6 Famous Web Design Atrocities

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In a digital world where content is king, design is queen. 
Website redesigns are a natural part of every online business. You’ve got to move forward with site updates, or you’re moving backward. However, redesigns can prove very costly if they’re done wrong. From site glitches to ugly new logos, what follows are some of the most notorious web design atrocities, and what we can learn from them

1. Gawker — Gawker’s redesign, a.k.a. “one of the worst redesign launches in the history of the internet,” made users so angry that they created videos about it. According to Quantcast, Gawker’s U.S. daily unique visitors went from 561,000 to 257,000 after the relaunch. According to a New York Post article, Gawker’s founder, Nick Denton, wanted to make the site better for viewing videos — oh, and advertising. On top of the widely disliked new layout, the site ran on lots of JavaScript, which crashed frequently and didn’t work across all browsers. At the beginning, Denton was far too confident — even publicly making a bet with VYou CMO Rex Sorgatz that he’d succeed in the redesign. Needless to say, he lost.
Lesson Learned: Don’t be overconfident.

2. TechCrunch — The guys at TechCrunch were so sure they’d get hit with hate mail after their relaunch that they even built a template for users to write their angry posts. The main gripe? The logo. Dave Feldman (the project manager for the redesign) jokingly claimed that the logo was made using AOL Paint, which “comes free on the AOL CD.” On top of that, the new site generally seemed less sleek than the old one.
Lesson Learned: Don’t do things you know will piss people off.

3. StumbleUpon — StumbleUpon’s traffic has fallen steadily — down 24% from the previous year, according to comScore — ever since they unsuccessfully mimicked Pinterest’s design. Just because a photo-heavy design works for one website, doesn’t mean it will work for every website. Sadly, this wasn’t StumbleUpon’s worst redesign; that was back in December 2011, when traffic dropped a whole 25% in the course of two months. StumbleUpon tried to become a browser of its own and framed its own content. However, users were annoyed they could no longer see direct links to the websites they were stumbling on. Not good for business.
Lesson Learned: Don’t try to be something you’re not.

4. Netflix — There were a couple of things that Netflix did to really annoy users when they launched their redesigned site on June 8, 2011: The company took away the at-a-glance personal ratings, and those spiffy movie thumbnails you could scroll through “clicklessly” were incredibly slow. YouGov BrandIndex showed a “Buzz Score” of 17.9 before the change. Three days later, it was down to -4. Turns out the small things matter. A lot.
Lesson Learned: Don’t sacrifice the small things.

5. YouTube — YouTube moved to a “channel-based” redesign in December 2011, which intended to keep users on the site longer, while also garnering more views for the videos of high-paying advertisers. But users disliked the “recommended video” playlists and new layout. According to Global Grind, traffic to the site dropped by 20%, and they still haven’t made up the difference. Case in point: There are almost 18,000 dislikes on the official “Get More Into YouTube” video.
Lesson Learned: Don’t force content on your users.

6. Target  — Here’s a classic example of a breakup gone awry: Target broke it off with Amazon, and rebounded quickly with its own commerce site. The result? Lots of glitchy baggage. As one article in Ad Age pointed out, “Broken links, missing baby and wedding registries, and carts with a mind of their own are just a few of Target’s problems.” Target wasn’t quite ready to get back into the market, but they did it anyway. The angry social media posts from customers were the predictable result.
Lesson Learned: Don’t be hasty.

Leanna Kelly

Leanna Kelly is a writer and editor from California, currently living in NYC.