Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The ugly truth about ugly sites

John Maeda, a professor at MIT's Media Lab, has a new column at Businessweek about design. In today's column, Maeda wrote about a type of trail marker he came across while hiking. I was struck by this line: "The key is to provide the hiker, the user, or the viewer with enough -- but not too much -- information."
I wish that everyone with responsibility for a B2B journalism Web site would spend some time on that same trail, and digest that same lesson about simple design. Because perhaps the most consistently embarrassing thing about our industry is the preponderance of truly garish Web sites.
Take a look, for example, at Cleaning and Maintenance Distribution. The site is an exercise in visual overkill -- blinking ads, poor color choices and non-intuitive navigation. Putting aside the editorial issues -- advertorial copy in the news hole, lack of a feedback function -- and there's only one thing you can say about this site.
It's ugly.
And it's not alone.
I've written about sites that are just ugly, and I've written about sites that seem to not have a clue. And I remain perplexed as to why so much of what B2B publishers do on the Web is so amateurish.
If you're interested in what does and doesn't work in Web design, take a look at the work of Jakob Nielsen and read the Eyetrack study.
If you'd like to see an example of good design from a trade publisher, check out CMO Magazine.
And please take a look at brandchannel -- perhaps the loveliest B2B site on the Web.

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