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.