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Brain Katz approaches my desk – smiling lightly, shaking his head in disbelief. I know what this means: He’s come across a woefully unusable website and is dying to share it with me…

“Go ahead. Make my day.”

He does. This time, it’s www.oakley.com. The sunglasses people.

Pretty, to be sure. And if you like black, wow have you found your website. But if you actually want to read text, be prepared to strain.

I guess we should cut Oakley some slack. Their products are the epitome of trendy. So on their website, image and branding should trump usability. In fact, for Oakley, an Amazon-like experience would be wrong.

Still, even on a fashion-oriented website like Oakley, shouldn’t there be some concession to usability?

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a black-on-black search box. It’s a good thing it’s properly located (at top right) or nobody would stand a chance of finding it.

Even if you do find it, it’s ridiculously hard to use. As you type, text is barely legible. How do you spot errors?

To Oakley’s credit, once you enter their Store, usability improves. But their Home page — and the other branding pages — are classic examples of image trumping usability.

What are your favorite examples? If you stumble across a funny case of “user be damned”, please post a comment below. We can learn a lot about good usability by examining bad usability.

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