How To Create a Dysfunctional Website

In preparing for an upcoming presentation on how to create functional websites, and it’s got me thinking about all the dysfunctional sites I’ve seen recently. There’s no single feature that makes a website completely unusable, but there definitely are trends.

Below, divided into three categories, are the chief gaffes you should follow if you really feel like creating a website that doesn’t work.

Market Positioning

Build your website without thinking what you want. “Yes, we need a website!” is a lousy reason for a website, yet it’s the one too many people follow. First, make a list of all your organization’s goals, and then think about how technology might help you meet those goals. Then from that you can start to think about shaping your website around your needs.

Don’t think about who’s looking at the site. If your audience is made of 50-year-old women from the Midwest, why would you create a zippy website built to attract college students? If those people are interested in volunteering, why would you load the homepage with information on grants, staff bios and news releases? Think about what the people coming to your website want or need to see, and then give it to them.


Ugly artUse lots of clipart. Ooph. Steer clear of crummy clipart. Go for real pictures, even freebie stock photography, rather than goofy cartoon drawings. Check out the Creative Commons images on Flickr or Stock.xchng for good resources.

Include pictures of empty rooms. What’s welcoming about an echo-y chamber? Put some people in there!

Use flashy splash pages. They look like ads and have the same effect. People click off splash screens and never get to the meat inside. It’s like going around with two hats on. The top one doesn’t matter and makes people think you’re nuts.

Use a microscopic font. You know how on TV ads, they put all the stuff they don’t really want you to read, but are required by law to display, in teeny text at the bottom of the screen? It’s because no one can see it, and they ignore it even if they can. Small font does the same thing to your website, but the whole website.

Honestly, tell me how readable this is.


Shroud donation processes in mystery.
Heavens, if people want to give you money, make it easy for them. Here, take this big bright Donate Now! button and put it on your homepage. (Right-click and choose Save As.) A gift from Talance to you.

Donate Now!

Glom onto every widget you can find. A real danger with the proliferation of widgets and plug-ins and add-ons is that you have a website that looks like a carnival. All flash, no focus. Choose wisely with anything you add onto your site, and make sure it follows your directive of achieving your goals.

Add 50 items – or even 10 – to your menus. People’s eyes cross when they see more than seven items in a menu, so stick with that magic number.

Put the most important info at the very bottom of the page. People look at the top left of web pages to pick up the most important information. If there’s something you really want people to read, put it up there and not down below.

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