Willits Brand Bicycles
reviewed Dec., 2007
Regular readers know that making a minor
mistake won't get a site listed on ProblemWebsites.
It takes either a major mistake, or a whole slew of
smaller ones. But this site is more like a combination.
Here's what greets you when you go to the home
At first it looks like the site won't even
work in your browser. After all, you don't see a home
page full of stuff, you see what looks like an error
In fact, it's not. They're telling you that the site
won't work if you don't have the right
technologies and versions installed, but the site has no
idea what you actually have installed. They expect
you, the web user, to know all about that. It's
not enough for you to be a web user, you're expected to
be an expert.
Of course, the site should just test your technologies
for you and tell you there's a problem only if
there's a problem.
Better yet, they shouldn't require Flash in the first
place. Flash sites are universally despised because they
lead to user-hostile designs, and this site is no
Next, the "Enter" button is actually hidden, despite
being the first thing on the page. It's hidden for four
- When the user expects to see the site and doesn't,
the first thing they're going to do is read what looks
like an error message (and be confused by it).
- The Enter button blends into the logo, as though
it's a part of the logo.
- It doesn't even look like a button. It's just a
random, floating word.
- It's not where you'd expect to find an Enter
button: on the bottom of the page.
So right off the bat we have five significant
- There's a gratuitious Enter page. This just
wastes the user's time for no reason. The user should
be presented with the site immediately, not required
to "enter" it.
- The site requires Flash. Flash-based sites
are often user-hostile (and this one is no
- The site didn't test the requirements. The
site has no idea whether the user's browser meets the
requirements or not.
- The requirements message is confusing. It
seems to suggest that the user's browser won't work,
when in fact the site doesn't know whether it will
work or not.
- The Enter button is hidden, for the four
reasons mentioned above.
...and we haven't even entered the site
And once we do enter the site, we're not surprised
that the bad experience continues.
The next thing that happens is that the user gets an
unsolicited Flash animation, which has three
- It's gratuitous and pointless.
- It's confusing. Numbers increase from "8r"
to "29r". What the hell is "r"? Is that a loading
message? No idea, because if so, they don't bother to
use the obvious word ("Loading").
- It's forced on the user. There's no "Skip
Intro" button. The user has to wait and watch whether
they want to or not.
Next up: Where's the address? I'm on this site in the
first place because a reader suggested I list it in one
of my directories. But I need to confirm the street
address, and I can't find it on the site. It's not listed
on the bottom of the page. There's no "Contact" link. The
closest I can get is the menu item "Store", since I want
to find out where the store is. So I click that....
...and get an annoying popup window! Even
though I'm clicking a link within the same site, for some
bizarre reason the site thinks I want another window
cluttering my screen.
But the hilarity doesn't end there. The popped-up
window proceeds to tell me that the site is down for
maintenance. And that message is two months
Okay, uncle! I give up! And I don't usually let the
site owners know about my listing them here, because they
either usually don't care, or hurl abuse at me, or both,
but I thought I'd try in this case. And in trying to do
that, I face yet another problem: Because the site is
done in Flash, it's impossible for me to copy the email
address by right-clicking.
How Willits can fix these
- Re-do the site without Flash.
- Have the front page of the site be the front page of
the site (not an "Enter here" page).
- Make all internal links open in the same window.
- Fix the store, or at least give an ETA for when it
will be up again.
- Include the address on the bottom of the home page,
or at the very least, have a "Contact" link there.
Update: Against our better judgement, we did
let Willits know about being listed here, and not
surprisingly, they defended each example of bad design
above, topping it off with "You are literally the first
person in over a year to complain about all this stuff."
I hear that particular excuse so often let me call it out
Most people don't complain about problem
websites because they don't expect their complaints to be
They certainly weren't in this case -- which rather
proves my point.