CERNLover lots-o-love expertly commented on one of CDS’s completely terrible web pages. Today I am reviewing a true classic: http://cds.cern.ch, none other than the CDS home page itself. I should admit that I feel a bit sheepish today; finding egregious flaws on CDS web pages is like shooting fish in a barrel. It is just so universally bad that I’m not sure where to start. Might as well start at the top.

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CDS stands for CERN Document Server. It’s a long and difficult acronym (no, not really), so the CDS folks have helped you out by putting that title right at the top where you can’t miss it. Twice.

Sandwiched between them is the tiny word “Home”. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a link; it’s not (I know you already clicked on it). Oh no, if it were a link, it would be a very slightly darker shade of blue indistinguishable to the human eye. Nope, “Home” is just a tiny word surrounded by ample whitespace, serving no purpose whatsoever. It’s true that that on other CDS pages, that space is occupied by breadcrumbs telling you your location, but on the main page it just looks dumb.

Let’s move on to the proud proclamation of how many records CDS has. Actually there are two such statements, about a centimeter apart on my screen … and they don’t match. Just when you thought 900,000 was an impossibly large number, well GUESS WHAT, 1,017,486 is even bigger! I guess we can never really know just how many records CDS has, but rest assured, it’s a gigantic number! A large portion of these records are “fulltext“, a term I (a native English speaker) and my English-speaking friends have never heard in our lives. I’m certainly ready to believe that it is some computer science or librarian term, but I question whether any users actually know or care what it means. Apparently it’s pretty damned impressive though for archives to be sporting fulltext, because it deserves its own sentence. As soon as I find out what the fuck fulltext is I’m going to convert all the documents on my computer to it.

Search or browse? You decide! It’s not clear from first glance what the difference is. I know what “browse” usually means on a website (basically looking through categories instead of text search), but not here. Go ahead, type in a word, click “Browse” and see if you can figure out what the fuck is going on.

Not entering any search or browse terms today? Then perhaps CDS can interest you in two incredibly dense columns filled with terms nobody understands, but by God, every single one of them is a hyperlink pointing somewhere. These columns are labeled “Narrow by collection” and “Focus on“. Every time I read these two labels, my brain grinds to an infuriated halt. Don’t those mean the same thing?! Is there a discernable reason that there are 5 checkboxes next to the left column but not the right? Oh God I am so confused. Those checkboxes and underlining under every single word are making me all misty-eyed remembering my first day learning HTML. Seriously though, the point here is to be impressed by the sheer number of subjects CDS has in its archive. You’re not supposed to be actually reading those, you idiot!

If you do attempt to read the headache-inducing arrangement of subjects, you’ll find some oddities that will make you completely lose whatever faith you may have had in CDS up to this point. For example, there are both “videos” and “videotapes”. I have to admit I don’t understand the difference here. And if you click on “General Talks”, you get a list of … videos.

A truly baffling item at the end of the second column is the heading “Archives”. Holy hell! Do you mean that up until now I haven’t been looking at archives? I thought CDS was by definition an archive! And by the way, CERN Archives apparently make up a subset of Archives, even though I thought the C in CDS stood for CERN. Actually I’m certain it does.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, far, far away from the search box, are some more search options. If you are lucky enough to know what the hell these things are (KISS, anyone?), you might want to include them in your search (after you’ve already done searches that didn’t work, I suppose). That’s kind of like Google saying way at the bottom of their page “Didn’t find what you were looking for? Would you like to search the WHOLE internet? Because up until now we’ve just been fucking with you. Step right up and click a bunch of checkboxes, and we’ll be on our way!”

Amazingly, I only have one suggestion that will fix everything at once with one stroke. Just change the word “site” at the bottom to “shite”.

I would like to apologize to the CDS developers for ridiculing their life’s work …. but, damn. You would think they would care a little bit more about their public image.