It's amazing that a whole country could have a vernacular of bad web sites, but I think France has managed it. Hotels and restaurants regularly have terrible sites that give the user "an experience", complete with Flash and music and precious little useful information. For a typical example, see the text-free site of the luxury restaurant La Tour d'Argent. Or try to "enter" the site for the Petite Nice Passedat.

To be fair, a lot of American hotel sites have stupid "experiences" too. But in France even the informational sites are lousy. For example, Mappy, the main French map site (now obsolete, thanks to Google). Marvel at that front page, with 16 separate text entry areas.

But the king of awful websites is the SNCF, the online train booking. The have a site in English, which is awfully nice, only about a third of the links don't work and give you French error messages. Here's how to book a train:

  1. Go to the home page and enter your travel plan.
  2. Wait 10-30 seconds for a timetable search.
  3. Choose a train. Hey, that was easy.
  4. Fooled you! Enter your travel plan again.
  5. Wait 10-30 seconds for a seat search.
  6. Choose a train.
  7. Enter name, choose to pick up tickets at a machine.
  8. Enter credit card info and get a confirmation.
  9. Stand in line 30 minutes to get your tickets from a person because the machines don't accept US credit cards, even just to confirm identity.
My favourite part is the way you get to go through the time tables twice. Mind you, you better do all the web transaction in 5 minutes, because otherwise it times out and you have to do it all again. And don't try to change anything while in the process, or you have to start over.

I'm sure there are some wonderful French web sites out there, and I personally know some great French web designers. But the examples I keep finding are just awful.

  2006-11-19 15:26 Z