So, here’s my long and rambling answer with reference to why I found Coke’s effort so objectionable. I reserve the right to revise this when get some time to actually think about what I’m saying.
It’s all very boring and of no interest so feel free to avert your eyes now.
To me a web site is characterised by presenting timely, accurate information to the site visitor in an easily navigable manner. I assume web site visitors come to a site to find information they wish to use and anything that confuses the visitor or places unnecessary obstacles in the way of finding this information should be removed. I also assume most visitors are using a dial up (slow) modem.
Now let’s look at the Coke (www.cocacola.com.au) site. I went there looking for information on the new Vanilla Coke product. What was my experience like?
I type in the url and instantly I presented with my first obstacle – it looks like Coke but tells me I need something called ‘Flash 4’ and a version 4 or above browser. Stop your average person in the street and ask them what Flash is – 9 out of 10 will have it installed (according to Macromedia but I am willing to guess that less than 2 in 10 will know what it is. And off the top of your head what version browser are you running? It’s never a good idea to exclude viewers before they even get in to the site.
So I check the plug-ins (what’s a plug-in? I hear 90% of users ask). If I don’t have the plug-ins do you think I will go through the bother of getting them? Probably not. There go a heap of visitors already.
Let’s assume I have the plug-ins and I press enter.
I then have to wait while this huge flash file downloads – waiting is the enemy when it comes to web sites, people will more often than not try another site if they have to wait. Finally the file downloads – what now?
Where’s their product list? Hmmmm. I don’t think it’s any of the four strange looking things over to the right hand side. (What’s ‘Coke Buddy’ mean? And ‘Mobile Coke’? Is that a special sort of Coke for your phone? Weird choice of words – they may appeal to the hip young crowd, bit I ain’t one of them and I want to know stuff too). That moving text that says ‘Join Now’ – join what? And why have that picture of the bottle with the url? I know where I am, I’ve had to jump through enough hoops to get this far. I point my mouse on it and nothing happens unlike everything else on the page. Non consistent navigation confuses people.
Let’s try the ‘About Coca Cola’ link. Ah Ha – nothing happens. Why? It’s a pop up window and certain browsers don’t allow them. I only know this because I work with the net all day everyday – imagine how confusing it would be to someone who had no idea. The site doesn’t even let you know that it will open a pop up window so you don’t even get the chance to change your browser settings (assuming you know how to).
So now I’ve switched to a browser that will allow pop up windows and what do I get – a good old fashioned web page that doesn’t require any of the technology I was told I had to have to view the site. But can this page help me? Nope – the closest I can get is information on current advertising, and that’s 12 months out of date. Finally I shut my browser, go to the fridge and get a Pepsi.
So what lessons have we’ve learnt about what characterises a good web site just from the Coke site? :
A good site :
- Should not exclude viewers based on their technology before they even get in to the site.
- Should not make viewers wait for pages to download.
- Should cater to a broad audience by using inclusive language.
- Provide information that is current and accurate
This site smacks of being made for the people at Coca Cola, not for the public.
How would I approach the site differently?
Change the index page – make it plain HTML so every browser can read it.
I’d then provide the viewer with options by splitting the site into sub sections. The hip young groovsters can have their flash enabled, bandwidth intensive bit, we oldies can find out the information how we want. I’d use colour and sparse graphics, provide a consistent navigation bar at the top of each page, tell people where they are on the site and let them see how to get to other parts of the site they may want to visit.
I?d expand the content beyond the mere promotional. They should at the very least offer easily accessible corporate and product information. Imagine if you had an allergy or some such condition (not too much of a stretch for you Nigel) and wanted to know if Vanilla Coke was safe to drink? Or even where you can buy Coke products, or how long will it be available for?
I won’t get started on the Bostik or Pepsi sites, I can go on for hours.