Additional Web Bloopers
Many more bloopers were considered than could fit into a
reasonably-sized book. I thought it would be useful to list those in
each category that didn't make the final cut. I also list two
categories of bloopers that were excluded entirely: Shoddy Work
bloopers, and Socially Irresponsible or Evil bloopers.
In the included categories, certain bloopers were excluded because
I didn't have enough good examples. Others were omitted because they
weren't clearly distinct from bloopers that were included. Still
others were left out because they were judged to be too unimportant
The Shoddy Work category was excluded from the book because it is
hard to know what advice to offer besides "be more careful". The
Socially Irresponsible or Evil category was excluded for the opposite
reason: Web developers commit such bloopers on purpose and so don't
want to avoid them.
If it is decided to publish a second edition or Volume 2 of Web
Bloopers, some of these may be included, provided I have enough good
examples and am convinced they are important and common. Readers are
invited to use the Web-Bloopers Discussion area to suggest examples
or additional common bloopers.
- FAQ isn't just the FAQs. The site's
Frequently Asked Questions page contains questions that are clearly
not frequently-asked, or no questions that are frequently-asked, or
even no questions at all. One of Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design
Mistakes for 2002 (see UseIt.com).
- Erroneous Error Message. Naive design and/or
bugs can cause error messages to be incorrect, which really misleads
- Transaction Left in Limbo. In the middle of a
transaction, something goes wrong, but the site simply fails without
indicating the status of the transaction. The user is left wondering
if the transaction went through.
- No Printer-Friendly Page. A special case of
not providing functionality to support users' requirements. Many
pages are formatted in such a way that printing them directly results
in content running off the side of the printed page. The solution is
to provide a printer-friendly version of such pages. Many sites
don't, even many that provide news articles or opinion papers.
- Irrelevant Info Shown. Information is
displayed that has no value to users. Maybe it is there for the
convenience of the developers; maybe it is there because the
developers thought it might be useful to users, but it isn't. Could
also be considered a form of speaking Geek.
- Unnecessary Splash Screen. Splash screens that
serve no purpose other than showing off the developers' graphic
design or programming prowess. They are usually irrelevant to users'
goals (unless one of users' goals is to be entertained). They delay
users needlessly. In some cases they look deceptively like a Home
page, so this could also be considered a Navigation blooper.
- Multiple Home Pages. Related to Numerous
Navigation Schemes (Blooper 16) and to Site Reflects Organization
Chart (Blooper 15).
- Site's Web Address Hard to Guess. Either the
site does not have its own domain name (e.g.,
members.stonehenge.org/~fredflintstone) or the domain name is
different from the company or product name (e.g., PWCglobal.com).
One of Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2002 (see UseIt.com).
- Navigation Info Shown Only on Rollover.
Navigation bars that display descriptions of each link only when the
mouse pointer is moved over an item. Flanders calls this "mystery
meat" navigation (see WebPagesThatSuck).
- Breadcrumb Path Misleads. Breadcrumb path
doesn't show what users expect. May show exact route to this page
instead of depth in hierarchy, or vice-versa. What is right depends
on what users of the site expect.
- Useless Site Maps. Site maps that are
unusable, or that provide no value beyond what the site's regular
navigation bars, links, and Search function provide.
- Unpredictable BACK. BACK button doesn't behave
as users would expect. Discussed in GUI Bloopers.
- Overly Tolerant Data Fields. Type-in fields
allow users to type invalid data that causes problems downstream.
It's the flip-side of Intolerant Data Fields (Blooper 23).
- No Support for Keyboard-Only Operation; Users Must Use
Mouse. Forcing users to use the mouse to operate a form or
control panel. Sites that have this blooper are bad for the blind
and people with repetitive stress injuries or motor impairments.
- Null Results Treated Badly. When a search
returns nothing but the results don't acknowledge that and just
display a blank page or a display bug.
- Inadequate Results Navigation. When the
results aren't easily browsable because of the how they are
presented. Perhaps could be considered part of Hits Sorted Uselessly
Text and Writing Bloopers
- No extra bloopers at present.
Link Appearance Bloopers
- Internal vs. External Links Not Distinguished.
No indication whether links go off-page or down the same page.
Discussed in GUI Bloopers. Could also be considered a Navigation blooper.
- Link Opens New Browser without Warning.
Discussed in GUI Bloopers. Could also be considered a Navigation blooper.
Graphic and Layout Bloopers
- Controls Not Where Needed. Controls that are
in the wrong place given what users are looking at when they need the
controls. E.g., you need them when you get to the bottom of the
page, but they are at the top, forcing you to scroll back up.
- Odd Layout. Layout that is so non-standard and
unusual that users are confused about how to interpret it or what to
- Sloppy Layout. Unintentionally screwed up
layout resulting from design oversights, bugs, etc. Because these
are unintentional, pointing them out has questionable value. On the
other hand, they show how sloppy many web developers are, and how
rarely sites are tested before being put online.
- Important Info Below Fold. An obvious topic,
but it has been covered elsewhere, e.g., by Nielsen, Krug.
- Inconsistent Page Style. Very different page
layout and/or graphic styles on different pages of the same site.
Suggest that the site is a hodge-podge of new and legacy pages.
Related to Site Reflects Organization Chart (Blooper 15).
- List is Not a List. Itemized lists that do not
use HTML list constructs, so the lists are poorly formatted, e.g.,
bullets or numbers are not out-dented, items are run together, etc.
- No ALT Tags. An obvious error, well-covered
elsewhere, e.g., Nielsen, Flanders.
- Images Not Optimized for Fast Download. An
obvious topic, well-covered elsewhere, e.g., Nielsen, Flanders.
- Fixed-Width Pages. Pages that needlessly use
fixed width formatting for large amounts of body text. See UIWizards.com for an example of a
site that avoids this blooper: the main body text on every page is
variable width, even though certain columns of information, such as
the navigation bar, are fixed width.
- Bad Frames. Using frames OK now if you do it
correctly, but many don't use them correctly. The pros and cons of
frames have been discussed extensively by Nielsen (see UseIt.com).
- Requires Fancy Browser Plug-In. Needlessly
requiring the latest whiz-bang browser plug-in to be able to view the
site. Sites that do this are merely eliminating potential customers.
Sloppy Work Bloopers (Bugs)
- Broken internal links. Links in a website that
are supposed to go to other pages on the same site, but instead
produce a "Page not found" error. These are much less excusable than
broken external links. The Web changes. External pages change. If
you link your website to other sites, those sites may move or
disappear. Yes, you should check your external links periodically to
make sure they still work, but broken internal links are completely
inexcusable: they show that the developers didn't check their work.
- Display bugs. Information or controls are
displayed incorrectly or the wrong place. Website code appears in
the browser. Elements of a page overlap. This blooper is related to
two other sloppy-work bloopers: "Fails in common browser" and
- Fails in common browser. The page doesn't
display as intended in one or more of the popular Web browsers, e.g.,
Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. I've seen sites in which
part of the site (developed by one team) worked in IE but not
Netscape, while another part of the site (developed by a second team)
worked in Netscape but not IE.
- Faulty meta-content. These are errors in the
non-displayed information that the page provides to browsers and
search-engines: page titles, keywords, etc. Web developers often
copy existing pages to create new ones, but forget to edit the
meta-content for the new page, so many pages on their site end up
with the same page titles, keywords, etc. Many pages on the Web have
fake Latin filler text "Ipsum lorum dolor sit amet..." as a title.
- Functions don't work. Some functionality on
the site simply doesn't work as it is supposed to, either in all
browsers or in certain browsers. This is more common for complex
- Template with null data. A page is based on a
template, but no data ever got filled into the template, so it is
basically an empty page with a few structural elements.
- Truncated text. Error messages, instructions,
labels, or menu-items that are truncated for some reason. Perhaps
something in the implementation is truncating the text string rather
than displaying all of it, or perhaps part of the text string was
mistakenly cut from the implementation.
Socially Irresponsible/Evil Bloopers
- Annoying/distracting popups and pop-unders.
Little windows that pop out of the browser, in the users' face, and
distract them from what they are doing. Perhaps even worse are
pop-under windows, which appear and quickly hide themselves under the
browser window hoping that the user will come across it later. Not
all pop-up windows are bad. Error messages, for example, are often
best presented in pop-up windows. But unexpected pop-up windows are
a scourge on the Earth and should be banned.
written by part of the company, but another part of the company
doesn't know about it and does something that violates it. And
by a company that uses customer information in ways that violate the
policy that was in effect when people gave the company their
- Bait and switch (breaking promise) . Many
e-commerce sites promise "extra discounts if you purchase/book on the
Web", but when you get to the website, the extra discounts are not
available. Some sites have links that promise one thing but deliver
something else. For example, one site offers "free subscription" to
the company's magazine, but when you follow the link, you're taken to
a subscription page that costs money.
- Misleading meta-content. This is setting
incorrect meta-content on a site's pages to mislead browsers, search
engines, etc. It is unfortunately a common practice for websites to
include many - sometimes hundreds - of unrelated keywords so Search
engines will "find" the site no matter what Search terms Web users