20 Worst Web Design & Development Trends

20 Worst Web Design & Development Trends

Web design trends come and go, some stay around too long and there are a few that probably should have never existed. Many of the trends below can still shockingly be found on a variety of sites including personal sites, business sites and yes even web designer portfolio sites.

Some of the worst trends are graphical ones such as the use of horrible GIF animations, intro pages and under construction graphics. Others are more on the web development side and include trends such as using the blink tag, guestbook scripts or certain software.

These trends come and go quickly so expect to see a list like this again soon. In the meantime, enjoy the post and if you remember any trends worthy of the list below please leave a comment so we can enjoy the memories and help teach new webmasters and designers what NOT to do.

Web Design and Development Trends

1. Mouse Cursor Trailers

People must have gotten bored with the standard mouse cursor arrow, because suddenly it seemed like everyone was adding some wacky effect trailing their cursor or they would change the look of the cursor itself from an arrow to something else.

2. Custom Scrollbars

About the same time people started customizing mouse cursors they started looking for other elements to customize such as website scrollbars. While not as annoying as custom cursors, they weren’t the best for usability once changed. The scrollbar consists of several elements that are commonly customized such as the slider, track, top and bottom arrows.

3. Blink Tag

It rarely gets more annoying than this… The blink tag would simply make anything you put inside the tag flash and it was usually bright colored text. There had to be better ways of drawing attention than this!

4. Website Visitor Counters

It used to be cool to show off how many visitors you had gotten thus far, but website visitor counters really did more harm than good. If numbers were too high nobody believed the site owner and if the website had too few visitors everyone thought the site wasn’t popular. Plus they were ugly as hell!

5. Short Repeating .wav Files

The most annoying thing by far a webmaster can do is play music or some other sound effect automatically when a webpage is loaded. People who browse the web often listen to the radio or music when viewing sites and its extremely annoying running into something like this. Equally annoying are banners and pop ups that make stupid sounds or play music. Back in the day it was even worse because horrible sounding .wav files were rampant and they were often short clips on LOOP.

6. Horrible .gif Animations

The never ending journey of webmasters striving to enhance their websites continued when people started creating animated images in GIF format. These simple animations were often very poor quality, cheezy, annoying and used in excess in odd areas of web pages.

7. Incredibly Annoying Popups

Thankfully aggressive marketing is becoming less and less popular, but not too long ago there were popups EVERYWHERE on all kinds of websites. Pop ups can still be found here and there, like on crappy MySpace graphic sites, but any webmaster who cares about their visitors at all usually stays away from using them. The worst pop ups are ones that make noise as well.

8. Animated Weather Backgrounds

Its hard enough to read bright text over black or pattern backgrounds, but then came the glory days of animated backgrounds. Those patterns were now changing colors, blinking and browsers of the web started seeing things like falling snow backgrounds and rain. Webmasters would then forget to change the background, so it was common to see snow falling in the middle of summer on your screen.

9. Free Clipart

Before high quality stock photography and vector art became available at affordable prices, clipart ruled supreme. The quality of the clipart was usually pretty horrible, but most of it was free or offered in huge packs so they took over the web. Surprisingly enough, there are still HUGE volumes of searches being done for clipart on the web, but most of it is used for home printing of greeting cards and such. Thankfully, most web designers seems to avoid clipart like the plague.

10. Frames

Frames allow you to display more than one web page in the same browser window, each one being independent of the other. Simply put, frames are bad, outdated and should be avoided. They mess up a lot of things for visitors and they go against the fundamental design of the web.

11. Under Construction Graphics and Pages

When webmasters became so sick of their websites they could not stand the sight of them anymore, they started putting up under construction pages and graphics. Unfortunately for them, this was a huge mistake and could easily destroy any hard work they put into driving traffic to their website. Just leave the old site up until the new one is ready to launch!

12. Website Intro Pages

Looking to turn away most of your visitors within 3 seconds of them coming to your site? Set up an intro page! How these pages became so popular is a mystery, but its a proven fact all they do is hurt your website. These pages often featured some sort of welcome message and a “website best viewed in” message. The goal of a good website design should always be to get your visitors to the information they want with the fewest clicks possible and intro pages were a totally unnecessary click.

13. Pageview Extending

Some annoying websites decided to start splitting up content and making you click through more pages than you normally should to increase their pageview statistics. A lot of major websites and news sites still do this even though the content could easily fit on one page. It makes reading articles extremely annoying, but they don’t care because it enhances their website statistics so they can make a few more bucks at the expense of their users.

14. Website Best Viewed in Text and Graphics

Back in the day it was very common to see text and graphics telling viewers which browser they should view a site in. Nowadays it is more commonly known that websites should be tested across all browsers. If web coding standards are followed there usually isn’t TOO much trouble, but its still always important to double check your site with all the big boys. Did anyone ever really think a website visitor would switch browsers just to view some new website?

15. Bright Text on Black Backgrounds

The most fundamental aspect of usability design is making text easy to read. Most websites are meant to inform in one way or another, so making text difficult to read just seems crazy. Many webmasters are not designers, but its really not hard to figure out that its much easier to read black text on a white background than yellow text on a black background.

16. Scrolling Text – Marquee Tag

Reading rainbow colored text on a black background is painful enough, but webmasters decided it would be even cooler to make the text move from side to side via the marquee tag.

17. Sign My Guestbook

Guestbooks were one of the first attempts at creating some sort of interaction between a website visitor and the owner, but really they were just an attempt to collect personal information of visitors.

Feedback forms ended up being better for user input and email newsletters ended up becoming king in the marketing world. Now instead of asking some one kindly to sign your guestbook its easier to offer something of value for free to create a highly targeted mailing list.

18. Talking Virtual People and Characters

Another trend of many online businesses was to use talking people or cartoons to communicate a message. The concept seemed cool at the time and some of the services out there were pretty high-quality. One service would use real actors to speak your message and another let you create a highly-customizable cartoon looking characters that would say almost anything you want.

They pretty much died off because the auto starting sound is considered very annoying to website visitors and they proved to be no where near as useful as everyone thought. It would have made more sense to have the virtual person as a viewing option on a product tour page, instead of having the feature jump in your face when you first load the site.

19. Insanely Over Beveled Buttons

It is important to draw attention to a website’s navigation and/or call to actions, but go easy on the bevels! Playing with filters and layer styles is one of the first things designers do when they get their hands on Photoshop, but thankfully this style has become very cliché and less of this is seen on the web today, even from new graphic and web designers.

20. Misleading and Annoying Banners

Equally as annoying and misleading as many popups, there were a variety of nasty web banners that spread across the web. They often claimed the viewer was a winner, had a virus, had a new message or had some other silly hook to lure people in. The only sad part is that a lot of these web banners are still floating around and they are the same ones that have been around for a long time.

What horrible web design and web development trends have you noticed?


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