We’re in the ’keeping up with the Joneses’ stage of web design.

We’re in the ’keeping up with the Joneses’ stage of web design.

It’s just like missing an episode of a soap opera. On return, half the

cast has either changed, grown up at an incredible rate or retired -

only to be seen again on a cringe-worthy daytime quiz show. This is

reflected in the selection of new and revamped sites.

The first time I tuned into the Cartoon Network was to escape the

24-hour media chaos over Princess Diana’s demise while I was on


I loved it. So I was drooling at the thought of an interactive

experience on its new website. It is obviously aimed at the younger

viewer but I guarantee there’s something for everyone, even if the

interest is a little short-lived. Flash is used where appropriate, which

is a dream come true for a cartoon site like this. The obvious schedules

are just a click away - although there’s no Hong Kong Phooey today.

There are plenty of ways of interacting through games, but very little

to encourage an online community spirit here. The wacky noises were fun

for a while until I got a pizza box in the back of the head coupled with

a scream of ’turn that trash down’. So, it’s great for the first visit

but I didn’t feel the need to return - other than to print off the ’Cow

& Chicken Poultry Polka Dance’ diagram for my next night out.

ShopGuide is a lot more grown-up. A good resource, providing lists of

sites where you can shop (listed by the type of product). The bargain

finder facility is great but it is hard to tell if it really works. The

functionality seems to work fine but it appears they have gone down the

same route that I see so often, and presumed that a quick site cannot

have great graphics. The design sucks, but it doesn’t have to.

Okay, I’m going to resist all obvious bad ’rice’ jokes for the Uncle

Ben’s site. Certainly, the first page, weighing in at more than

127Kbytes, is not at all funny. Does the site’s design agency,

Perspectives, know that the average user of sauces that are made for

’exotic eating from the far-flung corners of the world’ hasn’t got a

2Mbyte connection sticking out of their garage? The navigation buttons

are a bit fluffy (bugger), and there’s no real interactivity. You can,

however, see all the different types of rice and sauces and pick out a

few recipes. The graphics are bland and could be more integrated into

the content to spice things up a bit (argh). There’s also a lot of

scrolling action required and, all in all, it’s a bit of a dull

experience that doesn’t do much to reinforce the brand. Not my boil in

the bag really (sorry).

Channel 5 has a hard act to follow, with the Channel 4 site being one of

the best. It’s a good-looking site although the front page uses the idea

of a remote in front of the television that has been done so many times

before. Having entered the site, the main focus is on Melinda Messenger

and Channel 5’s football - and not much else. I imagine one of the most

popular areas will be the Q&A for overcoming reception problems, but

navigation gets a little fuzzy the further you get from the homepage.

Again, flash is used extensively, but there’s about 100Kbytes of it on

the home page alone.

Cheestrings could be described as the quiet but cheeky younger brother

of ’a bit of an animal’. A lot of time has obviously been spent

designing this site, and the attention to detail in the graphics and

animation is impressive. However, the online game is frustrating and I

think this is due to the sound effects, rather than actual content. If I

didn’t know what Cheestrings were before this visit, I’m not sure I

would after. One link to the old archived games provides more of a clue

as to the nature of Cheestrings - mainly because you have to peel them

in one of the games.

Navigation is non-existent once you’ve left the home page - manual

override time, and I had to sit through the ’menu building experience’

every time I wanted to go somewhere else in the site. There are some

great ideas that look very cool but, yet again, it fails to attract me

to make a return visit.