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The Caiman Web Design Blog

Web Trends that Need to Die

I’m typically a very positive person. I prefer to dwell on the nice things in life and in the world of web development. But sometimes you’ve seen so much horrible crap that you just need to vent a little. So that’s what I’m doing now. I want to talk about some of the most irritating, aggravating, downright stupid web trends I’ve noticed lately – the baffling design or content decisions that make me want to leave a site and blacklist it for life. Perhaps this post will only serve to allow me to let off some steam, but maybe, just maybe, someone reading it will think twice before pushing one of these annoying trends into production. If so, then I’ve made the web just a little bit better.

I’m not going to number these because they’re all equally terrible. Just think of them as all being tied for #1.

Halfway-Down-the-Article Pop-ups

Imagine this: It’s your first time cooking for the in-laws – in fact it’s your first time cooking anything in years. Your eggplant parmigiana is on the stove and you’ve forgotten how much olive oil to add. Was it 1 tsp or 1 tbsp? In a frantic rush to evade disaster, you race to your laptop and Google “eggplant parmigiana recipe”. Hope begins to reveal itself as you see the first result and desperately click it. Sweat beads begin to form on your brow as you breeze through the article. Just when you get to the section on ingredient amounts and a feeling of relief begins to settle in, the screen suddenly goes dark and a big, nasty request to SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER overlays the very section of the article you were trying to read. You cry out in aggravation, and as you scramble to exit out of the pop-up, you inadvertently close the browser. This sends you into a screeching rage, at which point you shove your laptop off the back of the desk, shattering the screen. Dejected and defeated, you walk back to the kitchen, turn off the stove and order a pizza. Your biggest concern now: divorce.

Oh-No-You-Don’t Pop-ups

The only thing worse than a pop-up on a page you’re trying to read is a pop-up on a page you’re trying to leave. It must have been a few years ago that some wise guy wrote the first JavaScript to trigger a pop-up as soon as the user’s mouse entered a part of the screen that might indicate an intent to click the browser’s back button. Said wise guy must have presented this horrible code to some business-minded (not user experience-minded) manager and the next thing we know it’s impossible to exit a site without being bombarded by pathetic pleas to join a mailing list, like them on Facebook, or reconsider our horrible decision to exit back to the search results. No, website owner, I DON’T want anything you’re offering me at this point. In fact I’ve already made the decision that I want nothing more to do with your crappy site, and you begging me to stay by the most annoying means possible only further validates my decision. Give up. You’ve lost.

The Vacuous Roundup

If you search for something like “What’s the best _____ ?” you’ll probably find some helpful articles. You’ll also probably find some really, REALLY unhelpful articles. A well-written, helpful article about which Text Editor is the best for web development, for example, might include a short list of the most popular options, the differences between them, and a final verdict. A less-than-helpful article will be titled “Top 17 Text Editors You Can’t Live Without” and will be nothing but a cobbled together aggregation of the author’s own brief Googling. For a real life example, just yesterday I came upon a blog post titled “9 Best WordPress SEO Plugins That You Should Use.” Really? I should use nine SEO plugins on my site? I don’t even use nine plugins period. Put some thought into the advice you give. It’s okay to have an opinion. Simply regurgitating lists of stuff might fill up your post, but it doesn’t help the reader make good decisions.

Pointless Animation

We’re in an age where web animations are easy and cheap. By cheap I mean not resource-intensive. They don’t add much size to the site, they load instantly and they play smoothly. Think the opposite of Flash. Whether it’s CSS keyframe animations, or JavaScript libraries like jQuery, Velocity, or GreenSock, every web designer can add animation to his site hassle-free. But with great power comes great responsibility. A perfect animation does two things: 1. It enhances the user experience. 2. It compliments the site’s overall design. An example of a bad animation: the user clicks a submit button and it spins around five times before triggering the form submission. Cute, but annoying. An example of a good animation: a user removes an item from an on-screen list and the item visually slides away and the space left by the item collapses. This cues the user in that his action has had an effect. This is good user experience. Your wobbly text might look rad, but does it help or hinder the user’s experience?

The Website Obesity Epidemic

Have you noticed how over the last decade Internet connections have gotten faster and faster, yet website load times have stayed about the same? It’s not your imagination. Web developers and designers have unintentionally compensated for fast speeds by bogging down their sites with enormous images, a myriad JavaScript libraries, and bulky CMS plugins. The average website size is over 2,000 KB. That’s 2 megabytes. In 1999 on a speedy 56K modem, it’d have taken you nearly five minutes to load the average 2016 website. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are lots and lots of ways to improve the performance of your website. Learn them. Live them. Remember, not everyone will be viewing your site on a broadband connection. Understanding and adjusting for the technical limitations of your users is an enormous part of good UX.

Gratuitous Parallax

Parallax scrolling is dope. We all know that. It allows us to turn an ordinary scrolling experience into an exhilarating wonderland of shifting layers and warping perspectives. But like the brilliant Dr. Ian Malcolm taught us, just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it. When I’m trying to read up on the features of a new JavaScript framework, I don’t need to see snowy backdrops whooshing behind the text as I scroll. It’s all about using the right design for the right job, and the key is restraint. I know it’s hard, but some sites are better without parallax scrolling. Which ones? Most of them. In fact there are only two reasons to use parallax scrolling: 1. when you’re practicing using parallax scrolling, and 2. when it really, truly, positively enhances the user experience. If you’re certain that it does, check again. It probably doesn’t.

Scrolljacking

Similar in ways to parallax scrolling, scrolljacking is the practice of altering the native behavior or appearance of the user’s browser scrollbar. But unlike parallax scrolling which does serve a purpose from time to time, scrolljacking should never, ever, EVER be used. Ever. Don’t use it. There’s one exception: just kidding, there isn’t. Don’t do it. You see, one really nice thing about the web and web browsers is the use of common conventions that we all expect to remain unchanged. The little things that we can count on that make us feel comfortable in this weird web world. There aren’t a lot of these things, but the way your browser’s scrolling looks and feels is one of them. Altering it is akin to altering the behavior of the back button. When you fiddle with the stuff that the user has come to know and love and depend on, you’re making the web an even scarier place than it already is.

The Amazing Invisible Article

Do you know what happens when I click an interesting title expecting to read an article, scroll down to find no article, then realize that the cheesy click-through image gallery I just scrolled past was the article? My faith in the collective intelligence of society decreases just a bit. If I click an article that’s called “Best ways to transport cats,” you can be darn sure I expect to read an article, not be forced to click through an image gallery of cats in various carrying devices. Okay actually that’s a bad example because that sounds pretty wonderful. Here’s a better one: “Top movies of 2015.” If each “entry” in your list is nothing but a screenshot of the movie and a single-sentence blurb, you’re doing nothing but pandering to the attention-deficit, quick-fix, everything-can-be-done-in-30-seconds mindset that’s making this world a really irritating place. And god help you, GOD HELP YOU, if you make me refresh the page for each new entry in your crummy list. Maybe throw in an ad every third slide while you’re at it? You have failed at journalism, the web, and life.

I’m done for now. I need a drink.

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