By Joshua Lucas

Issue # 11

Wednesday, May 20, 1998


The rapid rate of technological advancement for the Web has been incredible. When the Web burst onto the scene, back in 1994, most sites looked relatively the same. All you could do was have a gray background with no images. Why? Because that was all the browsers could handle.

Fast forward to today and you can see how much has changed in the way of possibilities. From streaming audio and video to the latest Java applet, today's Web sites have moved way beyond their predecessors. Because of this, most design firms can offer you any "bells and whistles" that you could possibly want for your site. But is allowing these gimmicks in your site a good idea? I don't think it is and IŽd like to tell you why.

But first a definition of what I consider to be a whistle or bell:

This is any type of Web technology that requires a plug-in (Shockwave, Flash), a separate application (RealAudio, QuickTime) or a significant amount of time downloading a file (most multimedia files and Java applets). The majority of bells and whistles are directly tied to the user's visual experience.

I'm not saying that all of this technology is bad. My point is that it isn't appropriate for most business web sites.

When you create a web site, either by yourself or through a design company, you have unlimited power as to what you can put before the eyes of your potential client. With that power comes responsibility and the chance to either make the user's experience enjoyable or have the user leave your site cursing.

Most sites that rely on all of the latest technology seem to forget how the majority of today's users connect to the 'Net. Most people still connect no faster than on a 28.8 modem. This renders the latest technology absurd because a 1MB multimedia file would take around five to ten minutes to download. Do you expect a future customer to sit and wait while the progress bar crawls along at a snail's pace? If so, you're opening yourself up to a lot of disappointment.

"Lucas, Joshua Lucas". . .writes for a living. By day he writes software, and by night he weaves words. Josh has coded in Java, C, C++, and Perl for some of the hippest and most recognizable companies in the US, including The Gap, Starbucks, Nike, and Nordstroms. Josh's rich experience, coupled with his diligent daily research, places him as close to the "cutting edge" as you can get without falling off. He and his wife recently moved from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA.

Assignment: Check out sites like Yahoo! and CNN Notice how little beyond text they use. Make sure your site stays within a simple framework. And don't forget to keep sending me topics you'd like to learn more about!

Besides the arrogance of expecting a customer to wait for a download, the use of bells and whistles just doesn't make any type of business sense. Why? Because the creation of the technology will increase your overall site cost from the design company. It's expensive to be on the cutting edge; while any design company will gladly create "cool" things, they will also expect to be paid accordingly for it. Besides, it doesn't really do anything to make the customer want to revisit your site or purchase your product and services. Why give your competitors a chance of stealing your customers just because you wanted to give your site a "cool look"?

Basically, it boils down to this. Keep your site simple and informative and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it will be received.

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