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It's Pants! The websites that frustrate and annoy

Usability, quality and testing for websites. Getting it right or wrong?

I test enterprise level websites quite a lot in my day job. When I come home and I need to use the Internet for personal reasons, I prefer not to carry on my day job testing other people's websites and doing the same kind of work for them for free which I get paid for during the day. However, I encounter a large number of buggy websites which are not only poorly tested technically but often have flawed business logic and problems that prevent the site from being used as it was intended by end users. Many of these sites are PANTS or even Total Pants. For more information on these terms see the Brit speak definition of pants and total pants. The examples on this site should serve as a guide to some of the things you need to do if you want to know how to test a website for customers from their perspective.

Testing is not as expensive as you might think

System testing need not be difficult, time consuming or expensive. Even for fairly complex sites, it isn't necessary to use expensive testing tools There are free tools such as Xenu's link sleuth or the site for link checking and free browser downloads such as Mozilla for cross browser testing. For more information on why it is important to test for browsers besides Internet Explorer, see this article on cross browser testing.

More importantly however, it is worth designing for valid HTML and for that the W3 HTML validator or HTML tidy sites are invaluable.

Not much excuse for huge companies to skimp on testing in these areas then, although neither of the above tests business functionality. Therefore when a site does go live it's also important for Real Live Users to be able to feedback on what they think of the site and for a company to listen to these points of view. These are the customers after all.

You'll find that with a small amount of targeted testing with low cost tools, that the cost for quality usability testing will be smaller that you might suppose. The end result will gain customers, retain customers and usually more than cover the costs, making quality assurance free.

List of websites

I will list here the "pants" websites discovered so far to name and shame the buggy websites with poor testing and quality assurance. This might inspire the owners to test more thoroughly the next time.

For a longer term solution, why not support support my Cambrian house idea to support reliable sites and embarrass the ones with bugs.

This is an ongoing list, being added to regularly. Please feel free to email your entries. At the moment I'm only interested in English language corporate sites, preferably UK based.

Company Date surveyed Website problems
Powergen 11 Nov 2003 We want no feedback!
Espc 12 Nov 2003 Our houses are all free! 13 Nov 2003 Yes, we have no website 14 Nov 2003 We are having a few language problems 15 Nov 2003 Our search is useless! 16 Nov 2003 Our search is useless as well! 17 Nov 2003 We need your date of birth for technical faults 18 Nov 2003 Yes, it's another useless search!
icscottishrecruitment 19 Nov 2003 Ic recruitment? I see bugs more like!
TheChemistry 20 Nov 2003 All these technology partners and they still have a broken site!
NorwichUnion 22 Nov 2003 Broken so-called "help facility"
Confused 23 Nov 2003 Confused by name, confusing by nature.
RightMove 24 Nov 2003 Why it is beneficial to check prices before they go live.
toysrus 25 Nov 2003 "Pants R Us"?
Commission Junction 27 Nov 2003 The web page three words wide
NRG Group 28 Nov 2003 Form validation and display problems
ITI Scotland 29 Nov 2003 Less is more
3com 30 Nov 2003 Javascript rules
Quality Assurance Plan 1 Dec 2003 Laughable quality assurance
Royal Bank of Scotland Digital Banking 2 Dec 2003 You are the missing link!
Edinburgh's Telford College 3 Dec 2003 Back to college for the web designers
Scottish Power 4 Dec 2003 A power company with poor testing. Does that worry you?
Zanussi 5 Dec 2003 The appliance of science? Not here anyway!
Scottish Enterprise 6 Dec 2003 Leading the way for businesses on the web? I don't think so! 7 Dec 2003 Come to England (really it's Scotland).
webspinner 8 Dec 2003 A web design company whose site freezes your PC.
Workthing 12 Dec 2003 Yet another broken job search. Perhaps they could post an advert for a tester?
Powerhouse 16 Dec 2003 Our website is so bad, we have to turn customers away.
Domestic Appliance Service Association 19 Dec 2003 Important missing files and less than quality customer service.
Information Commissioner 20 Dec 2003 Of all sites, this one ought to know better!
The Herald 21 Dec 2003 Daily newspaper - 3 day old news anyone?
TestIT 22 Dec 2003 TestIT - Software product testing (with bugs!)
S1jobs 28 Dec 2003 s1jobs - Scottish jobs in the south of England?
Open University 7 Jan 2004 Anyone for a degree in testing?
Baby Welcome 8 Jan 2004 Even a toddler could spot the problems here!
Scottish Parliament 12 Jan 2004 Spent the money on the building, can't afford to test the website?
Messagelabs 31 Jan 2004 Would you trust a company like this with your email?
NEW! coming soon The next entry posted here. Make sure YOUR site isn't next! We are currently working through a backlog of entries.

Please feel free to add to this list