Posted October 31, 2009 9:09 am by with 15 comments

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Drunk Monkey The other day I clicked a link on Twitter to a blog post everyone was talking about. I did like everyone else and read the post and then left a snarky comment. But then unlike most everyone else, I right clicked the margin and selected “view source”. Why did I do that? I am not really sure, I honestly did it without thinking. Looking at other people’s code has become something of a habit for me. I find myself sometimes getting more out of analyzing the blog’s HTML, than the post itself!

Anyways, on this particular site I was shocked when I saw the HTML. It was horrible. I mean it was really really bad. It looked like this site was coded by a drunk monkey in 1998! And, to be honest, it really got my angry. Angry? Yes, angry! You see this site isn’t just any site, this site happens to be the corporate web site for a very recognizable brand. This company is known for their excellence in their industry. Furthermore I know a few of the folks that work for this company, and they are all really awesome people that do good work and believe in what they do. And because of that, it mad me angry that their site is so haphazardly put together. It made me angry that a company that I believed in, wasn’t taking my profession seriously.

The folks that I know that work for this company deserve better, they deserve the best site money can buy, and trust me, this company can afford it. So I started asking myself, why? Why would a company that has earned so much respect, developed such a strong brand, and have such awesome employees, have such a horrible site?

I ask myself these types of questions a lot, because unfortunately the story above isn’t uncommon. There are many good companies with strong brands that don’t care enough to build a good web site. And, I will freely admit that I have extremely high standards when it comes to web development.

So why does this matter? Why should these companies care what a geeky code monkey thinks? They should care, because I am not alone! They should care because as leaders in their industries people look to them to set the standard. They should care because their competitors know they can do better and are prepared to prove it. But most importantly, they should care because their clients and customers expect the best in everything they do, and if they find out the truth, then they can find another company to do business with very quickly.

And no I am not naming names, but if you think this post is about your company, get in touch with me and I would be happy to give you a free site audit.

  • Maybe they’ve found a combination of development and marketing that works? After all, it got you there and it got you to comment. So it can’t actually suck THAT bad… Most times these days, it’s more important that it works. Because it really is all about the conversation.

    But hey, I’ll give you a free site audit too!!
    .-= Mark Peesel´s last blog ..Happy Belated Birthday to the Bar Code! =-.

    • Mark,

      You are right, to an extent. Yes, its obvious that they have figured out a way to build a strong brand despite their crappy code. However, certain aspects of the code is so bad that it is seriously impeding the functionality of the site, for example the vast majority of the code is written in a way that isn’t accessible to people that use screen readers. And, major aspects of their site navigation is completely inaccessible to search engines.

      • Joe,

        Ah, well, that does sound somewhat problematic if they’re limiting access to some folks. As an internet marketer/developer/consultant for almost 15 years, I know for a fact that (unfortunately) almost no one plans for ADA recommendations – unless that’s your audience (whether that’s the reason for a screen reader or not). And almost no one seems to care about whether the screen can be
        “read” or not.

        We recently reworked the code of a large shipping company to move navigation and content around so it is more SEO friendly. It can be a process, but it has certainly helped to counter the falling traffic stats of the big brands around the world.

        Since you won’t tell us who it is (and I’m REALLY curious), I’ll take your word for it that they either don’t really care about fixing their site, don’t know it’s a problem or there’s too much red tape to fix it…

        That said, if it’s a firm or product you believe in, why not try to contact them and let them know the issues? It can’t hurt and maybe you’ll be the one they’ve been looking for for help. Many times I’ve been able to be the right person at the right time and have gotten good work from jumping in, even when I wasn’t asked.
        .-= Mark Peesel´s last blog ..Happy Belated Birthday to the Bar Code! =-.

  • You sound like my mom, who was crazy about doing cross-stitch needlework (and quite good at it too). The back of her work was always very neat, and she taught other people to do that too. She always looked at other people’s work, and was appalled at the backs of it. 🙂

    You can’t see the back, but if you do the work right, it uses less thread and the front looks neater too. 🙂 Weird little thing, your post just reminded me of that.
    .-= Leighann Garber´s last blog ..Reconnecting With the Harvest =-.

    • Extra points for comparing Joe to your mom! 😉

    • I like that analogy Leighann!

      @Andy Oh, you want to play for points now do you?? Fine, I am game, I will see you on Twitter!

  • Whew…..I’m glad you got that off your chest! Good points.

  • PS3

    I am a dreadful coder but have a site that gets a bit of traffic. Would I spend time and money on improving the code or trying to expand my user base? The latter.

    • If I got to your site and you have crappy code, I am not coming back. Ever. And its a shame because I could be one of those folks that ends up spending tons of money, clicking lots of ads or telling everyone about you. But the fact that I am never coming back means that you will never know if I am one of those folks or not. In fact, because you ignore the details you will never know how many other folks like me exist. Which means that you could be losing a lot more than you even know about. If you really want to expand your user base over the long run close the holes and don’t leave anything to chance.

  • Coding matters, thank you! I’m on a constant mission to improve my coding skills to get it more concise, more neat and generally better all round, and like you, it annoys the heck out of me when I see big sites than well.. that are naff in the backend. It’s kind of like cooking, yes the final product matters but you have to tidy up the kitchen!
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..SEO Video Tutorial – Long Tail SEO Terms #23 =-.

  • Dean

    Wait a minute – so if Toyota had crappy HTML you wouldn’t buy one of their cars??? You are more concerned about the HTML on the site than the products the company actually makes???? (Web design firms excepted).

    What if your potential clients refused to do business with you because they didn’t like the music you listened to – just because music was REALLY important to them. One has nothing to do with the other.

    I am guessing you’ve never worked for a big company before where changing the color of button can entail a 6 month task force and Legal approval. Ridiculous? Yes. But its also the reality. Throw in legacy systems, multiple owners with competing agendas, and limited resources (your assertion that “the company can afford it” may be way wrong) and you can understand why many good companies have “crappy code”.

    I’ll just throw in one more point. I can guarantee you that 99.99999% of any given site’s visitors don’t look at the code, let alone complain about it. Conversely, a significant percentage will complain when the handle falls off their doohickey – and their ain’t any code in the world that can fix that problem.

    • Yes, that’s right I wouldn’t buy a Toyota if they had bad HTML. Call me crazy if you like, but, its important to remember that 100% of the money I spend on a car on is coming from the HTML I write professionally. All I do is write code, HTML isn’t a part time job or a hobby on the weekends, it is what i do sometimes up to 15 hours a day.

      Your music example is a moot point because, the quality of HTML isn’t an opinion. I don’t place normative value on one set of HTML versus another. In other words I don’t “like” or “dis-like” certain blocks of HTML. I am speaking to HTML that is written wrong, that goes against industry standards, and doesn’t adhere to best practices for web development. This is not an opinion of mine this is fact.

      Your right large companies are slow and are hard to change. But thats not really the point here. Because there are a lot of really big companies that never have a problem with their HTML at all. Because they get it right the first time.

      And yes i am a part of that geeky 0.0000001% that looks at the code. But I want to mention like i did in the comment above that the HTML in question here is seriously impeding their ability to communicate their message to the public. It is seriously impeding their ability to communicate to the 99.99999% of “normal people”.

  • Of course coding matters. I am glad to hear you say so. This was a topic of discussion once with a few of my peers, they guffawed at their code and said it really did not matter! After my initial deer in the headlights look I thought ” My goodness here you are telling everyone your sh*t don’t stink but your code sucks!” ( I think that’s how that saying goes) I am very passionate about code we even posted about it here ( ) not because I like writing it but, because I am a professional. It’s really easy I make sure I hire the people that can do those things. In defense of some of my competitors I know you may be too busy but for Christ’s sakes do the basics will ya!
    .-= Gabriella´s last blog ..Social Media Marketing: Four Reasons to Join the Revolution =-.

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