by Tammy Finch

Have you ever clicked through a link to a website and found something that made you literally cringe? As an experienced business web designer, I have to say that I have this unfortunate experience a couple of times every week. While websites can be considered art, and subject to a lot of different tastes, there are some that are simply terrible by almost anyone's standards.

It's enough to make you wonder: Why is it that people ñ and especially businesses ñ put up awful websites in the first place, much less keep them around? After spending a while on this question, the only answer I can think of is that they simply don't know how bad they are. Like the YouTube clips you sometimes see of tone deaf men and women belting out covers of their favorite tunes, there are a handful of people who really do think they have awesome websites, when in reality they are driving visitors in another direction.

So what exactly makes a terrible website? Although individual opinions may vary, here are some things I think almost all of us can agree upon:

Missing pages and broken links. While these might not be the first things you think of when it comes to "terrible" websites, it is incredibly frustrating to be looking for a product, answer, or detail only to find that what you are searching for is no longer there ñ or maybe wasn't in the first place.

If something is supposed to be on the website and isn't, that's going to be a major annoyance for a lot of people who come in as visitorsÖ and they won't stay long.

Overused music and animations. When was the last time you visited a website that automatically started playing music or animations and thought, "Wow, this is really great!" Don't worry; I really can't remember that happening, either.

What's worst about these types of websites is that they just assume you like the same things that the web designer did. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same tastes, and even if we did, being interrupted by unexpected music and animations when we are surfing the Internet is just plain annoying.

Repetitive writing. Unless you happen to own a business or work in online marketing, you might not realize that Google and the other major search engines give you results by searching the text within websites and trying to match up relevant results to important terms and phrases. This leads web designers to do some pretty crazy things to get Google to notice, including repeating the same term or phrase over and over and over and overÖ

Once upon a time, that was a good way to attract people to your website (believe it or not). Now, not only does it not work, but it's a big turn-off for actual humans who have to read the pages.

Marketing that's OVER THE TOP. In the same way, the huge amount of competition between competitors in nearly every business has led some companies to take an infomercial-style approach to

writing. No matter what it is you want, they can promise to give it to you faster, cheaper, and better, but only if you ACT NOW!!!

It kind of goes without saying that no one falls for this anymore. In fact, the only thing over-hyped marketing messages are good for is driving customers away.

Weird backgrounds, fonts, and logos. Each of these is the website equivalent of bad wallpaper. No one wants to see it, touch it, or be around it. If something makes a website hard to read (or just plain hard to look at), then it probably isn't a great design feature.

If you have a website that displays one of these characteristics, then do us all a favor and get help today. As for the rest of us, it's our job to gently point the worst offenders in the right direction and bring them around to the light. After all, they might have bad websites, but we still have to look at them!