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The Cost of Cool

02 Mar 2005 by Matthew Linderman

Too many entertainment/lifestyle sites continue to shoot themselves in the foot (feet?) by chasing cool. For example, the other night I had to decide whether to catch the opening band at a show I was attending. So I decided to search for MP3s at The Double’s web site.

I went to the band’s site. Flash. Sigh. Loading. Sigh. Then I get to the audio section. Here’s the kicker: When I try to click on an audio link, the page starts scrolling. You have to chase the link around the screen in order to click on it. Come on man, I’m trying to listen to your music and it’s actually running away from me! Ridiculous.

If you’re a band, restaurant, nightclub, or whatever, then go right ahead and make your band, restaurant, or nightclub cool. But when it comes to your website, what’s cool is giving people the info they want without making ‘em jump through hoops.

27 comments so far (Post a Comment)

02 Mar 2005 | Charbel said...

That is the worst site i've seen in a while

02 Mar 2005 | Julian Scarfe said...

yes, the scrolling-off-the-music-links as soon as you click one is kinda dumb.
but the Flash. Sigh. Loading. Sigh., I'm not so sure I've got any problems: 2 seconds on my dsl, pretty bandwidth-efficient graphic design that makes a strong identity statement and the motion adds some visual interest on a site with pretty light content.

02 Mar 2005 | Julian Scarfe said...

that said, neither the music nor the design appeal to me. but i imaging i am not the target audience.

02 Mar 2005 | Dan said...

pretty bandwidth-efficient graphic design that makes a strong identity statement and the motion adds some visual interest on a site with pretty light content

Yeah, that statement being "our website is too cool for its own good." And all that motion is just a smoke and mirrors tactic to hide just that: light content. And in the end, it ends up accentuating that lack of content. I say it's okay to let your design admit that you don't have much content - would anyone hold it against you?

So yeah, I'm with you, Matthew. I'd rather see a band's website that's an ugly, monochrome, Courier-based hellhole (like my friend's band's website) than one with obnoxious bells and whistles.

02 Mar 2005 | Chriztian Steinmeier said...

*Chuckle* - someone obviously didn't read your book :-)

02 Mar 2005 | Jamie said...

I was actually able to click on the mp3, and TBH in this case the site design actually does fit the personality of the music. Self-indulgent, irritating, and definitely "trying to be cool". I suppose it is a successful site in the conceptual sense.

02 Mar 2005 | Melanie M said...

Ugh. Band web sites drive me insane.

I try not to visit them unless I have to, and even then I am usually just trying to check out a new single or find out if they're coming to town. Why must they make it so hard?

Here's one to hurt your eyes:
http://www.menomena.com

02 Mar 2005 | Philip Fierlinger said...

How about cool and functional?

EverythingTori.com

Does that work? Or is it still missing the mark?

02 Mar 2005 | Justin Perkins said...

My god Melanie, that is insane.

02 Mar 2005 | Adam said...

I actually just heard Jacob Nielsen scream.

02 Mar 2005 | Will said...

By the same token, CD art should be plain and easy to understand because nobody wants to have to search around to find the song listings. And the band's tshirts should be easy to read, high contrast line art. And the posters should be legible from 30 feet away and include clear, textual descriptions of all concepts expressed therein.

Or maybe not, because that's stupid, as is wanting every band website to be simple clean and information-based.

Bands are all about the selling of cool. Why should their websites be any different?

02 Mar 2005 | hartmurmur said...

David Wilcox* has a nice-looking yet simple site design...and a simple flash music player as well.

David Wilcox

Huge fan since 1991. I love his mastery of the acoustic guitar and his great storytelling through music.

02 Mar 2005 | duff said...

Flash that takes any time at all to load drives me nuts too. I'm on DSL, but I'm extremely impatient--1 or 2 seconds to load or I'm gone, unless I went to that site to play with some Flash app on purpose. I'm with Nielsen on this one.

Tori Amos' and David Wilcox's sites are both ultra-cool and ultra-usable. You can and should have both!

(I'm not a fan of the Flash "splash intro" on Wilcox's site though; anything that needs a "skip intro" button means that the intro will be skipped by most visitors--including me.)

02 Mar 2005 | Jake Nickell said...

But when it comes to your website, what’s cool is giving people the info they want without making ‘em jump through hoops.

I'm not so sure about this - I'm usually not in a hurry to find specific information when I go to a band's site. I just go to it to see what they're about, see a little personality, etc. If it's information I'm looking for I'll go through a site more suitable such as Pollstar for show listings, etc...

03 Mar 2005 | Miguel Marcos said...

I continue to be amazed at how so many groups and musicians use Flash on their web site and don't understand why.

Miguel

03 Mar 2005 | Warren said...

I actually think you are being a little harsh on this one. The implementation is not great granted but whats the big deal?

Are we getting to the stage where we are going to berate anyone for trying somthing different? (whether its meant to be cool or not)

Someone tried somthing ok it doesnt work the best but comments like 'thats the worst website i have seen' etc are just nonsence and sould be relative to the person viewing.

The difficulty here is you highlight a site as being 'a bad implementation of UI and usability' and people just jump on the band wagon.

So guys here is the question who is going to write down (or draw down) how they can improve it? Were all quite happy to this is bad, but hey if your going to teach them a lesson - then TEACH them a lesson.

I may be speaking out of turn but i feel you've done these guys a bit of an injustice here.

03 Mar 2005 | MJ said...

Ugly! It should recieve an award just for that!

03 Mar 2005 | Patrick Morris said...

I thought the website was annoying at first, but then I remembered that I'm boring and think cool is a backwards hat.

03 Mar 2005 | Don Schenck said...

Minimalism is the coolest. I bet Jack Nicholson wouldn't use Flash. I bet Carrot Top does!

03 Mar 2005 | wes said...

i hear you bro. these big, overdramatic flash intros must die. someone check out the norma jean website (Forgot the link, google it tof ind). and see the madness that their site contains.

03 Mar 2005 | Julian Scarfe said...

This is the kind of blog that attracts folks interested in usability. Many readers seem to be from a school of 'hyper-optimized usability above all else" - above style, above brand, above freeform experementation, etc.
I'm not sure I'd personally ever subscribe 100% to that view, but it's a valid outlook when it comes to accessing government information or online banking.
While optimized usability should always 'weigh in', I don't think it should weigh as heavily for all web projects. and a band site (and i'm not saying this is a good one) is an example of a web form where visual identity and experimentation with interactive forms may do more for the target audience (and for the 'artist') than an ultra-clean, optimized-usability design.

If you think the Wilcox site (after the flash intro) is cool, you've been in the corporate world way too long. The Amos site is a little more fun graphically, but still feels like a skin on a blog/CMS. which is fine, but 'ultra-cool' would be one hell of an overstatement.

03 Mar 2005 | jb said...

It is too bad that menomena!'s website is so completely irritating. They're pretty good. I have long been confused by the overabundance of flash on most band websites. It is a waste of time. There are generally 2 primary reasons anybody would go to a band's site: to find out what you sound like, and to find out where you are playing. All the rest of the information is secondary.

When designing my own band's site, I went for a minimal amount of graphical intensity, 0 flash, and the ability to degrade across browsers. At the time, I used the bluerobot 2 column design. As it is, I've been meaning to clean it up some, since even that is more complicated than what I need (and i figured out a couple of things about css layouts since then).

I would wager that the preponderance of flash is directly proportional to the number of bands who know some graphic designer dude who just got out of school and wants to show off.

Then again, I enjoy sweeping generalizations.

03 Mar 2005 | beto said...

When you happen to do UX research and development for a living, it is just too easy to get consumed by that line of thought and shun all sites that seemingly don't give a hoot about usability, focusing only in the "wow factor". An usability nazi, for short. I know that - it happens to me. I just have no patience for sites pretending to inmerse myself in an "experience" of sorts, when all I wanted was to pick up some bits of info and (in the case of a band's site) download a song or two, in a hurry.

Now, I'm not anti-Flash or anti-art or anti-whatever - Contemplative, "experience" art has its place and time - but not when and where your primal focus should be to deliver the information your clients/fans want with the least amount of possible hassle and time delay... as in the Web itself. Entertainment sites should become less "cool" and more useful.

03 Mar 2005 | Vayder said...

I think its about following the crowd, since all the other band sites have flash and are cool and mysterious then they need to be too. Flash isn't necessary. Its possible to simulate motion using simple html rollover images. I did this with my site. I think EVERY book, design site, knowledge base etc. that I researched when learning about web design said never use the flash intro and make your site quick loading and easy to understand.

03 Mar 2005 | Seth W. said...

The Norma Jean website is normajeannoise.com, and it's chock full of flash and such. Kinda hard to link to anything on their site.

03 Mar 2005 | Justin said...

Why not have it both ways? Provide a site that is graphically "cool" and easy to use, while providing Flash "experiential" content as optional extras. I think the reason most people hate Flash intros is that they are forced on you and a barrier to get to what you were looking for. Why not have a Nielsen-inspired homepage that links to a Flash intro or an online music video? That way people searching for a bit of info can find it quickly, and those who want a richer multimedia expereince and are willing to wait for it are satisfied as well.

I agree that links running away from you is a really bad idea.

Although I think a lot of Flash usage falls into the just-because-you-can-dosen't-mean-you-should category, it can be really cool, and despite the issues of download time, linking, searching, et al., it survives. I'm reminded of the humorous ALA article on it: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/sympathy/

I actually enjoy using Flash for things like kiosks and presentations where many of the web-specific issues are irrelevant (designing with usability in mind, of course).

04 Mar 2005 | shane oconnor said...

i couldnt disagree more with your example. i really liked that website, it didnt take long for it to load (at least for me)

maybe the internet needs to slow itself down and be a little artful sometimes.

but i can see how some websites that related to creative things can be over the top, example: the nine inch nails website for about two years.

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