There has been too much nonsense spouted about the effectiveness of certain successful companies’ websites and it’s time to correct it. Those who say that poorly designed websites are partly responsible for some companies’ success are feeding you a load of crap. And too many of you are eating it up.

Stop it. Bad design harms business, it does not help it. Websites like Boingboing, Google and eBay are successful in spite of their poorly designed sites, not because of them. What kills me is that I continue to see designers, some of them professionals, buying into this drivel and helping to perpetuate it. This whole business of contemplating the elusive wisdom of bad design and ugly layout is amateur hour on parade. It’s time to call bullshit.

This is commercial success we’re talking about, boys and girls. In commerce, if your product sucks, you suck.

Commercial success plus bad design does NOT equal good design. The reason Google is the premier search tool is because it works. It is the most comprehensive and best-respected search tool for most Web users. It’s well managed, a business leader rather than follower and it has been around for quite a while. Google is a mover and shaker, constantly finding and providing tools, solutions and applications for everyday people to use online. The Google brand has gravity, respect and delivers tangible results every minute of the day. THAT’S why Google is the search engine of choice.

The fact that Google’s website is unremarkable and poorly laid out is ancillary to these facts, mostly because the main interface is very simple. Poorly designed “simple” is far easier to swallow than poorly designed “complex”. It works okay in spite of the bad layout and un-design.The fact is Google got it right where so many fail. They built their reputation on substance rather than on style. They’re not important because of their style, but because of execution. They don’t have to look important because they simply are important.

This is commercial success we’re talking about, boys and girls. In commerce, if your product sucks, you suck.

Most companies put the cart before the horse and try to build their success on how cool their company culture is or how awesomely awesome their logo is. Google’s logo pretty much sucks. So what? They can buy and sell any company that has a cool logo any day of the week; not because of their awful main interface layout, but in spite of it.

All of these companies that have suckass website designs and layouts but are successful anyway did the same thing. eBay was best at what it does before anyone else was that good. They’ve locked up the category with execution first, not style. Boingboing is one of the best-known and most popular weblogs because everybody loves to go there to hate on the Bush administration. The design sucks, but the content and advertising always bashes the readers’ #1 enemy. Substance, not style.

This is commercial success we’re talking about, boys and girls. In commerce, if your product sucks, you suck. It won’t matter how awesome your website looks, you will fail if your product is not up to snuff. By the same token, you are allowed to look like a dog if your product is the cat’s meow. Think about it; the successful businessperson will always have a hot date to the dinner party. We’re talking about human behavior here, folks.

But let’s not be too smart by half. Craigslist, for instance, is a clear winner with an un-design, but it’s not an example of bad design. The site content is nothing but relevant text links, and rightly so! The “design” it uses is well-suited to the type of content, so it is quite effective. This site is not like eBay or Google, as it succeeds because of the design rather than spite of it. Google and eBay have layout components and content that were clearly added as afterthoughts, ruining any true layout or design. Not so with Craigslist, the layout is solid and design appropriate. Design is a solution to a problem, not a decoration or embellishment.

So we should stop swallowing tripe for cream. As designers, it’s time for some of us to see that the emperor has no clothes and to use our insight, understanding and training to define what we agree with rather than mindlessly going along with idiots in the crowd. We have a responsibility to avoid pseudoscience and pseudointellectualism as it relates to what we produce for our clients and what we share with our fellow designers. If we’ve not got a sufficient grasp of things to see through this sort of drivel, perhaps we should go back to school or find another line of work.

Bottom line is designers need a foundation to ward off ridiculous ideas like “bad design creates success”. We shouldn’t relegate ourselves to simply sailing whichever way the wind is blowing this week. When the wind smells bad, it’s time to get upwind of the bullshit.

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Andy, sorry for the anonymity, not quite ready to step from behind my screen yet.

If you haven’t noticed a trend in marketing toward the ugliness sells notion then I don’t think you’ve really been paying attention. Large companies or small companies are going a little overboard with design, or opting for the more is more philosophy, or taking the gimmick a little too far.

Some examples would be:

Macromedia’s old site – which was over cluttered with information.

Alias’s old site – which was over stuffed with unnecessary fluff.

Discreet’s old site – which was again poor execution and navigation.

All three of whom were bought out. And, no longer exist in their former ways. Now obviously their eventual lack of uber-continued-success cannot solely rest on the shoulders of bad design.

Snickers Marathon bars site – which takes the notion of a brown color scheme to a whole new level (I mean I know they make chocolate – but come on).

Snickers does not rely on people going to their website – so – design is pretty mute.

Also, add to the pile Chevrolet asking “average joe” to design their commercials.

And if CGSOCIETY becomes any harder to navigate, or slower to load I’m not sure what I’ll do.

This is called naive art. The unschooled and uneducated becoming “trendy” and “in demand” (not to say there’s anything wrong with not having a design degree). It’s a movement and will pass as it has in the past time periods of art history. Remember the beginnings of the internet when EVERYONE was a “web designer” then the shakedown occured. This is just the second wave of that trend. And, just as CSSzengarden tried to hasten the use of CSS as a standard model for designing in the web – designers should step to the plate and try to make “good” design the mainstay.

Also, one last punch, for those who are ranting about this article. Have you the same credentials/work experience/clients that Andy does? Or, are you like me – an out of work wannabe? If you are the latter – please leave him alone. His advice is simply that – kinda of like a professor’s advice. You can choose to ignore it, or you can choose to follow it. But, simply saying I feel like you are two – it’s called Ad Hominem – you are attacking the man not the argument. His points, in my opinion, having been doing this since before the first burst, are quite valid. We are seeing a resurgeance of the “anybody can do this attitude” from the early 00. And, anyone can do this. But, NOT everyone can do it effectively.

J. David Miles:

”... more examples would have been nice …”

Interestingly, I think UX Mag is itself a good example. It’s been around a very short while and (for me, at least) pretty much came out of nowhere. But look at the amount of comments on this post (and others) and you’ll realise it’s got a whole lot of followers already. I believe this is (mostly) down to the virtues of its excellent and inspiring design.

Horatio Goldstein, using your own point. Shouldn’t you show us some of your work to prove you are an accomplished designer, before we take your criticism of his portfolio?


Go back to your therapist. Your transference issues are interfering with your ability to respond in a non-biased fashion, causing you to resort to personal insult rather than providing substantial critique.

After reading the article, or rather ‘wading’ through it, I went on to read the comments before posting. Needless to say though I will do so, I did not read every comment; though I believe I made it half way through before skipping down.

Several people mentioned that more examples would have been nice, especially that of good design = good business results. On this point, I decided to search the comments for one very good example, and came up empty; as far as I can tell – again, I didn’t read every comment – no one mentioned the iPod.

I’m guessing this might have been due to the discussion of websites rather than physical products, but the iPod is a prime example of how good design gives excellent returns in the business field. Other than the initial frustration felt by owners concerning the battery replacement issue, the product has basically been, dare I say, perfect?

Lastly, Andy deserves a little slack, though he bordered on hanging himself with it in this article. His explanation as to the original venue of publication – his personal site – was plausible and logical, but it leads me to make to points to two different parties…

1) Andy – if you receive more requests for articles to be published, take the time to consider the implications of a new venue. However, equal responsibility on this point falls on:

2) UX Mag / Site Hosting Article of Any Author – content that was produced for a semi-specific audience is not going to be very effective if it is presented unaltered to a different audience with different expectations. Next time, it wouldn’t hurt to ask the writer to modify the overall flavor of their content or article so that it meshes with your product / service environment.

Many great points (and bad ones) made throughout.

Not to be rude, but I’d only take criticism of the design of multi-billion dollar internet companies seriously from someone who impresses me with his own design.

Your portfolio is very, very weak. It’s very amateurish. I’m a professional designer, and, having you submit your resume to me, I’d immediately throw it away. Why do you think you are professional and accomplished enough to offer any sort of credible critique on others’ deign?

This is pretty much just sensationalist ‘journalism’ trying to give yourself some clout. It’s extremely unfortunate that it seems to be working, because you are simply not good enough to present yourself as any sort of expert in the least.

By the way, although there are some things I would change about the Google Redux, it is a vastly superior design; it’s more interesting, less distracting, and better organized.

Certainly, I’d center the buttons, too. If I were Google, I’d enlarge the logo, and then fit the motto under the first two letters; alternatively, I’d enlarge the first letter, and expand it, too, and fit the motto inside the G and over the next three letters.

Hey, just because something has the appearance of not being well-thought out, like it’s got stuff that was just stuck on, or pasted in, in what appears to be an after thought, doesn’t mean it’s poorly designed. The coolest looking vacuum cleaners out there aren’t the ones that are sleeek, with hidden compartments for their attachments; no, they’re the ones where the attchments stick off the exterior of the machine, everywhere, in all directions.

Does that make sense? I can’t believe that anyone is defending Google’s design, or eBay’s, etc., as being good! At best, they’re not offensive. I think any company that does anything as well in their own field as Google does in its field, with the same amount of attention paid to design, will find itself in steep competition when someone else comes along who can do just as well with a really great design.

People do not blame themselves when a Web site doesn’t quite work the way they want it to (and a smart company doesn’t rely on people blaming themselves, either); rather, when a Web site doesn’t work right, people simply shrug their shoulders and think to themselves, “Oh well, there’s nothing better out there, so this is what I’m stuck with.”

In the case of visual aesthetics, people prefer better design; but, as long as the design isn’t absolutely abhorrent, they’re going to stick with what works well. If someone else can do the same job with a prettier interface, in time people will drift over to the equal but prettier competitor. I mean, really, everything else being equal, it’s the prettier girl whose going to get the eligible bachelor. But, maybe that’s just me.

If everything looked pretty, what would designers have to bitch about?

It seems as though I’ve misinterpretted your meaning of style. I was reading the meaning you gave to it on your site. My point was to style in the traditional sense, in your context its the theme. So we pretty much agree. But my point still stands, to those designers that use those trends & repetitive “styles” in their work. The whole web 2.0 look-a-likes are getting ridiculous.

I think the google design is fine just how it is. Some of you want to complicate it with more colors & clutter, right now its simple and effective, it works—the site is branded very well. To change the design would most likely tick alot of users off, and send them running away, because googles simplicity & results is what attracks many people to the service. Those who want more clutter go to yahoo (not that their design is bad, their design is actually pretty good, but they are more of a portal site with much more information).

“Style for it’s own sake, Alain. Style for it’s own sake. That’s what I meant when I said “style is not design.” And any designer worth his or her salt knows that style is often an important part of successful design.”

^ That right there is pure bullshit. I don’t know where you got this. I think you confuse the meaning of design. Design is communication. Every form, every color, every choice of typography is supposed to have a reason. The combination of all of these is what sends your message. Before you even think of beginning a design your suppose to have a THEME/DIRECTION. You never attach a style to your work, if you do, your a BAD DESIGNER. Your work dictates your theme and your theme dictates your design. If your definition of style is “adding shit to your design so it looks cool” then you obviously have no idea what the hell design is. If you don’t have a CONCRETE reason for adding an element, then YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOUR DOING. Did you ever study graphic design? This is pretty much a known fact.

The only time “style” is to be used is in personal work, (experimentation/etc) not commercial work.

Give me a link to the site of a “designer worth his or her salt” that uses “style” in commerical work, just for the hell of it. And please make it a reputable designer, because I see alot of bad designers who do this. Look at the element in his/her design and tell me if it has no reason for being there. If you think it has no reason then post the link here and well see. But from my knowledge of design, that statement is pure bullshit.

Sorry if I came out a little strong, but I see this kind of stuff all the time in peoples “design” and it ticks me off. Style is what breeds bad designers. It’s this constant copying of trends that slows people’s developement as DESIGNERS.

The fact that sites like google, graigslist and others like it are popular is because they are basic. Some times, We want to get to a site only to do what we need to do. Google is a search engine and all they need to provide is a search box. That is all I am after. Not commercials, not banner ads or anything else.

The Net is so consumed with Standards that it’s ruining the Internet. We have Web Standards for Web Sites but yet no Browser Standards. Everyone thinks we need valid xhtml and css… But honestly, how many people go to a web site to buy something, view the source, and then say, crap… It’s not valid xhtml or css, I can’t buy from this store..

Great web sites are just plain user friendly.. Not loaded with flash and other useless junk.

Look at the bottom of this UX Mag.. Claims to be valid xhtml, css and 508.. It’s far from it.. But who really cares.

You do have a point… yeah, you do… do like your Google redesign… yeah, I do…

It’s too bad that a lot of the people who commented on this completely missed the point of the article.

I’ve seen people who say this too. They also say that since google is able to survive with a bad design, they should be able too as well.

Google and others are successful in spite of their bad design, and it is a bad design as I wrote below. It’s like saying that Superstore (the department store to buy from where I live) is successful because they have a very dusty, rarely cleaned building. They’re successful because of a quality product at a low price.

It is a a bad design. I recently started using Opera a lot more, and I updated the version to the latest one. There is a stylesheet provided in the view menu I can automatically have override the author settings. It’s called Emulate Text Browser. Google’s design isn’t complex enough to get screwed up in a text browser, but ebay’s certainly is. I couldn’t see anything but the navigation and some links at the bottom.

That doesn’t make Google’s design good; far from it. They get screwed up in other browsers.

I know you are going through a roasting in all these comments, but I want to thank you for this article. It’s voiced a lot of my own concerns and opinions.

Andy, is good design user-tested? Like this site, for example. It looks “good” aesthetically, but the font is several sizes below what has been tested on other sites and considered “readable”. I’d say the same goes for the size of text on your own website.

It seems to me that designers often have an elitist attitude towards what they consider “good design”, one that is at odds with some of the most basic requirements of the average reader.

Another issue to consider is there is definitely a large percentage of the population who are utterly “design blind”. I’ve had personal experiences with a number of successful business people who have no ability whatsoever to choose between a “good” and “poor” design… however, oftimes that “good” design contains some basic “flaws”, like a smaller font size, that is at odds with a designer’s idea of good design.

Andy, your Ebay and Google reduxes (reduxi?) are on the money. They make both sites a helluvalot more aesthetically pleasing and usable – especially Ebay which needed the most work out of the two. I certainly learned a few things from reading about your process. Keep up the good work!

Style for it’s own sake, Alain. Style for it’s own sake. That’s what I meant when I said “style is not design.” And any designer worth his or her salt knows that style is often an important part of successful design.

Too often, though, some do not care to discriminate between style as a contextual design component and style for its own sake, ridiculing style in any context as pretense or decoration. This practice is indicative of an ignorant and naive perception.

Perhaps you did not read any of the articles referenced in this tedious commentary thread, but usability was at the heart of my cursory little exercises. Of course, as I’ve stated in those articles and several times in this discussion, I was able only to touch on the obvious usability mistakes in the interfaces as I’m not privy to much of the otherwise relevant data. Also as I stated in those articles, they were concerned otherwise only with visual/graphical/architectural matters in the design, for the same reasons stated previously.

Tell me, is Boingboing’s choice to surround the page with a couple dozen multi-colored advertisements of various sizes and configurations (some separated by horizontal rules and some not), link text of varying colors and behaviors, some with underlines and some without (for no apparent reason), to display posts that seem to run, headlong, one into the other, hemmed in by a too-tight dashed border on a page that goes on for twenty feet all indicative of good design in your book? If so, I don’t hold with your book.

Does this make it impossible to read Boingoing? No. Does this all add up to excellent usability, legibility and reader comfort? No. In other words, poor design – even in the face of whatever the business model is. I don’t fault Boingboing for a lack of style. I fault it for poor design. Improved design can improve these pages and anyone’s failure to hold with that idea is not something I’m interested in entertaining any longer.

So my thesis still stands: eBay, Boingboing and Google main pages are poorly designed. That is the basis of my beef with these pages. That I presented redesign solutions that included a particular approach to style (mostly for entertainment in the article) is wholly irrelevant to my thesis. It’s simply something folks will need to get past in order to get anything from these articles. The articles address SOME specifics, not the whole ball of wax and I’ll not devote any more time to trying to make that any more obvious.

Andy, you’re right. Style is not design. But you seem to be equating the two in this article. For example, you write:

“Boingboing is one of the best-known and most popular weblogs because everybody loves to go there to hate on the Bush administration. The design sucks, but the content and advertising always bashes the readers’ #1 enemy. Substance, not style.”

So, I think you need to clear up a few things for your readers. By ‘design’ do you mean the functionality of the site, the layout of the site, the look and feel of the site, or some sort of combination?

To me, your article appears to focus on look and feel, which is indeed style. Design in the context of the web, refers to so much more than aesthetics; it’s also closely associated with usability. To that end, it’s hard to argue that Google is poorly designed.

As for your use of crude language, I couldn’t give a shit…

Thanks for your feedback and questions.

Regarding the last few questions/observations that have been posed here, much of what “should” be accomplished is governed by elements of fundamental artistry. These fundamentals are rooted in how humans typically perceive and find meaning in various sorts of lines, forms, colors, compositional arrangements, textures, etc…

What we as designers should begin with is the overall function of the page/interface and then appropriately apply the theme/message/mood that is to be conveyed – all tempered by demographically specific preferences and user habits and the client’s business aims.

Starting with these basics that are relevant to “humans” (fundamentals of artistry), we can then begin to tighten our effort toward those things that are relevant to a particular demographic and apply the relevant design/layout/function characteristics as we tighten the focus – in layers.

In the redesign exercises I did for Google and eBay, many of the style decisions were simply arbitrary – as I am no privy to the mountain of relevant info necessary for making informed stylistic decisions for these companies. However, the layout, design and compositional elements of those exercises were meant to be relevant to those pages. That was the whole purpose of the exercises.

Style was a non-factor – beyond that of entertainment – in what I’m talking about in the exercises and in this particular article. Style is not design and I find it interesting that I’ve been admonished of that fact here. Interesting that style was what most seem compelled to remark on. Not the point. Not even very relevant here.

How does the ‘halo effect’ come to play? Research has shown that web users judge sites in the blink of an eye.
Potential readers can make snap decisions in just 50 milliseconds. That is, users were shown a screenshot in just 50 milliseconds, and then they had to rank them.
These results were then compared with the regular ranking of the sites.

heya from germany.

you know I really think you put it down. ok some of your thoughts were a little to harsh, in my opinion but I pretty much agree on you.

well I think we shouldn’t bitch about the ebay design… it was their choise. ok, I really hate their designs and for me as a customer it is always a pain in the ass to go shopping on a page that looks like crap…

BUT it’s not our problem… or is it?
I don’t believe so. just let em do whatever the hell they wanna do.

mfg marty

Thanks Andy for your article. I read it this morning with delight. We often have to fight such argumentation when it comes to the layout of intranet UI and stuff like that. By the way, to me the visual aspect is only one – but very important – aspect of design. The process and execution is also truly important – as you stated, too.

Is it a matter of design vs. style? Some people really like wood paneling in their homes even though we might agree that large expanses of white walls and clean architectural lines are “good” design. Google appeals to the masses because it’s not pretentious. Some people really don’t like OXO kitchenware—too “fussy” or “elitist” even if it’s more functional and practical. The effect of design is psychological, not just ergonomic. Some of my subjects in usability studies have said they like the Drudge Report ( in terms of its design—hard for me to believe, but I get what they are saying. It’s simple, straightforward, and intelligible to them, perhaps because that’s exactly how they would design the page. So what do we mean by good design and are we just encouraging our biases? I agree that design should be effective, but effective means easy-to-use, not necessarily “pretty”.

Are you saying its crap because it isnt pretty or because its not as use-able as it could be? – I think for a medium where the main intention is to efficiently spread information google is just fine, the web isnt supposed to be an art gallery.

WHY is it bad design?? You have to give your reader’s examples of what specifically you think is bad design.

Spewing curse words like “suckass”, “shit sandwich” “you suck” and “bullshit” make you sound like you’re 17 years old. Or maybe you are.

Do people pay you for these articulate insights?

Google’s main purpose is a search engine. The site is simple and uncomplicated and directs people dirctly to what they’re looking at. To me this is good design.

The revamped model you showed wasn’t a lot different. There was just the odd link move and color change, but the main purpose and focus of the page (the most important part by far) is exactly the same.

I can see your overall point, but using google was a bad example in my opinion. The article was a little long winded too but sparked debate. Cheers..

This is really sweet stuff, congrats!

By the way, your page doesn’t have valid CSS.


Maybe the design isnt great but there are always two elements to ‘web design’, not just the aesthetic. Google is easy to use – anybody who has never used a search engine before knows what to do as soon as they hit the page – as far as Im concerned that’s good design from a usability perspective. Any extra colour, layout or icons would detract from what the service is – a SERVICE. It simply provides a means for users to search. I highly doubt that people would consider their search results more pertinent with a blue background or different buttons.

Ebay and Amazon also do what they do and well. Most people in the world are capable of searching for records or bid items and buying them, and this is mainly because these companies spend thousands on reliable people who monitor the usability of the site.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the design of some other sites out there which, again serve their purpose, such as Flickr or

Spread the bullshit like butter, man!

I agree with most of what has been said in the article from the design point of view. But if you think about it, Google is highly usable and that is due to the lack of elements around the page. There is another reason for that kind of ugly “simplicity”, which is that they always have to think about bandwitch, especially when you have +20 millions visits. There is page is only 14kb and when you add that up taking all the visits, it comes pretty high. It would be a loss to try and make their page looking better, if for that you have to lose so much bandwitch.

Speaking of style:

“Most companies put the cart before the horse.”

“Substance, not style.”

“You are allowed to look like a dog if your product is the cat’s meow.”

“The successful businessperson will always have a hot date to the dinner party.”

“So we should stop swallowing tripe for cream.”

“As designers, it’s time for some of us to see that the emperor has no clothes.”

“We shouldn’t relegate ourselves to simply sailing whichever way the wind is blowing this week. When the wind smells bad, it’s time to get upwind of the bullshit.”

I couldn’t care less about the swearing; it was the clichés and truisms that got to me.

Although I think Google’s site is as good as it needs to be, credit to Andy for giving us an insight. Most designers are too scared/lazy to even bother.

Regarding the “redesign” of the Google interface, it seems fairly obvious that some level of interface design would be in order. However, I find the pronciples of the redesign flawed.

I think that we all agree that when redesigning a brand you have keep loyal to the principles and core-values of the brand. The front page of Google seems to be by far the most visible aspect of the brand. So extra care should be taken to maintain the principles behind the look and feel of the site.

On the usability side, Google has been, trough it’s history, a very tool-like, hence easy-to-use, site. No unnecessary flourishes or clutter, straight-to-the-point, the Google-logo being the only more flashy element in the page, bringing the brand and a more “personal” touch to the service. The simplicity of the site could be one of the reasons of it´s success: it’s like a blank page providing you the possibilities to access the information that you want, not trying to push it´s brand too much in your face and thus distancing people who already see too much ads in their surroundings.

This design might be unintencional, brought on by the lack of able designers at the time of launching the site, or for other reasons. The reason for the design doesn´t matter, at the present day the visual feel of the site is a very strong part of the brand image of google. So very special care should be taken in modifying the page – which is exactly what Google is doing.

I’d argue that the basics of the design of the site are very sound. Problems seem to arise from the new content that has been necessary to incorporate in the design as the site has been growing. I surmise that that has been the idea behind the redesign also.

In the redesign, I’d stress the following:

1) maintain the tool like, very simple aesthetic. Refrain from adding a range of “translucent” colors, gradients and shines a’la MSN (even thought the logotype is in the style). Use text based navigation indicators etc. when possible. No over-design. It should be noted that this site is in very wide international use, and should not follow to any particular styles of different countries.

2) maintain the “blank-page” feel of the site. In the redesign the search-element still fits in to the original feel, even though there could be arguments against this. If other search-engines have done that, it doesn´t mean that Google has to do it – maybe a equally funcioning and evident solution more in google-style can be found.

3)I disargree with the notion that the “personal” links at the upper part of the page break the design. A tool-like navigation for logging-in etc. is a quite typical element in web pages, that at least could be thought to become a standard if it already isn’t. Situating it above the main navigation is one typical place. It could be designed better, the content could change, it could be closer to the Google logo etc. etc., but a tool-navigation is not a bad idea.

4) if claim is presented, care should be taken to find something down-to-earth and “personal” that doesn’t water down the straightforward attitude of the brand, a task that would be better left to professionals.

I think the redesign of the page that we saw was hasty, even for an example. It more or less issued the right problems, but through easy solutions with no real thinking in the brand of Goole or the feel of the site. This kind of examples are dangerous when they get too much attention and work towards homogenizing the visual thinking (I’m not talking about usabality) of net-pages even more.

The task of a designer should be finding unique, instinctive solutions to problems, not copying sure-proof solutions from other sites.

I’d be very dissapointed if Google would go towards this approach – even though success can be expected, with this or other similar design.

Good design, good design, good design … only graphic designers need good design because when they see something they consider ugly, they suffer. But beautiful graphics are not an interesting status symbol anymore for corporations. Especially on the web. On the web things that look familiary made are more likely to succeed.

Despite of the technical functionality and the basic usability, Ebay looks like a bargain place and Google looks easy and simple.

Both are lies, Ebay is not a bargain place and Google is not easy and simple. So, goal of design accomplished!

Nice one. I have to say I agree.

Along the same lines, I did a theoretical redesign of Friendster… and oddly enough, when they relaunched, they’d incorporated a lot of the same stuff I’d been thinking about.

So these kinds of critiques do matter, and they do help. I do think Google is doing more to address usability / UI issues…we’ll just have to wait and see.

Oooh, look, let’s add blue bars at the top and bottom. Then let’s move sign in link from one of THE standard locations it is found on pages all over the web.

I call bullshit. The redo is essentially the same as Google’s current site, minus some pizzazz.

There is a reason the Google home page (for example) is like that is because it works. Google gets so many visitors a day that they can try placement of something for a couple of hours and quickly know whether the element works or not.
Everything they do is based on how the element adds to whatever they decide is the goal of the page.

Nice design would be, well, nice – but it doesn’t neccesarily mean that it’s succesful.

The same goes for eBay and Amazon. The Amazon site looks fairly nasty, but I’m sure it’s completely optimized for the conversion goals they set.

I’m not sure how some people can consider eBay a good interface design. I think the article nails the fact that it succeeds despite it’s design—just as Word succeeds as a DTP program despite its user-combative nature. Word is a powerful, useful product and used by a huge user base; but it is also extremely difficult to use where it should be simple in some regards. Same goes for eBay.

But every time I’ve tried to use eBay, I am so frustrated by bad search results (so many unqualified hits) and the effort it takes to filter it down, that I swear I’ll never come back. It is the 800-pound gorilla that no one can take on. Even if another online auction product came online that was designed well, it would never succeed because of the community already built up within eBay. Would you rather have hundreds of thousands of potential bidders able to see your product or a few hundred? The former. But that’s not to say that eBay couldn’t make their site easier to use. Until they do, I probably won’t ever buy or sell off it again (especially since most items are sold by online quasi-stores instead of individual sellers and it’s hard to tell the difference—but that’s a different issue).

Though sometimes “over designing” can kill a good tool by accident. I agree bad design is not good for anything.

Could you whine a little more? I read very little that offered any help whatsoever.

Andy, you are a young, bright web designer who is passionate about your craft-Good for you! Your writing style does need work. You should not use words such as suckass and shit sandwich when discussing design of highly successful sites.

You are basically bringing up large corporate sites that have a long history (for the web) and are successful. Your rant seems more like talk from a frustrated web designer. You should try to work for one of these sites and see what really goes on behind the scenes. Much of what you see on screen is not the work solely of web designers employing the latest fades, gradients and CSS. The design is a result of a long iterative process where people on various levels have input on the final design.

Many think eBay’s designs are not up to par, but I disagree. eBay works because you don’t really have to explain to anyone how to use it. The information and links are easy to see. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it helps get the job done.

Google and other sites work on the same prinicpal. As a result, I would say that these sites actually employ good design. Not every site has to have the ubiquitous fades, bright colors, 3d logos and such that are the current style. They are making their own brand and sticking with it.

In the discussion there are many examples of other version of Google, but I really do not see how much “better” these designs are compared to the original Google site.
The design at:

Looks more like Microsoft’s search site. That design would be more detrimental to Google since it would dilute their brand. Plus, it uses blue which during the high flying 90s was more of a cliche. “I’d like a website with a rotating logo and make sure it is blue”

I wonder how many people criticizing this article are in fact bad designers themselves. We can all agree to disagree when it comes to the sites Andy has chosen to illustrate his point with but when I search the internet and come across “web design companies” that are creating bad MS Front Page site after site, it lends to his arguement. Many companies that we designers are designing for don’t have any clue what good design is, as witnessed by so many poorly designed company web sites. I say stop picking on his choice of language, sites he used to illustrate his point and start learning the art of design.

“Boingboing is one of the best-known and most popular weblogs because everybody loves to go there to hate on the Bush administration.”

This is a laugher. You and I must get routed to a different I’d say 1-in-50 posts even mentions Bush. And only 1 ad is anti-Bush related. In fact, using the Google engine on BoingBoing you only get a couple hundred posts on GWB, approx 25/year. That’s one post every two weeks. Bashing Bush has absolutely NOTHING to do with BoingBoing’s success.

Your analysis is more “suckass” than these design problems.

How ignorant, anonymous folks making good points are just as important to listen to as people with their full name, address and phone/fax numbers displayed that make good points..

Also, your definition of design is a graphical one, right? “Design” = “pretty” right? Google is pretty. Ebay isn’t. Both work great, as their interface design seems to work even for my mom.

If you want to talk “design” as in “site looks pretty” you oughta start bashing those blogs out there that all look the same.

I wholeheartedly endorse anyone’s choice to disagree with my premise in this article. Your thoughts are much appreciated and you often help to illustrate my point. I do, however, ask that you not take things out of context when taking me to task – as in criticizing my “redesign” efforts in the Google and eBay articles.

If you read the articles, you’d know that these were not my redesign efforts, but rather exercises to illustrate some specifices of design and usability. Google and eBay were merely my whippin boys, as they clearly have issues that should be resolved.

To do an actual redesign of either of these sites would require my having loads of information to which I’m not currently privy, and an extensive disovery process. Not to mention, a tidy sum of cash. But this was not my intent and I’ll appreciate your sticking to facts in your disagreements, not beating me up based upon your own distortions. Sometimes, reading articles is more informative than looking at them.

And for the nameless, faceless, annonymous individuals who are compelled to chime in here, don’t. If you’re afraid of letting on who you are, your comments are not worth anyone’s time. Go and misrepresent yourself to someone else. Real people’s comments are often worthwhile. Fake people’s, not so much. Thanks.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

”[craigslist] is not like eBay or Google, as it succeeds because of the design rather than spite of it…the layout is solid and design appropriate…”

Are you looking at the same sea of links I get when I go to

Seriously though, I think you’ve totally missed the point of interface design as it relates to the success of a product:

* Bad product + bad design = no success
* Bad product + good design = no success
* Good product + bad design = no success
* Good product + good design = success

If the design of eBay/Google were so bad, people would not be able to sell/buy/search, and the sites would fall away to other competitors.

One last point: how can you get on your high horse about the design of these sites without any understanding of the companies’ business goals? Or are your judgements of these sites intended to be taken as “pure design, without constraints”? Yawn.

This article should be taken with a grain of salt as Andy did not originally intend to have it published professionally. It does have some interesting points, however, which is why UX Magazine requested it for their site. This was first written as blog post (more or less), which is why the language appears crude. In any case, the Google redesign is a fantastic example how there is improvement in many UIs we see and use daily. Andy’s post can serve as a wake up call for us to realize that there really ARE some ways we can improve on things, and that yes, even almighty Google can be fallible!

Aesthetics do matter to most people, think of any time you’ve gone shopping for clothes or for a car. Good design can make our lives a little easier, and make us a little bit happier in the process. Ultimately you do have to have substance underneath that exterior for your product to be worthwhile, but it doesn’t hurt to be a little sexy on the outside. Just look at what Apple has done, and what Windows Vista promises to do (finally Microsoft is getting it!).

You totally miss the point of sites like google it seems, I agree with a lot of the comments in here about google working, google is well designed (though there is still room for improvement).

But your redesign is horridly unusable and just adds confusion and makes it look like any other page.

“I’m merely responding to a recurring nonsensical theme I’ve noticed over a period of time within the design community. ”

Where? Who’s saying this? And who’s listening? This is the sort of argumentation that Fox News uses: “some people say you kill children, are you calling them liars?”

I say you are lying, sir. You are simply lying when you state the premise of this article. You do not have some guru in mind you don’t want to offend, and you cannot point to a “recurring…theme” that anyone is taking seriously.

Here’s the real theme: Google and ebay are massive successes by any measure. They have millions upon millions of successful customers. In what possible universe could you complain that design is holding them back?

You may or may not have a valid argument but it’s pretty hard to take you seriously in the manner in which you have presented it. You should have rewritten the article in a tone and manner more appropriate to a web site such as this. Leave the personal pandering to live journal.