Thursday, 2 June 2011

Bad websites

Bad websites. Whats with them?

I have a beef with a variety of websites - nice websites, let down by the
"We dont care attitude" or "We didnt test it".

I despair of this web site. Its a great guide to TV channels for UK
people. Nice layout. Lots of content.

So, whats wrong with it?

A number of things. One - the menu bar at the top of the screen is over
engineered. If you try to do something, like select one of the sub-menu items,
the ability to navigate and not lose context is near impossible. Try and
select something, e.g. "New series". I leave you to find which submenu
thats under (a minor annoyance).

Secondly, the huge amount of real estate given over to pointless banners.
These arent advertising banners, but program banners. On a small screen
you have no information content on the first screen at all. On a large screen
you barely get 50% of your screen with the TV grid.

The search function is badly over engineered using javascript.

And if you turn off some ad sites via an ad-blocker, the whole page becomes non-functional.

And lastly, the page quite often forgets who you are and your
channel selections.

I gave up with this site, and wrote my own TV highlighting application.

BBC RadioTimes

The BBC provides XML files containing 14 days of TV schedules. This is
a great source of data (which I use in my TV planning application).

But the reviews are *awful*. No, make that, *truly awful*. When I see
a film or a series of potential interest, the paragraph of review is of
this form:

This film, made by XXX YYY, is a follow on to his earlier work ZZZ, AAA, BBB.
The director did blah, and the actors did bloop. The film won an award at
Cannes, and went straight to video.

Can you tell whats wrong with the above? Its totally devoid of any information
about what the film or program is *about*. The reviews/write-ups on at least tell you what the program is about.

Heres a real quote from the BBC:

One of two low-budget westerns made by Barbara Stanwyck - the other was
1956's The Maverick Queen - before she found her glorious late-career
stride with such titles as Forty Guns and TV's The Big Valley.
Aided by thoughtful direction from the prolific and talented Allan Dwan,
this movie now has great curiosity value, in that the leading man is
former US president Ronald Reagan, a bland and colourless performer
when pitted against screen villains Gene Evans and Jack Elam.
The location scenery is very attractive, the action sequences
well staged, and Stanwyck as tough as ever: it's a shame the
script didn't give her or any of the cast more opportunities.
Still, this will pass the time nicely, and teenage girls might
discover a useful role model.

My first site of the day is Yes, I know - thats
a poor choice of a news website, but consider it bubblegum for the
brain first thing in the morning. My second is
Engadget. A very nice
and highly fluid website with news stories of interest to me.

And this, *was* Gizmodo. But I have removed the link from my web browser.

On my ipad, I have a cached page dating back to April - I cannot get it to
update. I dont know what they did. On my other devices, I dont have the
caching problem. Gizmodo used to track Engadget in style and content.
But recently, they have overhauled it. And they have not done any
user testing as far as I can tell.

First, I would be redirected to the mobile site, even though I dont
want that. Now, they have reformatted the website, and its totally
devoid of content on the front page.

It used to work and be a great site, but I waste my monthly bandwidth
quota vising Gizmodo and hoping for something useful to browse.

So, goodbye to Gizmodo. Maybe, when others start linking to it again
and it contains useful content (even if its a rehash of other sites),
I will revisit.


This site has been great for years. Until now. The pool of people powered
news stories they have is great. But slashdot have been playing games
with their presentation and - as my 4th choice of read of the day - is
close to being binned as well.

For starters, the three column format is annoying. Very annoying.
When browsing on a mobile/small screen device, the left hand column
requires you to scroll the screen to view the text. I never look at the
left hand column - because I know it never changes. So why waste prime
real estate with that, *there*.

Next. Slashdot has tried to create slow and large home page loads. I applaud
that. But they have done that by limiting the number of visible stories
to about 6. Given that they seem to dribble items out at about once
per hour, that means its pointless visiting the site
repeatedly during the day. And if you leave it too long, you lose
continuity of stories you have read/not-read. (You have to scroll
to the bottom of the screen, click on "More", wait, wait, and
then you see the stories you saw a few hours ago).

Slashdot seems to have "lost it" - it used to be an interesting
place to read non-news stories, about technology, but they have
taken the Gizmodo approach - reduce the amount of useful info
on the page to the point where visiting it has taken on a boring


BBC - what a poor website. It used to be awful. Now it is pointless.
Another home page devoid of content. Its full of flash cleverness where
you can edit the layout, but I dont want to do that. I want to see news.
The news page is devoid of information - almost like it is a commodity
which is in short supply.

(Compare the BBC news defaults with the Dailymail website - theres enough
information in each paragraph on Dailymail to decide if you
want to read further. On BBC, you have to guess if the news item says
anything useful).

Next, try reading BBC on a mobile device. The customisations do not work
(at least, not on my android device). The site is untested in real life.
I rarely look at BBC - every few years when I look, I think the same thing.
A waste.

There *is* good content on the BBC site - if you spend the time to find
the programme schedule and radio information. But using the BBC website
is like having an unfaithful lover: things move around so much you are
never sure if the site will be the same when you visit it. It would not
be so bad if it got better when the changes happen. But it gets worse.

The real-estate vs information content is so low, that it reminds me
of the days of a Teletype (ASR-33 with a paper punch drive).

Can I do better?

I dont for one moment think I can do better than these sites. I have
learnt lots of interesting things (both in terms of content and in
terms of presentation). But the dilution of news sites which
all feed off each other, has made the internet quite boring.

Which is a shame.

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