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Worst Web sites in the world - Awards

There are some sites that stretch the boundaries of what's possible with Web design and Internet technology, combining communication and functionality in an elegant package.

And then there are the Mud Brick Awards.

Internet software developer NetStudio on Tuesday awarded three sites with this recognition for "worst of the Web" -- calling attention to the fact that, even as the Net has caught on in the cultural mainstream, there are still those capable of publishing the most repellent, difficult-to-use and eye-rending Web sites.

Quaker Oats won the corporate prize, beating out Pizza Hut and Southwest Airlines. Quaker's winning tactic was simple: its site could be straight out of the dark ages of 1992, with a single blocky graphic and a list of links on the front page. "Someone's pulling my leg, right?" commented Dan Shafer, editorial director of Cnet Builder.com, one of the panel of judges. "Get me a can of spray paint."

Pizza Hut got a round of disgusted comments for its noxious orange background, but some commentators noted that the colour could actually work for the company -- it is, after all, pretty memorable.

In the small-to-medium-sized business category, Gem Hosting (a Web hosting company, ironically enough) took the gold, followed by Scope Systems and Tradeshop Inc. Gem Hosting, in particular, stood out for its creative use of garish, rainbow-blended colours, which judge Jesse Berst, editorial director of ZDNet AnchorDesk, compared to "staring at the sun for 10 minutes."

The site is all the more ironic for the fact that Gem Hosting's business is designing and hosting Web sites. Gem even has a link to its own set of awards -- the Rare Gem awards -- but the link is broken.

Texas' Web site, featuring a single muddy graphic and some text, was derided as offering the worst possible image of the Lone Star State. "It basically says, 'Welcome to Texas, now go away,' " said Rafe Needleman, editor of Red Herring Online, at the awards ceremony. Runner-up Villa Hills also inspired colorful remarks with its bright-green background pattern, which one commentator called a "radioactive kiwi starburst." The site also got a special mention for the fact that it included a tinny MIDI sound track and required users to download an obscure plug-in to view the page.

In fact, Villa Hills' site was so bad that the city actually redesigned it after receiving its Muddy nomination, leaving one less ugly site on the Net. "There's so much trash out there," said Needleman. "We all put our eyeballs on the line every day."