It's a fairly bold statement, but the more time I spend designing and reading, the more I'm beginning to develop the theory that there is not such a thing as bad web design. I'm leaving more towards the fact that there's just 'inappropriate' web design.
The design of a website is not important in itself, it's the information contained in the website that's important – the design is just a way to let people find that information and this is really the basis of my current thinking. Of course, it's nice to have a good looking website, but it's also a very subjective thing, one persons 'clean and uncluttered' is another persons 'plain and boring' – so is that website design is bad?
Search the web and you'll find many sites dedicated to bad web design, but are they being a little unfair? Just because they do not follow the current trend or look how they should, does not always mean they're bad. Sure, there are some absolute horror stories out there, just a big old mess of different styles, layouts and problems that just should not be allowed on the net, like this , but I'm going to leave those out of the discussion as they quite clearly have not been designed as such, they're just a collection of files put on a server.
Back to the 'normal' bad websites, what do we actually mean by bad design. My thoughts on good web design are this – the graphic content is there to attract the type of 'customer' you want (age, gender, etc), the complexity or simplicity of menu systems should reflect the target customer (generally, younger people are able to find their way around complex sites better than older people) – the rest is just there to let the designer justify the fee for the design …
So, my conclusions are this. A website design is 'bad' if it does not suit the target audience, but I reckon it can still be a good design. It's just not appropriate.