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What the !$## at ! at !!!!!!

Mystery Meat Navigation: An Introduction. People are always asking me, "What's the best site on the Web?" My response is "There is no best site because the best site is the one that as soon as someone clicks a link to go there, money is automatically sucked out of their wallet."

Since we can't design such a site with the current crop of design tools, how do we get customers to give us money? They have to be able to find products on your site they're willing to buy. Notice the word "find" because it's the key concept. The two ways people "find" their way around your site is by using your search engine or by navigating based on the links you've created. Quite frankly, search engines suck and I'll talk about them in a future article. The second way people find items on your site is through your site's navigational scheme.

Please Note: All links open new windows. To return, close the new window.

Bad Navigation. According to a recent research paper, "39 percent of test shoppers failed in their buying attempts because sites were too difficult to navigate." Imagine what would happen if your bricks and mortar business lost almost 40% of its potential customers because they walked in your store and couldn't find what they were looking for because your aisles were built in the shape of a maze? Imagine if Wal-Mart stores were built this way:

Mystery Meat Navigation. There's a new style of bad navigation which is becoming popular and it's been given several names here at WPTS -- "Saturnic Navigation," "Non Intuitive Navigation" and, most recently, "Mystery Meat Navigation." This genre of site navigation is based on JavaScript rollovers and it's confusing and risks alienating your customers.

Mouse over the images below to see the problem.

For various reasons, I'm calling this type of navigation "Mystery Meat Navigation" (MMN) and I'd like to make it clear why it's bad. Web design is not about art, it's about making money. To make money, you don't want to design a site that might confuse someone. You want your visitors to quickly find what they're looking for and then write you a check. MMN confuses people because you have to find the navigational system and then mouse over each image to determine where it will take you. Someone at the Web Design 99/Seattle conference said, "When you go to Wal-Mart and buy a microwave, they've got your money. When you're on the Web it's different because every click is a decision point and people are ruthless. If they don't like what they see or they're confused, they go somewhere else." MMN is confusing. Confusion is bad.

The real problem with MMN is it's very seductive -- it looks cool and it's used on a lot of sites which win design awards. Because there's no long strings of text, MMN makes the page look "cleaner" because there's more white space.

I settled on the name "Mystery Meat" because it's a term American kids are first exposed to in high school. There's always this one meat selection that isn't readily identifiable and it's often disguised by a layer of thick gravy. The dish becomes known as "Mystery Meat" because you're not sure what's going to happen when you eat the meat.

Warning #2 Please Note: All links on this page open new windows. To return, close the new window.

The best example of Mystery Meat Navigation used to be Saturn -- the car company. In fact, I coined the term "MMN" in honor of Saturn. Well, they fixed their site, but here's what Saturn's home page used to look like.

The area shown inside the blue circle contains the rollover links they use for their navigation. In Saturn's case, you had to memorize each and every link because there were no regular links.

Another way to look at MMN is that it's like the old game called "Concentration" or "Memory" where you have to match two pictures together. The trick is to have an excellent memory. I ran across a reference to the Claudia Schiffer memory game and, in many ways, the game is almost like MMN. You have to remember the location of the right picture. Claudia's game can be found here.

Why MMN is really bad. When you drive down the road, you don't see road signs which wait for you to touch them before they tell you what they say (mouse over this image for an example). Well, now that I think about it, Seattle has a lot of MMN.

Hopefully, the above image demonstration should make it perfectly clear why MMN sucks more than a Kirby vacuum cleaner. It's stupid, stupid, stupid -- and dangerous.

At Internet World New York back in October, Michael Willis and I showed the above picture. Everyone laughed loudly. We then showed them other Saturnic sites like Memorex, Volkswagen, Saturn, and others. No one laughed. Then we showed them what Amazon.com would look like if it used MMN. Lots of laughter. Then Michael made the profound comment. "Gee. You didn't laugh when we showed you Volkswagen and it's just as bad as this." You could see the "They got me" looks on the faces of the audience. I then made the comment, "There's not enough drugs in Seattle to make Amazon's designers use this technique." Laughter. Using MMN doesn't mean you use drugs. It just means you're a dope.

Addendum. With a concept so horrible as to rupture time and space, I cajoled one of the WPTS Bulletin Board regulars to make the Amazon.com Mystery Meat Navigation example even worse and more stupid. zz0zz wrote a JavaScript, which works in IE 4.x and Netscape 4.x and above, where the rollovers are random. Note: Because the images are different sizes, it's going to look pretty funky. (Different image sizes is a frequent problem with folks trying to create rollovers for the first time.) Just mouse over a button, mouse out, and mouse over the same image again. Try it with the other buttons. So far, no one on the Web has been stupid enough to use this technique -- yet. But I can see someone doing it for real where the buttons are the same size. Since you're seeing it here first, I want to name this bad technique the Flanders/zz0zz rollover in honor of the person who came up with the crummy concept and the person who brought the monster to life. This monster was tested in IE 4.x and NS 4.x and above. May not work in other browsers. Your mileage will vary.

What Amazon.com would look like if they used the Flanders/zz0zz rollover.

Examples of Mystery Meat Navigation

(Warning #3 -- I've made the warning longer because people were missing the earlier warnings. Please Note: All links on this page open new windows. To return, close the new window. The reason I do this is because people complained that when they hit the back button, they had to scroll back down to the next link and it was wasting time and I agree with them. I think I only open new windows on this page and nowhere else on the site. Of course, people now complain that I open too many windows.)

Unfortunately, there are just bunches and bunches of sites which use MMN. Here are a few that the readers of Web Pages That Suck have discovered and sent in to me. Thankfully, a number of the sites have decided MMN is not the way to go and they've eliminated it.

They Fixed The Mystery Meat Navigation

Saturn Automobile
Lee Jeans
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Rage Against the Machine
State of Arkansas Parks and Tourism
Motherboard, Inc.
MAP Internet
Aero Telemetry Corporation
Kee Scott Design
David Paule
Focus Design


Recent Mystery Meat I was correctly taken to task for incorporating newer mystery meat sites within the article. Bad, Vincent, Bad. No box of donuts.

Outoftheblue.com -- Real life use of the Flanders/zz0zz rollover. The Flanders/zz0zz rollover was supposed to be a joke. The thinking was that nobody in their right mind would ever use the technique because it's the "Mys" in Mystery Meat Navigation. Well, it's being used, in one form on a design house.

Their technique isn't quite as horrible as ours -- thank goodnes we're still the champions -- but it still sucks. Move your mouse over one of the squares. Move it out. Move it back in. It changes. It's a very nice implementation of a very sucky technique.

Older Mystery Meat

Volkswagen. Not content to let Saturn commit aesthetic suicide alone, the European division of Volkswagen's motif draws me to the phrase "Casting pearls before swine." They've also taken MMN to a new, low level. I called it the "blurred navigation buttons."

Smirnoff -- Seeing double. Well, the folks at Smirnoff have created two different Mystery Meat navigation areas on this page. I'll drink to that. The page is also a little bloated at 87K.

Saab story. This is the third car site that uses MMN. It's pretty weird. Move your mouse over the images and the text links below light up.

Audi -- must be a car thing. Gee, we've got MMN at Saab, Volkswagen, and now, Audi. Maybe MMN found its home with car companies. This site takes forever to load (well, it is overseas), and has the most bizarre navigation scheme. I'm almost afraid to show it because I just know designers are going to use it as their next "new thing."

CNN. Not CNN!!!! I love these guys, but somebody sent me the following e-mail:

Like everyone else, CNN is running a "Next Millenium" special. Apparently they think wordless javascript rollovers are part of the future as well.

It's a very nicely done page, but Mystery Meat is still mystery meat.

Center for Writing for the University of Illinois. This is one of the worst Mystery Meat candidates I've seen. As the e-mail I received stated:

I know you have a lot of samples already, but this one just infuriated me...It's a pretty picture! Mouse over it and stuff pops up! Mouse back over it and it goes away! Can you see all your options at any given time? Apparently not!

Minolta. As the e-mail I received stated:

Minolta USA's homepage contains the most pointless use of MMN I've seen, it's just like your version of amazon.com on MMN, but here it's not intended as a joke!

Fray-ed nerves. There are two folks I'm willing to bet are responsible for MMN. My second choice would be Wired magazine. My first choice would be Fray.com. Derek M. Powazek is a freaking HTML god and is responsible for a lot of cool HTML we take for granted -- well, Salon Magazine allegedly took some of it for granted. On the plus side of the ledger, Powazek was on the design team that created the world's best splash page -- and you know how much I hate splash pages. Nevertheless, Mystery Meat is Mystery Meat.

Nickelodeon - Mystery Meat Down Under. The Australian version of Nickelodeon certainly qualifies as MMN.

Canon. You shouldn't use Mystery Meat navigation, but if you've got one of "those" bosses who insists on using it, at least offer an alternative. The folks at Canon are smart enough to understand the importance of giving visitors a proper choice on their PowerShot camera page. Their home page offers an HTML version and a Flash 4 version and, of course, the Flash version is total Mystery Meat. In fact, they're using that horrible sniper-scope technique I first saw at Audi's site (move your mouse over the gold cube). When everybody has high-end DSL, pages like this won't be such a problem -- but we're not there yet. The Flash 4 version is the Daily Sucker.

Elle Magazine. It took some time for me to figure out where the Mystery Meat links were located on this magazine for women. Mouseover each letter of the magazine's name E-L-L-E to see the MMN.

As the person who submitted this site stated:

For a hideous amalgam of Mystery Meat rollovers, regular rollovers and real links, please visit Elle Magazine. This site has links to some features, rollovers at the bottom which, while a little too cute, are harmless, and then other "secret" rollovers. One could miss them entirely, thinking the regular links were all there is At least when there are no links, one fiddles about and might find the hidden rollovers.

Fox Kids -- corrupting our youth. The future Web designers of the world are being corrupted by the Fox Kids Web site. The whole front page is Mystery Meat and 107K in size.

The Matrix. A very successful movie has a very MMN system. By the way, is there any movie Web site (besides Blair Witch Project) that's worth the time to visit? I've never seen better looking sites that had no content.

Irishphotostock. Proof that bad design is not limited to America. Here's some Irish MM for your dining pleasure.

Sarah McLachlan. Ah, the lovely songstress who gave hope to drummers throughout the world (she married her drummer). As the person who suggested this site stated: "As much as I love Sarah McLachlan, her Web page is sadly akin to deep sea diving without the oxygen."

Gravis makes joysticks and game pads and bad navigational aids on the right side of the screen. True Mystery Meat.

Potlatch Papers -- As the person who submitted this site stated:

I found this site in the 1999 Communication Arts Interactive Design annual as one of 45 award winning interactive media projects. Many of the websites featured in the Annual would most certainly win an award from you also, as the link to Potlatch Papers demonstrates.

Feed magazine is a popular online cultural magazine. However, this page is definitely Mystery Meat. Note the charming buttons on the left. Also, you need to remember it's an e-zine and those folks have an artists exclusion pass.

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. When I was a kid back in the late 50s and early 60s I loved pro wrestling. The TV station where my father was the Director of Engineering had a weekly live match and I was walking on air the time he took me down there. He also took me to the local ballpark to see Dick the Bruiser and Angelo Poffo (father of Macho Man Randy Savage) take on the Shire Brothers (Roy and Ray -- whatever happened to these guys?). Another famous wrestler/manager of that era was Bobby Heenan. Everybody hated Bobby because he was one of those blond-haired villains who primped and preened and beat up on guys like Lucky Lou Eisenhower, Wilbur Snyder, and Cowboy Bob Ellis. Anyway, Bobby is one of the few -- maybe the only wrestler -- to survive and prosper and be active in the world of wrestling in the year 2000.

During the years he's acquired the nickname "The Brain" and like everyone he has his own Web site -- except that he uses Mystery Meat Navigation. The first page is 104,971 bytes and has, as I mentioned, Mystery Meat Navigation. Although there are text links at the bottom, they can't be seen on an 800 x 600 screen. The page also generates a JavaScript error using Netscape 4.04.

Joseph Campbell Foundation. Yes, I know he was involved in mythology and symbolism, but the site has gone a little over the edge. Here's the e-mail I received:

This is an example of a web page that tried to be artsy and ended up fartsy. I have a DSL connection and the intro wouldn't even let me in for about 45 sec to a 1 min. I can't imagine what a slow modem would do. The actual links were the last item to appear on the animation and so you are stuck waiting for some sign from the God's on how to get into the site.


And next I came upon the interactive site map that is a pleasure to look at but sucks navigation wise. 49, count 'em...49 saturnic buttons. This link is the shockwave version that pops up a little label on mouseover. The next one is even worse....


This is the wave-less counterpart. You have to look at the status bar to know where you are going and then the actual file names pop up and not even a description! Have fun finding your way on this one. Actually I don't think it even works because I end up on the main page.


My suggestions. Cut out the intro totally. Maybe make the circle icon on the front page a slow animation. If you do keep the intro. have a voice over of Campbell himself talking about the power of Myth as the damn thing is loading. AT LEAST I'll have something to do while I'm waiting.

As far as the navigation site...I'm so sorry, but that was a huge waste of time. I literally thought it might be a matching game that would give me quotes from Campbell if I matched the symbol. But the first swipe of the mouse led me to write to you.

The links on the left on the main page were the most helpful. I'm referring to the biographical information about Campbell. The metaphor and myth I could never quite understand their purpose other than looking pretty.

I didn't think I would have been disappointed enough in a site to write to you, but between the intro and the so-called site map, I couldn't help it.

Bisley Furniture -- Furniture. Flash. Mystery Meat. Bisley claims they are the UK's largest manufacturer of office furniture. Well, at least on the home page they give you the chance to bail out if you don't have Flash installed. However, the next page is 381K -- just to see some Mystery Meat Navigation and whatever else they've loaded. It's not worth the trouble to click the "enter" link.

kvetch.com A beautiful site spoiled by MMN.

Portishead. As the person who suggested this site stated: "Seems like I've been spending a lot of time on music web sites lately, and I know some artistic license should be allowed, but here is the site for the UK band "Portishead." How about MMN where all the buttons are the same! No visual clues at all. AND the flashing cubes will induce seizure! When you click on an area, check our the cryptic navigation/audio/e-mail thingy. Oh so un-intuitive! Gotta love artists!

Mystery Meat from Nine Inch Nails. Yeah, it's a music site and music sites must be hip so it's "OK" for them to use MMN. I just want to point out they make it especially evil because when you mouseover any of the links, no description shows up in the status bar.

Rupert Hine. Ah, it's another music site (it took forever for me to figure this out because I'm not familiar with Rupert Hine) that's beautiful to look at, but exceedingly difficult to navigate. The person who suggested the site said the pages took forever to load and the first page is 167,925 bytes in size.

Oxo.com As the person who submitted this site said:

MORE MYSTERY MEAT ROLLOVERS! these are so sucky, I think they merit their own daily sucker award!

And they've got a Mission-Statement home page to boot.

GN Netcom. Yes, it's cute -- the first time you see it, but I've seen it before (the Deep Rising movie site a couple of years ago).

Maxim Group. The original message was much more interesting, but due to certain constraints, I can only use certain portions of the e-mail message:

Here's a site for a major consulting/contracting firm that has Mystery Meat rollovers on its homepage. I got to the site from AltaVista, which listed their location pages first. I figured I'd just click on one of the links, and there would be a link on those pages to take me home. Yes, I suppose I could have figured out the home page location by looking at the URL and deleting the additional stuff, but I never would have found out how sucky the site really is! So in addition to Mystery Meat homepage links, they have absolutely NO links back to the home page inside the site!

Umbra -- MMN, yet tastefully appointed. That's all the e-mail said. I will give it credit for its text links.

Digital Dimensions -- Bizarre MMN. As the person who suggested the site stated: "This is like bizzaro-mystery meat. The company uses all these distinct icons that *look* like navigation, but they all go to the same place. Eventually, they go nowhere. Check it out -- you'll see."

SongFile -- A Music Site. There isn't much to say about the first page navigation other than "It uses MMN."

Personalysis Corporation. As the person who sent this one in stated:

How's this for the ultimate in Saturnic navigation: the mystery clicks aren't icons, or even cryptic text, but blocks of color .... And the game-show announcer voice that asks you to select a color isn't much help. Of course, this site sucks before you even get to that page because there is no non-Shockwave alternative.

The cardinal sin of Web design is to design a site only certain folks can use. On the other hand, this company may have the attitude "If they are too cheap to upgrade to a free browser, we don't want to deal with them." They may be right.

On the other hand, a splash page of 168,620 bytes is pretty excessive, but nothing like the 300,489 bytes of their home page.

Nirvanet. The folks who designed this site have great skills in many areas -- except navigation. As the person who suggested the site stated:

this site was by far something that i myself could not understand why designers are still using this method of design. it is not feasible to me to see so many rollovers in the space of even a half inch square (i'm referring to the smaller set up in the upper right corner.) at the beginning, the site looked interesting, but it led to nowhere. oh, by the way, if by chance you should accidentally roll over the moving orb (the larger one), watch out...

Husqvarna USA -- Big Boys on Blue Bikes. As the person who suggested the site stated: "After the useless splash page, only 3 buttons on the top."

Project Orbikron. As the person who suggested the site stated:

This is my contribution to the most Mystery Meat-based site - in more ways than one! the site talks about "Advanced Reality" and is as pretentious as it can get - and more! The navigation is certainly "Mysterious" - the first mouseover tells me "here you may find the latest news". may? so I have to take that chance? One of the inner pages - doesn't have any links but click on any of the 4 circles and you get to the same page! Check this page out for some "bewildering" stuff.

The Automobile Association. Not only is it MMN, but the images at the top right don't even fit together correctly. As the person who submitted this site stated, "Not only have they used MMN design (if you can find the navigation), but they have placed it exactly where you would expect a banner to be - so it gets ignored."

Music On-line -- Navigation off-line. The navigation at the bottom is truly scary.

Creative Courseware. I could be wrong, but I always thought the purpose of teaching was to make the material understandable to the student. Mystery Meat navigation is not the way.

Sugarhill Records. As the person who suggested this site stated in their e-mail:

I'm referring to the "state of the art" MMN frames version of the site which pops in a separate window.

It's a nice soothing bland background, but this looks kinda cramped at 1024X768. Anyway, check out the MMN corners for navigation. I marvel at what designers think will make sense instead of the actual words!

The site itself I found maddening. I just wanted to see who else was recording for this label. Of course, there is no site map which meant going around to *each* letter and seeing what artists were on the list. And I had to scroll in the frame to boot! because of the design! Grrrr. More valuable time wasted.

Also - you can buy on-line. Not that you'd ever know this because it certainly isn't advertised well. The "Buy It!" signals are at the bottoms of the pages of each release for the artists. Guess they don't want the hard-earned dollars of the bluegrass-lovin' public.

This is one case where I'd rather have a print copy of their catalog, or perhaps use the ever-so-slightly-less helpful no-frames version. Love their stuff. Hate their site.

Ken's Landscaping. I even get some broken images using Netscape.

Moyra's Web Jewels. As the person who suggested this site stated, "Lots of MMN rollovers on first page, plus a whole new set on secondary pages. Pretty, but..."

Fullswing.net The person who sent in the e-mail had quite a lot to say about this site and it all seemed right. The person even said the bottom text links sorta-kinda exonerated it; however, these links don't show up on a graphics resolution of 800 x 600.

Open University --As the person who suggested this site stated:

This is the weirdest rollover I have ever seen. Only one of the people at the top actually has a mouseover event on it - why? We aren't sure....If you go to that page, you see the next weirdest rollover event as the little dot turns into a face and goes, where? We aren't sure....This just sort of continues on and on and on...

Actually, the second page's use of MMN is cool -- but hard to understand. Each rollover, when clicked, brings up a new person and a new story about how the University has helper her/him. On an 800 x 600 window, it's impossible to tell what's happening, but on a larger resolution you can tell. Still sucks, though.

ExlineOnline. Has useless splash page. Pretty, but...

An arcade game site. More MMN

Asher's Dominion. Another Game Site.. As the person who suggested this site stated:

The first time I visited it took me a few minutes to realize where the navigation panel even WAS let alone what everything did... it consists of a nice graphic with 6 unlabeled buttons that all look alike near the middle, along with a "?" and a " at " on each end, symbolizing an "About" page and a mailto link, respectively.

There is a web design section, but when you click on the request form it says "Sorry, I am not accepting any Web Design requests at this time." (There's another little quirk for you.. if you're not accepting them, why ask for them?)

NedStat Basic. A Eudora-looking web site which has MMN in the bar at the left.

Adequate? Another Mystery Meat site.

Channel 4 Beats the heck out of me what this one's about.

Edmonton Small Business Journal As the person who sent this one in stated:

Hello there, I was quite disappointed to find this saturnic page. The navigation is very confusing, because it is not even obvious where the navigation menu is! Of course they decided to throw in the standard lame infinite loop animated gifs.

I suppose the saturnic flare has reached its way up north, the designer of the site recently changed their page (it wasn't saturnic before) to something similarly hard to figure out.

Radioqualia -- Huh? I don't get it. As the person who suggested this site stated:

The above site is an experimental art site, so it's a bit unfair to label it Mystery Meat seeing as they're not selling anything, and to some extent getting lost is part of the fun. But, for instance, this site hosts experimental real audio files (mostly seeming to consist of five minutes of static with the occasional bleep inserted). So, if I wanted to go back and find a ram file that I'd thought was interesting, I'd have a bugger of a time finding it. At least most of the corporate Saturnic sites have rollovers that reveal what the thing leads to - this site has fancy names like 'epistemology' and 'radio telemetry'. It's hard to decode which pages lead to the sound files that you want to hear once you've worked out what the hell the site is about. The page called 'forking map' is only a map to the extent that all of the symbols appear on it. It's completely forked.

Web Designers

If these folks didn't start the trend, they continue to propagate it like the pod people in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." I normally don't critique Web designers, but this trend must be stopped so I'm willing to name names. What's most annoying about these sites is, according to the sites I've seen, they don't use MMN on their clients' sites. Their clients' sites often look "normal" -- nothing like the designers' sites. Hypocrisy? Something's weird.

David Gary Studios. The man is the God of Flash. I attended a lecture on "Good Web Design" and this site was held up as an example of great design. Ironically, just two days prior to the lecture after I received the following e-mail:

This is the worst Mystery Meat Navigation I've seen.

While this statement may be true, the person who designed this site is the God of Flash. The site is excessive because it's experimental. As the lecturer stated, "His Flash skill is so good, I want to quit." I just went through two (in a series of three) videotapes on Flash and I have a new appreciation for the complexities of the program. (I'll never truly "get" Flash unless I devote my life to it -- fat chance.) It's the MMN in Mystery Meat Navigation, but it's a lot of fun to look at.

Leo Burnett -- 101,674 bytes and it's Mystery Meat. Yeah, I know, yet another design firm -- and a big one -- Leo Burnett. Yes, it's very cool and slick and all those other great things, but it uses MMN all over the place. The TV is a perfect example. The message says, "Select a Channel" but there's no clue until you mouseover the blinking buttons. It's very pretty and like all designer's sites it's used to show off their skills. It's still Mystery Meat. Let them keep it on their site.

Akimbo Design. These folks are also Flash Masters, but use MMN.

Convergence, Inc. Mystery Meat designer. As the person who suggested this site stated, "Not only does it use a black screen, but the text is too small and the titles too dark to read clearly. And of course, to top it off, yes, MMN."

Some designer's page (couldn't figure out who the person was). I usually don't get involved with designers, but I want to point out that this MMN trend has certainly hit the Web designer ranks. It's OK, because they're trying to show off their skill set. Just remember, you don't want it on your commercial site. I have some reasonably strong links to Indonesia, so this site was quite interesting to me. (Requires Flash Plug-In)

bratta.com. A nice, clean looking page spoiled by MMN.

Unified Media Arts -- The person who created this site for a Web designer is certainly a flash wizard, but once you get to the main page, you'll find MMN. Click on the HTML version and you'll find it even faster. BTW, some of the rollovers don't work when you use the Netscape Browser. OOPS.

Spyplane. So many design sites use MMN it isn't funny. Here's another one. As the person who suggested it stated, "Neat idea that you can change your layout.. but.. huh?"

Toronto's CN Tower. I've skipped the useless splash page -- wait, "useless" is an unnecessary modifier -- I've skipped the splash page. The remote control...argh...you don't need it.

Stewart Cohen. He might get a pass because he's an artist showing off his work, but his navigation gets no pass -- it sucks. Oh, yeah. He's got a splash page.

Adcom -- Worse than Mystery Meat. At least the navigation for the sites above worked. As the person who sent this site in stated:

Check out the (lack of) navigation buttons on the left. They don't work. Or, how about the descriptive categories on the right? I was looking for a DVD player, but hell if I'm going to click on every GF...and GT... to find it!

unbound studios. Hey, this site is really cool on my ADSL connection. It's top of the line Mystery Meat Web design. You have to pick either the low- or high-voltage Flash page. Check it out.

Eyeball Design. The first site is courtesy of someone from the most wired country in the world -- Finland. Plenty of Mystery Meat and the site uses, I believe, Dynamic HTML.

NRG Design. I can see why this site was Cool Flash Site of the Day. These folks are Flash wizards. Unfortunately, in their attempt to be cool, they opted for MMN.

at dveractive. Needless, yet impressive, Flash Splash page leads to MMN which reminds me a lot of Macromedia's site. They make Splash-based games. I'm sure they're good.

fensterMEDIA Normally, if I don't think a site sucks enough I won't run it. However, the second sucker uses Mystery Meat Navigation, so the Roman Emperor Vincenzo has to give the thumbs down sign. I like the use of white space -- there isn't that Amazon.com feel to the site and it doesn't try to be trendy like so many other sites.

There's the needless splash page which has to go and, of course, the navigation is pure Mystery Meat. Since it's a design firm, I assumed the "P" stood for "Portfolio." Wrong. It stands for "Philosophy" which is another way of saying Mission Statement (which I hate and have discussed at length). This Mission Statement isn't too bad and doesn't suffer from the usual BS you see in most Mission Statements. I found it interesting that the link to Philosophy didn't work from the portfolio page (they probably will fix it before you see it).

Of course, there's the portfolio page and I always find it amusing that designers, more often than not, don't use Mystery Meat Navigation on their clients' pages. Hmm. The designer is saying, "We'll be stupid when we design our site, but if you hire us we won't be stupid when we design your site."

Creative Evolution Here's what the person who suggested the site said:

Whoa! The frontpage must qualify as mystery meat....even though they've labeled the bottom corner "come in" it takes a while to realize that you need to click the purple patch to get in. Subsequent pages are all solid graphics, no html at all (except for <HTML> and <TABLE> tags. It seems that they tried to keep file sizes down but in doing so made most of their text seem out of focus...check it out..you'll be pleasantly disappointed.

Amazing Online Marketing! -- Three strikes and it's 25-to-life. Here in California, we've got a three strikes law where people can win 25 years-worth of free room and board if they commit three felonies (or something like that -- I haven't paid too much attention). Well this design firm has three strikes -- Splash page, Mystery Meat Navigation, and a Mission Statement. Let's talk about each of them.

Splash Page. I picture myself in a room of kids and I'm yelling, "If I've told you kids once, I've told you a hundred times -- no splash pages!" It doesn't add anything, it gets in the way, and search engines don't like them -- many of them give extra weight to the root page and if it's a splash page, you'll be penalized.

Mystery Meat Navigation. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's another design firm using MMN. It's cool and design firms are supposed to be cool, but it's like me growing a goatee or piercing my nipples. What does it prove other than I like pain? In case you still haven't read my article on MMN, this is the link.

Mission Statement. Before Chris Rock was a famous comedian, he was an unknown comedian who summed up what a bunch of politicians said at a town hall meeting as, "All babies must eat." An obvious truism that says nothing. This design firm should have kept the first sentence -- "Amazing has been designing and implementing successful Web sites and online applications since 1995" and killed the rest of the page. Mission statements are clichés such as, "We focus on topnotch design work" -- like I'm expecting you to specialize in crappy design? Or, "We listen to you." Isn't that stupid. I expect you to listen to me.

A Mission statement tells the world how great you are. Your potential customer doesn't give a left-handed flying farkle about you. His/her only concern is, "What are you going to do for me?" Remember, the client is only interested in me, me, me, me, and me. S/he doesn't care about you. When I reviewed a bunch of business school web sites for a major magazine, my favorite was the one who had on the front page, "Our graduates start out at $82,000 a year (or some such extravagant sum). The business school understood what was important -- how much money someone would make if they enrolled.

If for reasons known but to God you happen to need a mission statement, use the Dilbert Zone Mission Statement Generator. Unfortunately, it isn't tied to the Web design business, but it still cranks out some funny stuff.

Mobius New Media. -- Someone who's doing Mystery Meat right --I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but someone is actually doing Mystery Meat the right way -- as an option. Mobius New Media's home page offers three ways to navigate the site -- low bandwidth, high bandwidth (slightly blurred home page, but more blurred on the inside plus the links are sideways -- bad), and Flash (which should tell you something). All you high-end designers, who are using mystery meat, should see how it can be done right. Why is it right? Because there are obvious options on a page that's 74K (a touch on the high side, but rated "fair" by WebSite Garage).


One of the many visitors sent me an e-mail that brilliantly sums up the evil that is MMN.

Got it--now I understand what Saturnic is. Blind, unlabeled navigation you have to mouseover to get a clue, as opposed to navigation bars/buttons with symbols, which I also find to be not only annoying, but arrogant.

I agree with you totally--this new style is so stupid from a business decision standpoint, especially seeing it on major business sites, that it's troublesome how corporate execs are even allowing this.

I think what I'll do now with my business is change my answering machine as follows:

"You've reached XYZ Corporation. To find out what option #1 is, press 1. To find out what option #2 is, press 2. (Etc....) If you'd like to continue doing business with our company after we've slapped you around and wasted your valuable time, press 9". Makes sense, huh? And it's cool, too, since it weeds out undesirable customers who would only waste our time, because if people aren't smart enough to guess what various services we offer by knowing who we are, then we don't want their business, because they can't possibly have any money to buy our products or services.

And we should change all highway navigation signs, too, to be kewl like these new web designers. Instead of having the common green road signs we're accustomed to on freeways with writing on them, they should be big, blank road signs with nothing but reflective numbered buttons on them. When you drive by, you press a keypad on your steering wheel and an audio message tells you what Button #1 said on the roadsign (i.e. "turn left in 1 mile to exit for 43rd St.") Then to find out what Buttons 2 & 3 said, you have to exit, turn around, and drive by again. Now that would be kewl, (and smart)!

Keep it up--you're right on!