Goodies to Go ™
June 1, 2000–Newsletter #82
Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com
Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
Did you hear…
Victoria just can’t keep a secret. If the numbers are true,
the latest Victoria’s Secret online fashion show was the
most-viewed Internet event in history. I wrote a couple of
jokes on this subject but decided not to run them.
Have you seen all the Metallica hate sites out there since
they fought against Napster? Whew! People are cheesed. In
response to Metallica supplying the names of over 300,000
screen users they claim violated copyright, Napster removed
all of those accounts. Now rap artist Dr. Dre. is asking for
the same thing. The problem is that there are an estimated
935,000 mp3’s of Dr. Dre’s music out there floating around.
Gosh. Pandora’s box has been opened and it won’t close easily.
I’m always writing about what the U.S. government is doing
for the Net community. Well, here’s some great news from the
European Union regarding regulations on electronic
communications. They wish to fully ban unwanted email. In
short, kill the spam. Good for them. Once they find a way to
do it, show us. I’d love to get a few less stock tips this
There is a new computer virus out there. It doesn’t have a
set name. It usually sends itself in the form of a forward,
so “FW:” will be in the subject line. The file inside will
have the extension .vbs. Don’t touch it. Delete it.
Honestly, I have just gotten to the point where I open no
attachments–period. Even if I know who they are from, I
don’t do it. People who email me know I won’t open the
attachment. They paste it into the body of the email. It’s
just getting silly, folks.
Now on to today’s topic…
I’ll bet the vast majority of you have never been to these
two sites: Boo.com and DEN.net. Both of these over-written,
super-programmed sites expired last week for a multitude of
reasons, which I’ll get into in a moment.
DEN.net was a Hollywood-based site that delivered Net-based
entertainment, while Boo.com was London-based and sold only
the most hip fashions to the coolest of people … who never
At last count, Boo.com had spent over $120 million and was
turned down for another $30 million loan; that sealed the
DEN ignored industry reports that the “convergence” between
television and the Web simply wouldn’t happen. They went
forward, clogged modems, and died of a cyber-heart attack.
One of the things I try to get across on the HTML Goodies
Web site is that just because you can do something doesn’t
mean you should do something. The browser wars, although
close to being over (thanks to Navigator 6.0), are still
going on. Proprietary commands that only run in one browser
or the other still pop up and ruin a nice day of surfing.
Pages that are constructed for display more than for content
take forever to load and leave the user feeling let down
when he or she realizes the long download wait was simply
for an over-blown animation that reads “Welcome, Click to
Enter” in letters that rocked back and forth.
The demise of these two sites had far less to do with what
they sold and far more to do with what they were: monoliths
so over-programmed that any ease of use or surfing enjoyment
Here’s an example. To see DEN’s home page, you had to first
download a plug-in that would run the animation. If you
didn’t have the plug-in, you received–get this–a blank
Boo.com couldn’t decide what it was: a store, a magazine
(Boom) or an online guide (Miss Boo). When customers
attempted to “shop”, an animated salesperson assisted. It’s
a great idea in theory, but AOL users would have to wait a
full minute just for the images to say hello. All of a
sudden the hip blue shirt wasn’t so hip anymore. Besides,
they have blue shirts at Eddiebauer.com. AskJeeves.com has
a great, animated guy. He just doesn’t jump around and waste
I’ve read multiple articles on the demise of these two sites,
and there is total agreement that the sites did not die
because of market share, product, or economic forces. They
basically shot themselves in the foot by trying to create a
site that would be so jam-packed that you couldn’t take your
eyes off it…even when it was taking forever to load.
I know I’ve said this to hundreds of students and written it
in probably too many of my tutorials, but I can only go
“Ooooooo!” once when I see a great effect. Past that, it’s
download time I’d rather spend doing things on your site.
Those of you who have a site, and I know almost all of you
do, ask yourselves this question: What is my killer app?
“Killer app” is fancy computer terminology for “great
application”. The telephone’s killer app is that it allows
you to talk to other people. A stove’s killer app is that it
cooks your food. Google’s killer app is that it catalogs
and searches Web pages for you. A personal Web site has a
killer app … you!
What is the one thing your site does? If you say your site
does multiple things, maybe you should think about creating
more than one site to cover each killer app. Yahoo.com does
multiple things, but each of those is done through a separate
web site, not all from the main site. All Yahoo.com does is
search. That’s a killer app. If your personal Web site tells
all about you and has a fan page for the Cleveland Browns…
maybe you need to break that into two sites. One killer app
per site is enough. Make links for sure, but one site should
do one thing.
Amazon sells. eBay auctions. CNN tells the news.
So ask yourself, what is your site’s killer app? Once you
narrow that down, look at your site and be very honest about
what you see.
Are there elements on your Web site that do not aid in the
completion of your killer app?
The roll-overs on the links are aiding the killer app by
aiding the user. They help with navigation, but do you really
need the DHTML bird image flying all around the screen? Say
that in the upper left hand corner of your page dedicated to
running clock. Is that required? Maybe–if it gave the date
in star-date. That would add to the killer app.
What about that scrolling text down in the status bar? The
one that reads “Thanks for coming to the page” one letter at
a time. The one that obstructs the URL of the link when the
user puts a pointer on a hypertext link. Is that contributing
to the killer app?
Now, please understand me. I am not telling you to tear your
site down to the bare bones. It is all of these fancy little
coding deals that add fire to Web sites. Maybe the flying
DHTML bird doesn’t go on your site so well, but on that Star
Trek page, it would look pretty cool as the Starship Enterprise.
I hate that people lost money and I hate that people lost
jobs at Boo and DEN, but their demise should act as a
wake-up call to those who design Web sites that over-
production can hurt your chances of success.
Remember that you program for your visitors more than you
program for yourself. What will help them? What will aid
them in seeing and enjoying your site’s killer app?
People will sit through a long download time if the results
will be helpful to them. Anything past that makes too many
people roll their eyes.
Take a hint from Boo and DEN, for those who fail to learn
from history are doomed to repeat it.
That’s that. Can you tell I’m writing a design book? Ugh!
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: Have you ever said “Roger Wilco”? Do you know
what “wilco” means? It’s a shortened version of “will comply”.