58. 90

    Interesting finding in UNIQLO!!

  59. 91

    Great post, if some of these sites had made the little tweaks Dan and Glenn suggest they’d be so much better.

    Only thing I’d disagree with is the LEGO, the fundamentals of lego is it’s a building block – you start at the bottom and build up. So the bottom up site design is a no-brainer for me and the red scroll bar makes it reasonably obvious you are at the bottom of the page.

    I think there some hang up in the comments on ‘user experience’, for me this talks about usability within exepriential sites, it’s like documentaries vs art house movies. If you want to know how much a Toyota costs you’re obviously not going to find it on a site called ‘On Toyota’s Mind’

  60. 92

    Well first i have a normal internet connection, and i don´t have to wait much to see many of the sites, second the websites listed here are mostly personal, creative or experimental websites, the main function is to entertain more than inform, usability and functionaltity here can´t be compared to informative websites or websites made for everyone, these website are target specific, some have technical problems (coding) more than usability problems i guess. For example i love self titled navigation and grid limited, why? because they innovate, they get out of the box, and they inspire me and others to go far and create new things, to rethink over common and granted ideas and that defines the target as the creatives and studios wordwide, not common people (non creative), and why not? What’s the problem? Don´t put everything on the same plate. I can create something that don´t follow rules or standards and show that experience to other artists ou simple curious out there, to share and exchange ideas. Rules were made to be broken, we just need to know why we’re breaking them :D

    PS:. One more thing, like it or not we’re all here discussing usabillity and other questions related to user experiences because of them, so i think they manage to make some revolutions after all. They got our attention :D

    • 93

      I agree. Most of the sites above are campaign or agency sites. Their strategy is to be perceived as different and creative. However, I must admit that these sites lack a wealth of content and genuine functions, which are two critical factors in sustaining traffic in the long term. Also, I could put on a Jakob Nielsen’s hat, and criticise any interface elements that are unconventional and unapparent. Nonetheless, despite all the negative aspects I could raise, I have to say that, if their main strategy is to send a sweet brand message through a visual-rich interface experience, they did well. Their visual executions are interesting enough to intrigue users to click around. Of couse, as a user, if I have a specific purpose in mind, say buying something, I would certainly find all the distractions frustrating. And I think the author came from this angle – which I also agree.

      It seems that many comments relate unusable websites with Flash. I have to disagree. You can certainly create unusable websites with web standard technology. In fact, I suspect that many people will try to achieve high level of interactivity with web standard technology in the future – just to prove that they are part of the latest HTML5 experimentalists or have the technical capacity to do so. I think is more correct to say, it’s more likely to build unusable websites with Flash because it has no limitations. When web standard technology has no limitations and little cross-browser issues, it will be the same.

  61. 94

    Worthwhile article, but I don’t completely agree.

    These “rules” of usability were set by computer programmers…who know as much about design as designers know about programming.

    What they don’t get is that a website has to be memorable – if you’re looking to get a brochure designed and visit, say, 20 designers’ sites which all follow usability rules set forth by Google, they’re all likely to look the same. Nothing stands out (btw, anyone looked at the author of this article’s site, Very bland, imo).

    So what the web ends up with is a whole bunch of sites reduced to the primitive level of newspaper design, instead of really good, memorable stuff – which all the above sites exhibit.

    A case in point:

    My own site, which has blatantly been designed to please the people who program Google. As a result, it does extremely well in search. It is extremely usable, by their standards. Lots of people see it. But I don’t like it.

    But if I went back to my old site, which I and most of my visitors liked more, far fewer people would see my portfolio, and I’d get less work. So of course I follow usability “rules” as set forth by know-nothing programmers.

    Makes me want to puke, the level of control that mere technicians have over the web. But that, unfortunately, is what we’ve got to work with.

  62. 95

    I was thinking about the point of some of these sites, and frankly, there is no point to some of them other than to come and look (i.e., advertising for a product).

    Much like you wouldn’t skip the intro scene on a movie (because you are there to watch a movie), why would you skip the intro scene on a site (like the Toyota one) when you aren’t necessarily there for content. If you are there to look at artistic implementations, then what’s the problem?

  63. 96

    i think this post is kinda old school. Modern websites have their own new unique way of presentation for their info to create impression. I believe different people have different perspective. Infact, im just agreed on “Web customers don’t like to wait”.

  64. 97

    How about SmashingMagazine dot com ? It is shame how much it lags, and WHY it lags. (Open YSlow or Firebug|Network, to find the answer, why the site is able to lag in every modern browser, including Chrome and Opera). What is most sad, is the fact that named site is promoting good web practices. Hypocrisy at its best.

  65. 98

    Dustin Lucier DiTommaso

    December 24, 2010 7:12 am

    Hahaha. The Best part of the article is the lead in “Create Free Stunning Flash Websites” AD. I thought it was the title photo. Didn’t realize it was an ad. Priceless.

  66. 99

    I’ve never seen the Coca-Cola Light page before. Nice find!

  67. 100

    I’ve never been so disappointed in Smashing Magazine! For a site that embraces beauty and inspiration, this is a very narrow-minded article. I agree with some of the earlier commenters: We don’t need every site on the web to be homogenized clean-form functionality. That’s not even the POINT of half of these sites. I was flicking through some of the Flash sites and absolutely loved the creativity, and the way they played with expectations. And half the time the author said a site was difficult to navigate, I found myself navigating without a problem at all. Maybe it’s a matter of “This site doesn’t function the way my textbook says a site should function! Curses! I’m going to write an article lambasting this site!!”

    Sour grapes. Long live those who do so outside the box.

  68. 102

    Alexei Rebrov

    January 22, 2011 4:48 pm

    I want to make two comments:
    1. When we talk about usability and navigation we need to define the audience. It’s all about persona!
    2. Considering comment #1 I made Grip Limited site is an example of GREAT design and meaningful usability targeted for designers, UI developers and business people who think out of box. (And they did succeeded!)
    Have you tried to play video there? It plays right there on a page without popups or navigating to a new page. Want to see content from the same category? no problem: just use the scrolling wheel of your mouse or drag content vertically. This site would be ideal for iPad and other tablets (moved away from Flash).

    Basically, Thank you for featuring Grip. Too bad in wrong category :(

    • 103

      I agree with you Alexei. Grip limited is quite usable, fresh and attention grabbing! In fact, your website is so usable that your quick links feature (on the top of the page) is redundant. I didn’t need to refer to it at all because I found my way through your website very comfortably.

  69. 104

    Raitis Grandovskis

    February 14, 2011 8:56 am

    To put UNIQLO for US market in this list is silly. In US they have one shop – in Soho. Website probably is “localized” from UK.

  70. 105


    February 24, 2011 7:09 am

    Another site that would fit perfectly into this list is the new Cirque du Soleil site – every single page requires a long load time and even pressing the back button takes load time – but in terms of form its quite nice.

  71. 106

    Good article!. You need to understand or think like the interviewer when you are the person being interviewed for a job. Likewise, you need to think like a future user of your website while you are designing one(hopefully for future users!!). That’s why understanding user psychology and their threshold for cognitive tasks is imperative to good design, and this leads us to the term “user experience”. Every creator is extremely attached to their creation, which is why we have usability studies to help critique the functionality of a website. Assuming that you are a smart seller, you make a website to showcase and attract customers (users), not because you want to please yourself!!

    Beauty and art aside, you need to understand that it’s the buyers market and that you need to grab attention and sustain it within a matter of seconds. The websites listed in this article do the former but fail miserably to do the latter..

    One exception is Grip Limited. It is both visually appealing and extremely user-friendly.

  72. 107

    bio-bak is fun


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