Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Crap-Free Web Campaign

The web is a wonderful place. But it sometimes seems that it’s going the route of trash TV, and of graffiti vandalism being called art. In the course of our business and life, we look at way too many websites (especially travel sites) on a daily basis. There is so much crap, intrusive crap, annoying crap, and just plain bad crap on websites now. Not that I’ll ever be able to do anything about it, except ignore those sites completely that don’t respect my sensibilities.

Complaint #1 – The “dancing moron” ads. Most of these are from LowerMyBills and ClassesUSA (both Experian companies – yes, the credit agency folks). Maybe I’m not in their target demographic and just don’t get it, but I will never patronize any business which annoys me so much so frequently.

Complaint #2 – “Enter” pages on websites. I don’t want to see your gauzy, too-cool intro pages. I don’t want to wait (even with broadband) until I finally see a “skip intro” button. I just want to see your damn information.

Complaint #3 – Unwanted noise, music, narration on any website, for anything. I like Yakima car racks, but their moronic little narrator “coach” drives me away from their products. Especially when I can’t get him to shut up. Mobal’s world cell-phone site has another very annoying narration with no easy "SHUT-UP" option.

Complaint #4 – Browser pop-up blockers have finally helped control pop-up and pop-under annoyances, but some still get through. The latest are the “floater” or “fly-over” ads, the little boxes which run across your screen too fast to hit the close X (unless you’re a better gamer than I am), and which obstructs the article you really want to read.

Complaint #5 – Spam. Yea, it isn’t directly a website issue, but every website should be conscious of the ways in which it may inadvertently help promote spam. Spammers are the lowest form of life on the planet – another form of vandalism, just like graffiti. If caught, spammers (and graffiti vandals) should have one testicle removed upon first offense, and the second one if caught again. At least that way they can’t breed.

Much of my past professional career was in marketing and advertising. I understand what all the above techniques are trying to accomplish, and certain (questionable) studies show that even annoyances, especially in advertising, create name recognition (the theory that “bad publicity is better than no publicity”). Maybe that once worked for toilet-paper purchases in the grocery store, where you grabbed whatever name first came to mind, not remembering that it was a negative connotation. Maybe I’m in the minority, and annoying web ads, noise, and navigation really do work in today’s sound-bite world. I hope not, because there aren’t many ad-free and noise-free places left in the world. Maybe I’ll start by moving to a state (Maine, Vermont, Alaska, and Hawaii, last I knew) or community with an anti-billboard law.