How Cool and Flashy Can Your Website Be?

Rosie and I were admiring a new website I was writing for. The design was particularly beautiful, for a corporate site, with an elegance of line and color that made me want to just gaze at it for a bit.

Rosie wasn’t so sure. It seemed to her that it would be improved if there were some… flashy stuff. Things that whirled around, maybe, or opportunities to shoot someone.

Rosie’s a gamer when she’s not managing the company. I’ve tried to convince her that getting to the front page of Google is exactly the same as winning a leather jerkin for your Dark Elf, or whatever it is. In this case, I pointed out how the lines started in the logo continued — not visibly of course, but because your brain finished them up — into a wonderful echo of the lines of light in the picture, which in turn led the eye to the “more information” button.

She pointed out, quite accurately, that there were no special effects of any kind.

I showed her Assassin’s Creed for Twitter. It has toys from the very beginning, when you confirm that you’re old enough to enter. It has heroic music. It takes an incredibly long time to load on the average non-gamer’s computer. You have to click on something and wait just to see the menu (every time you want to see the menu — it doesn’t stay there once you’ve opened it), and then search around for a while to figure out what to do with it. There’s hardly any content visible to the search engines, the meta description is too long, it lists keywords like “360” and naturally it doesn’t come up for them when you search.

It’s totally cool. Rosie loved it.

And if you were thinking about something like that for your dry cleaning business, it would be a terrible mistake.

It wouldn’t be impossible, mind you. I can readily imagine something like that for a local dry cleaner, since I’m a highly imaginative person. And I can also imagine someone looking for a dry cleaner and not finding your site, because the search engines, immune to cool flashiness in websites, have no idea that it’s about dry cleaning in your town.

Suppose, though, that there grew up around it an underground cult following and people shared the URL at Facebook. I can further imagine someone going there to get the address of the dry cleaner, and becoming deeply frustrated at having to wait for 7.5 minutes to reach the point at which it was even possible to click around in search of the address. And then becoming completely cheesed off as they clicked around through the swirling fabrics and shadowy characters in search of the address.

Here’s who can have that flashy a website:

  • Large companies with tremendous name recognition who don’t really need to concern themselves much with the search engines. Pepsi, for example, can do anything they want.
  • Companies, large or small, with enormous budgets, or who get their web design and development for free. This is one of the reasons that web design companies often do have very snazzy sites. Another is that it’s a great way to show off the goods. These companies often have to work very hard to get anywhere in search rankings.
  • Companies whose visitors are mostly interested in playing with the site, rather than with getting information. Game sites, for example.

I was sorry to dash Rosie’s hopes of getting to work on a lot of sites with that degree of cool flashiness. In fact, I didn’t even have the heart to point out to her that the Assassin’s Creed for Twitter has one button that is immediately visible, and which goes immediately to the place it appears to go to, without any Renaissance fooling around: the “Buy Now” button.






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