We’ve all come across a website at some point. It was so horrible that we left after less than a minute. Perhaps it was so ugly that it hurt your eyes. Maybe there were so many ads. Or the website took forever to load. You just got frustrated and clicked the exit button.
No one thing makes a website bad. Bad graphic design comes in many forms, such as:
- An ugly color scheme
- Too much clutter
- Too many ads
- Slow loading
- Confusing fonts
- Flashing colors
- Outdated designs
- And more
Bad Graphic Design Examples
- 1. Clickbank
- 2. Government Websites
- 3. The Daily Mail
- 4. Pennington Folk Music Festival Hamfest
- 5. Peter Watts’ Website
- 6. Suzanne Collins Author Website
- 7. Dokimos
- 8. Arngren
- 9. Drudge Report
- 10. Yale University Of Art
- 11. MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies
- 12. Gates N Fences
- 13. Old TeacherXpress Website
- 14. Aint Wet NYC
- 15. Haiti News Network
- 16. Blinkee
- 17. Ling’s Cars
- 18. Jerry Pournelle
- 19. Jami Lin
- Lessons Learned: What To Avoid
- Bad Graphic Design Examples – Wrapping It Up
Bad Graphic Design Examples
In this guide, I will review more than 20 bad graphic design examples to help you learn what NOT to do when creating a banner or website.
I’m sure some websites are even worse than the ones I will write about, but some are pretty horrid.
Clickbank is one of the oldest affiliate marketing companies out there. It was founded back in 1998.
It used to be one of the most popular directories for finding affiliate products to promote. Clickbank has since lost popularity with most affiliate marketers, who have moved to newer sites like JVZoo.
Although Clickbank recently revised its homepage, its marketplace/directory still looks like it did a decade ago. As you can see in the screenshot above, the layout is not terrible – and it works – but it does look outdated, unattractive, and old.
The lime color is also pretty repelling.
2. Government Websites
For some reason, government websites seem almost always to look outdated, like they have not been updated since 1997. Look at the EFTPS (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System) website.
The website looks outdated, and the page does not even fill the screen – half of the screen remains a blank, white space.
The reality is that government websites often run on old software systems that have not been updated for decades. Overhauling these systems, with all the data in them, and transferring them to an entirely different modern software system would not be a simple task.
State government sites are a bit better – at least recently. Still, sites like NorthDakota.gov are pretty ugly.
The Daily Mail is a prime example of the type of news website cluttered with ads, automatically playing videos, and click bait articles trying to grab your attention.
The homepage is a mess of articles, self-playing videos, a popup asking to allow notifications, links to social media profiles, more clickbait headlines, clickbait images with attractive women, and more. It’s just a confusing mess that is hard to navigate.
Not only that, but the site takes forever to load – regardless of how fast the internet is or what device I use. It ALWAYS takes a long time to load.
The individual news articles are no different. There are always clickbait links to other articles in between paragraphs, and the images take many minutes to load.
News sites are often like this – the Daily Mail is not the exception to the rule. To make money and compete with subscription-based services like the New York Times and the Washington Post, free news sites often clutter their articles with sponsored articles and videos to boost their revenue.
The result is a site that is hard to navigate and use.
4. Pennington Folk Music Festival Hamfest
Okay, so this one is a banner, not a website. However, it’s important to point out that bad graphic design examples exist everywhere – not only on websites but also in magazines, newspapers, billboards, and flyers.
This is a lousy poster because it is hard to figure out precisely what is happening at first glance. So many colors stand out at you that your eyes hurt, and your brain gets confused.
The fonts don’t make reading this poster any easier.
The “Pennington Folk Music Festival” text is not even enlarged or highlighted – it does not stand out in the least. When you advertise something on a flyer, you want people to understand what you are promoting at first glance – at least the word “Hamfest” is highlighted.
This is just a poorly designed flyer. The choice of colors is horrible. The bright red and yellow are hard on the eyes and do not go well with the blue and green.
Many author websites can do better. Take Peter Watts’ website, for example.
Peter Watts is a Canadian science fiction author who has written books like Starfish and Maelstrom. His website for his novel Echopraxia, however, is terrible.
At first glance, it is hard to figure out what the website is about. It does not introduce you to the novel; you will need prior knowledge of what the book is about to understand this website.
The headline is confusing, and the paragraphs beneath that and the links on the right side are also.
A link to the author page can only be seen if you scroll down a bit; even then, it is not very visible. The author page is boring and has long blocks of text that are hard to read.
Suzanne Collins is a well-known author and TV writer who has written several New York Times bestselling books. However, her author’s website is underwhelming.
Remember that this is her author’s website, not a website for a particular novel.
It is not terrible, but it lacks imagination. It looks outdated, there are few images, and the text is plain and boring. After a long list of awards for each book, all in uppercase letters, there are long paragraphs of book descriptions that are uninteresting and hard to read.
There are only four options in the main menu: The homepage, a list of her books, a page with an interview transcript, and a biography.
The interview transcript has questions that are not bolded or in a heading format, making it hard to scroll through, and there is only one image at the top of the page.
I’m unsure if this site is serious, but it is a contender for the most horrid website on this list. Religious convictions aside, this site will terrorize you from the moment you look at it.
A bright rainbow of colors moves quickly across the screen, likely giving you an instant migraine if you don’t look away quickly. The site’s main message is clear: Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven.
The font, the flashing verse from the scriptures, the moving heading, and the flashing, bright colors are overwhelming.
Besides, there are a lot of things happening on this page that seem to be random. With no connection to the message of the site:
- There is a black cat continuously running across the bottom of the screen.
- There is a ladder with a bucket of paint falling off it.
- There is a military-style airplane rotating from side to side.
- There is a dove that flies across the screen, sometimes backward, defying the laws of nature.
- There is a random balloon that does not move much in the upper left corner.
- A rotating sign reads “SLOW” and shows someone doing construction on the other side.
- A door opens to the words “Click Now” when you hover your mouse over it.
The website’s homepage is just as bad: There is a big, bright star in the center of the page that screams “Click Here!” and bright colors rotate out of the star in all directions. The verses are tough to read against this backdrop of flashing colors.
The homepage reads “Since 1996” – perhaps the site has not been updated much. In either case, this is a prime example of the worst thing you can do when trying to make a site navigational and easy to read.
If you thought Craigslist was terrible with its outdated interface, look at Arngren. I can barely make out what the site is about – it would probably take a while, even if I understood the language.
Arngren seems to be a site selling different ATVs, drones, scooters, and other sports equipment and technological devices. However, the site is challenging to navigate, and each page is poorly organized.
You can look at the English version here – but it is just as bad as the original, with pictures and product information spread across the page as if the creator threw spaghetti on the wall until some of it stuck.
The homepage is a total mess. If you’ve seen cluttered websites, think again – Arngren is a prime example of why using a weird color scheme and not including white space will prevent people from navigating your site.
The Drudge Report rose to prominence after it broke the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. It was started in 1995 as an email aggregation subscription by Matt Drudge.
The Drudge Report was one of the most visited websites globally, with sites like Forbes, CNN, and Fox fighting to get links from Drudge, knowing it would lead to a rush of traffic. Although its viewership has decreased in the past year or two, it remains very influential.
It received over 10 billion visits in the past year and more than 24 million in the past 24 hours.
The Drudge Report website’s design is not terrible, but it has not changed much since the days of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. It is a simple page, with just a few images between links and links to news articles, often with clickbait headlines.
However, it can be a bit tough on mobile devices.
Drudge is not a terrible site. However, by today’s standards, it isn’t good – and it could be updated to make it more readable and easy to use.
You would think that a University of Art – at Yale, no less – would have a great webpage. However, the Yale University of Art’s website is pretty bad!
The letters are small and hard to read – some are small white letters on a black background. There seems to be a picture of the university’s entrance in the website’s background – but that picture is doubled (the same image appears twice across the top and bottom of the page), and a blank purple space breaks up the picture.
The menu is confusing, as is the moving text in a box at the bottom of the screen.
The website is bad enough, but the fact that it belongs to the Yale University of Art makes it even worse.
Again, here is an example of a well-renowned university with a terrible website. This website features a black background with white, red, and blue text.
When scrolling down, the text becomes slanted, making it hard to read. There are links and calls to action in weird places – it is just not a website that is easy to read or scroll through.
Again, the fact that this is a center for visual studies makes this all worse. Perhaps they tried to be different and cool, but at the end of the day, this is a hard website to follow.
12. Gates N Fences
This website is hideous! The green at the top is very unattractive and there is a lot of small text in tiny fonts that is incredibly difficult to read without straining your eyes.
The red menu on the left side is not easy to navigate at all, and the site is not very scrollable overall. Links are interspersed randomly throughout large blocks of text.
If you create a website for a business, don’t make it look like this. Focus on highlighting the benefits your potential customers will gain from using your services and make them stand out.
Include plenty of white space and images to make the site easy to scroll through. Also, include pictures in the right places to catch people’s attention – and above all, reduce clutter and unnecessary links and information.
Okay, so this website is no longer online. However, you can see how this site looked by going to Wayback Machine, and it is an excellent example of why you need white space and images to make a site more readable.
The site was essentially just a whole bunch of links, one after the other. For example, there was a section with links to search engines and another section with links to newspapers.
It was not a bad resource, but its setup made it hard to navigate. You would have to strain your eyes to find what you were looking for.
14. Aint Wet NYC
I debated whether to put this website on the list because it was made the way it was on purpose. The creators focused on a minimalist design, eliminating everything unnecessary – that means everything.
If you have ever taken the subway in New York City, you would recognize the layout of this website, as it is an exact copy of the Metro Card machines you use to buy tickets for the NYC subway.
Like the subway machines, the website is easy to use. It is ugly, but it is hard to say that it is BAD, so I debated whether to include it on this list.
It is pretty good from a UX perspective, but it is debatable from a graphic design perspective.
Haiti News Network, or HNN, is another news service with an ugly website. The site is a bunch of links, in an ugly green font, to articles.
What makes it worse than the Drudge Report is the green color and all the flashing icons, ads, and images on the page.
It is hard to concentrate on all that is going on. It is another example of how too much clutter and ads distract from what is happening.
If you make a news website, at least include images to catch people’s attention instead of only including links. Even the Drudge Report, mostly links, includes a few images on his page.
Blinkee sells, well, blinking stuff. However, the website is pretty ugly, and all the blinking graphics are very distracting.
Blinkee is definitely not the worst site on this list. However, it can be cleaned up a bit and made to look a bit more modern.
17. Ling’s Cars
This website made me chuckle. Ling claims to own the UK’s favorite car leasing website – a Leader of the Pack!
However, the website is so confusing that it is hard to determine what is happening. Between random graphics of Ling doing random stuff and making random faces, there are various cars and prices, but there are too many distractions to focus on them.
There are many animations that seem to make no sense or have no place, and there are just too many things flashing at once.
The website may very well be a joke, but if it isn’t, it certainly makes it hard for the user to find a good car to lease.
18. Jerry Pournelle
Here is another author’s website that is atrocious: The first link is not even fully hyperlinked, with the last letter being left out. Everything from the color scheme to the layout is outdated and not very appealing to the eye.
19. Jami Lin
I’m not sure what exactly Jami Lin does, but I do know that her website certainly convinces me NOT to do whatever it is.
Apparently, she does things as varied as affiliate marketing, making money online, Earth Dances, skincare, house astrology (?), and something called Turkey NeckLESS.
She does promise consistent results with whatever she teaches you to do, so there’s that.
The creepy image under the headline “lots of FREE stuff” and above the headline “You will find what you seek” certainly does not inspire me, and the ad for “Clear Clutter” on the left side is somewhat ironic given the clutter on this website.
Lessons Learned: What To Avoid
So, what can you learn from these terrible graphic design mistakes?
Here is what you should avoid doing:
- Using ugly colors
- Using bright colors that hurt the eyes
- Using a small font that is hard to read
- Cluttering your website with text, images, ads, and links
- Including a lot of ads
- Making flashing graphics
- Information overload
Here is what you should be doing:
- Include plenty of white space
- Use an easy-to-read font
- Use black text on a white background (occasionally red or yellow is okay, but use them sparingly)
- Break up long paragraphs of text
- Insert images to catch the reader’s eye
- Highlight what needs to be highlighted and make headlines bigger
Related: Best Open Source Canva Alternatives
Bad Graphic Design Examples – Wrapping It Up
There are a lot of bad graphic design examples that are more subtle and not as “in your face” as the ones listed in this article.
Nevertheless, if there is one thing this article should do, it should inspire you to make your website as presentable and appealing as possible.
If you can’t find yourself trusting a website resembling Jami Lin’s, realize that others won’t either, so make your website look professional and modern.
Ben Levin is a Hubspot certified content marketing professional and SEO expert with 6 years of experience and a strong passion for writing and blogging. His areas of specialty include personal finance, tech, and marketing. He loves exploring new topics and has also written about HVAC repair to dog food recommendations. Ben is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science, and his hobbies include motorcycling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai.