Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Jakob Nielsen: Four Bad Designs and a 403 error to boot!

What could be more ironic than to receive an email from Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox on the topic of “Bad content, bad links, bad navigation, bad category pages” that links to a page that throws a 403, permission access denied page?-) Fortunately for you, I got screenshots, followed by some commentary on the article once the good folks at UseIt.com realized the error or their ways.

First the email:

Jakob Nilesen’s altert box email of 14-Apr-08

Then the broken page link:

Jakob Nilesen’s broken page link to 4 bad design

Now onto the article …

Yeah, I know, I’ve offered similar errors before – but then again, I’m a one man operation who posts whenever I feel I have something compelling to discuss. In this case, I think the content of Nielsen’s article “Four Bad Designs,” once liberated from the restrictions of an errant and untested .htaccess file and/or mod_apache directive provides both a compelling and worthy discussion of:

Bad content, bad links, bad navigation, bad category pages… which is worst for business? In these examples, bad content takes the prize for costing the company the most money.

Bad Content: Jazz at Lincoln Center

Here, the good Dr. poses the age-old question “where’s the beef!?” And while his point is about scant detail about an upcoming performer, I could say the same applies to church websites when announcing guest speakers and/or special events.

Links without Information Scent: New York Times

If Jakob Nielsen were writing about church websites, he’d perhaps pose the question ‘Who’d want to click on “Next Sermon in Tithing”?

In other words, give your links some “what’s in it for the reader” type jazz.

Interior Splash Pages: Christopher Norman Chocolates

This is directed at the growing number of church and/or charity web masters who think for some reason it is compelling and cool to embed huge, bandwidth consuming Flash-based slide shows for each and every category of your website.

I think Nielsen sums up my opinion of this sin when he opines:

Splash screens are bad enough when they sit in front of a site’s real homepage, but at least users encounter those screens only once. With a splash screen for every category, users have to click through many extra pages to see all the products.

Amen, preach it brother!

Metaphor Run Amok: Specialized Bicycles

Dr. Nielsen’s point also applies to gizmos, gadgets, and special effects that continue to plague a plethora of parishioner inspired web pages.

The Business Cost of Bad Design

Two words: empty pews.

Meaning, the general reaction by first time visitors to the above design issues is that they become one time, never again visitors.

Think about that the next time someone comes to you with a a website idea that is more style than substance. Better yet, send a link to this article to your pastor and youth minister – so the next time they hit you up with a “great idea” you can remind them of that “4 bad designs” article link you sent them back on April 14, 2008.


  1. Not to toot my own horn, but I sounded the alarm as soon as I saw the 403. No return thank you email from Neilsen Norman Group though… maybe next time?

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