Design & Usability (CSCsports)

I believe that a well designed web site is easier to use than one that is poorly designed. Or at least that’s what I’ve always thought until I started playing intramural volleyball last year.

First let me explain that when I say “well designed” I am talking about how a site looks. In the old form versus function debate, I am referring to the form. Todd Malicoat, an SEO Today contributor, has this to say on the subject:

“The form of a website is important because it increases the satisfaction of visiting a website by prompting emotional response. A site that lacks form will seem dull and drab and not entice users for a prolonged initial visit to experience a site’s function.” (Source)

While I enjoy thinking that I am affecting the user’s emotions, it’s the second part of the statement gets at the real issue: the usability of a site. At the core of usability is the site’s information architecture, and a card sorting exercise is a good way to make sure it is broken up into appropriate categories. The next step is creating a site map with wireframes of each page. It’s a good idea to test the site’s usability at this stage as well using a paper prototype. With this solid structure, it is time to begin creating concepts for how the site will look. Design considerations such as the layout, color scheme, and typography can have a great impact on a site’s usability. But is it possible to misuse all of the design elements and still have a usable site?


CSCsports comic sans drop shadow

I don’t have a clear memory of the first time I visited the CSC Sports web site, but I’m pretty sure my first thought was, “uggh.” Yes, they are most definitely using Comic Sans, vertically shrunk by about 70% with a 24 pixel-distance drop shadow; I checked. However, the fact that I don’t remember my first visit means that I didn’t have any problems finding what I needed. I mean, how can you miss the giant volleyball link?

What I’m getting at is that despite the sheer ugliness of this site, it is easy to use. I’d even go as far to say that it makes me smile each time I go back. It’s so bad it’s good.

In this context, Malicoat’s statement doesn’t hold up. You definitely can’t say that CSC Sports is dull and drab, and I have a hard time imagining a design that would make it any easier to use. Is this proof that bad web design can be usable?


  1. I can’t believe you disagreed with Todd Malicoat. When he finds out he will be pissed.

    I agree that the CSC site is easy to use and also ugly. For compairison try looking at civic rec sports sites. They have the ugly part down but not the useability.

    - Josh (Dec 12, 2006)

  2. You’re right Josh, Todd is going to be angry. BTW, what civic rec site are you talking about?

    A friend Jason just pointed out a couple of other similar discussions, one called the the myspace problem and one called the role of anti-marketing. They seem to focus more on a site being popular despite it’s ugly design, however you would think that a site that is hard to use wouldn’t be popular. Then again, I tried signing up for myspace once a while back and had a hell fof a time finding my way around.

    - Rett (Dec 12, 2006)

  3. Uh oh!!!….if you guys don’t figure this one out, you may be out of a job! By the way, I always liked the name ‘Todd’…

    - Russ (Dec 13, 2006)

  4. Yeah, I don’t think its the best looking site, but it gives me the information that I need, but I hate myself afterwards 🙂

    - ben (Dec 13, 2006)

  5. I agree with what you have to say. A website CAN be ugly but also be easy to navigate. Once you get past the first page of CSC the layout is organized and the design isn’t so bad. The only thing that ugly design doesn’t account for is an individual’s perceptions, especially of quality. I defitely don’t think “professional, well organized, reliable” or “serious” when I see the site. But then again you don’t have to look good to do good business, it definitely doesn’t hurt though.

    - Rich (Dec 13, 2006)

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