If you want an example of how NOT to write a website, go no further than the disasterous ew.com. Entertainment Weekly is a magazine to which I subscribe. It contains generally good interviews and articles about TV, movies, books, and all sorts of other cultural phenomena. For a long time, one of the more compelling aspects of the subscription was the website, which includes the oft updated “Pop Watch Blog” and the daily “TV Watch” section.
First, let’s examine the URLs. From time to time, I want to email someone a link to an interesting piece. It would be nice to say “ew.com/tvwatch.” But alas, that doesn’t work.
This cryptic URL scheme is often used by big companies, but sucks for search engine standing: http://www.ew.com/ew/tv/tv_watch/0,,,00.html is a valid URL. So let’s review:
http://www.ew.com -> base URL
/ew/ -> a servlet, perhaps?
/tv/ -> a subdirectory, or an argument?
/tv_watch/ -> same as above…
0,,,00.html -> why God, why?
Aside from this, the webmasters decided to use two different commenting systems in the site, one for the Pop Watch Blog and one for TV watch and other articles. At least one is based on Typead, and it sucks with a capital SUCKS. It filtered out words like “Peter,” which makes for a silly looking post when you’re commenting on the main character on Heroes, Peter Petrelli. It also thinks all sorts of comments are spam, and tells you so, even when your post is completely legit. To post, you often have to play a game where you go back and tweak and re-submit, over and over, ad nauseum. This leads to about 50% successful posts, 50% gave up trying.
Then their TV Watch boards — they’re so bad I don’t even know where to begin. Posting is a complete hit or miss. You’d submit a post, it would go through a magical redirection and then your post would be gone. The back button wouldn’t work. And if you tricked it back, the textarea would be emptied. You could post over and over and it would give no explanation of what happened or why the post was declined. Every single item would be 3 legit posts followed by “this board sucks.” It got so bad it was unusable.
And finally, EW heard us. I thought.
They took their boards offline for 4 days. FOUR DAYS. Their board consists of only two fields: name and post. This is four fields in a database: id, time, name, text. If you want, “isVisible.” The boards are unthreaded. There is no HTML at all permitted. This should’ve taken a competent programmer about 1 day, perhaps hours at best. But for EW.com, after 4 days, what they released is still a giant stinker. Check out today’s American Idol review. If the comments come up at all (embedded in an iframe, for some reason, that may or may not load for you), nearly every comment is littered with “****” in the middle of words or in between them. Nothing is actually censored, mind you, it’s just a silly, stupid bug that should have been noticed early on. And long lines don’t wrap, they just keep going and create a horizontal screen scroller.
I will be moving over to E! for my daily celebrity/entertainment/trash news. And I am very seriously considering cancelling my EW subscription.