Does London 2012 Get the Gold for Web Design?

August 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

by Harrison Blum

Most bad websites are merely annoying.  They may load slowly because of too many scripts.  They may have loud and obnoxious music.  They may rely on flash or java, which don’t work well over slow connections and on certain computers.

Some bad websites, however, go beyond “annoying” into the realm of the truly infuriating.  These websites are so poorly designed and cumbersome that prolonged exposure can actually ruin the user’s day.  One such website is

Upon googling “Olympics”, a prominent banner on the results page leads us to the official Olympics site.  The site is incredibly busy (Figure 1), and if you don’t speak either English or French (particularly likely given that it’s the Olympics) you’re out of luck.  The best way to illustrate the website’s problems is to actually look for something.


Figure 1: Busy, busy, busy.

Let’s say we want to find all the medals up for grabs today.  Our first instinct is to click where it says “15 medal events today” in the “Latest Gold Medal” box.  But there’s no link there, so we click the name of the most recent medal winner.  This takes us to the results for that particular event, weightlifting.  Dead end.   We’ll either try the “Medals” or “Schedules & Results” tab next, but “medals” also leads nowhere, so let’s try “schedules”.

We arrive at a page that is incomprehensible (Figure 2).


Figure 2: What does it mean??

Let’s try the “List View”.  We get a very long list of every event today (prelims, quarterfinals, everything) that we must scroll through to pick out the finals (Figure 3).  What about the “Latest Results” tab?  Another complete list of events that we must scroll through to find finals.


Figure 3: It’s even worse if you expand everything.

Actually, the tab with information on today’s medal events in the most accessible form is “Full Schedule” (Figure 4), the least likely (from a user perspective) to contain such information.


Figure 4: Ah-ha.

What if we want to see how athlete Ryan Lochte has been doing?  We click over to “Athletes”, search his name, and find his profile (Figure 5).  What medals has he won?  Clicking on the medals icons won’t work, nor does it say anything in the long text-only profile.  We have to click over to each event he’s swimming in (some of which haven’t occurred yet) and search each results page for his standings.


Figure 5: And be careful, because this profile “has not been confirmed”.

Want to see what medals Team USA won today?  There’s no way to do this, other than by visiting the pages of every event the USA has placed in and finding the ones whose finals were today.  Want to look up the 100-meter dash?  Hope you know that it falls under “Athletics” sports, because there’s no way to search for specific event.

It’s important for a website to look good and appear in search results, but it’s even more important that it actually works.  The official Olympics site is a classic example of a site that values form over functionality.  It’s difficult to use even for patient, web-savvy users, and impossible to use for non-English or French speakers.  It does, however, teach us a valuable lesson: Even the most high-profile organizations in the world could sometimes use help with their websites.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized, Web Design. Tags: , , .

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