Why Vincent Flanders, of webpagesthatsuck.com, is a Success, but Still Misses the Point

In 1997 Vincent Flanders (the ‘web pages that suck’ guy) sent me an e-mail complimenting my website and proceeded to give me a link to his site at http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com. I still remember his added little parenthesis (yes I’m serious).

During this time, thousands of pages online told you how to build a better site, complete with the pros and cons of different designs and host of improvement articles. A savvy man named Vincent Flanders decided to take a completely unique direction and set himself apart from his competition. Instead of writing about how to improve your website, he chose a catchy title and wrote about what was wrong with other people’s websites. This marketing tactic made his website stand out. He now gets paid to look at other people’s websites and critique them, and has written two best-selling books on bad web design.

With all the competition online and myriad companies entering and leaving every second, it’s important to really spend some time and think about what will set your marketing plan apart. Take the time to consider how you can maintain unique presence in a massive pool of competition. Flanders’s tale is a happy story of success and illustrates some of the points I mention in my article “Why Most Websites Fail.”

You’ve learned about his huge accomplishments; now it’s also time to learn from his mistakes. Although he has a wealth of good information about bad web design, and I highly recommend you browse his site, he has failed to be progressive in his broad understanding of website success as a whole. He continually insults any use of flash animation, and many other individual design techniques. His arguments include that they detract from the efficiency and the speed of a site. He also created a metaphor to think about what might constitute bad design and it’s “would amazon.com do that?”

All his website criticism surrounds the individual elements of a website. However, a successful website is a lot more complicated then any of it’s individual parts. Most of the sites on the top 100 and top 500 lists for best websites contain the very elements that appear on the list of bad design techniques posted on “Web Pages That Suck.” So why are these successful sites using “bad” techniques? I’ll answer that question in a moment, but first let’s take a close look at Vincent Flander’s example of “Amazon.com” as a good site.

Amazon.com has not done very well from a business standpoint. Its profit is low and its expenses are high. The Quarterly profit at Amazon.com declined 30 percent in the first quarter of 2005. So why would you use a business failure as a model or even a metaphor for good design? I wouldn’t. To answer the previous question, any individual design, navigation, or content technique is not always created badly or incorrectly. Those elements depend on the context of the website and how it’s put together as a whole.

There is no special list to follow when designing a website, and no magical formula that guarantees an instantly successful website. A profitable website is forged through trial and error, with continual refinements and analyses. A good design works for both the business and its target audience, regardless of the technology it utilizes.

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