Ooh, Good. Eww, Bad.

By | January 28, 2007

The Good: http://www.imdb.com

What qualities make up a good website? Pages that load fast. A reliable site search engine that returns relevant results. Page layouts that are easy to navigate. Unobtrusive advertising.

A good website should know its audience and cater to that particular audience. And it should fulfill users’ expectations with the least amount of stress. Based on these factors, the Internet Movie Database is a very good website.

IMDB.com is not visually stunning. But what it lacks in aesthetic “wow,” it more than makes up for in functionality and volume of information. The site is targeted at movie fans, celebrity hounds and film & TV professionals. IMDB.com offers users a deep well of archived and updated movie information – a huge library of bits, hyperlinks, photos and more.

Because exceedingly large amounts of data can overwhelm a website and bewilder its users, web sites with enormous catalogs of information need to offer a highly navigable structure that is both intuitive and obvious. IMDB.com accomplishes this. No matter which actor or movie I’m interested in, I can find information about him or her or the film at IMDB.com.

An obvious site search box appears at the top of every page. The search engine’s parameters are very flexible and consistently return pertinent results. The simplistic three-column layout features static navigation on the left and plenty of white space. Individual movie and actor pages all follow the same conventions.

Best of all, a vast web of hyperlinks helps users jump from one subject to the next, whether it be actor bios, movie, director, photo galleries or message boards. Those hyperlinks make the site very “sticky.”

Other positives that IMDB has going for it:

• Personalization. Registered users can make their own movie lists.

• Consistency. Users can easily navigate the site because of the uniform layouts

• Interactivity. Registered users can submit movie plot summaries, contribute mini-biographies of celebrities, report omissions and errors, and participate in message board discussions.

• Immediacy. The content is continually archived, updated, expanded and fun.

It’s no surprise that the folks who run IMDB.com are connected with Amazon.com.

The Bad: http://msdewey.com

I’ve quoted him before and I’ll do it again. Vincent Flanders of www.webpagesthatsuck.com says that most people visit a website to solve one or more of the following three problems.

    • They want/need information.
    • They want/need to make a purchase or donation.
    • They want/need to be entertained.

Msdewey.com attempts to accomplish the “information” and “entertainment” parts for users, but doesn’t succeed. Clearly, this website was not developed with users in mind. The site puts form before function.

Msdewey.com is a Flash-driven experimental search engine created by Microsoft. After a brief load time, the site features a black and grey cityscape background with the character of Ms. Dewey moving around on the left side. The actual search engine box rests at the bottom of the page in the middle, while search results appear on the upper right.

Ms. Dewey is portrayed by actress Janina Gavankar – www.janinagavankar.com. The character comes across as an alluring woman, dressed in black with a neckline that accentuates her cleavage. The site has been described by some as a “sexy search engine.”

But Msdewey.com is the kind of website that requires only one visit. The site, so unlike Google or Yahoo, is like a carnival oddity. Any visual appeal that Ms. Dewey captures at first glance quickly deteriorates once she starts talking.

Ms. Dewey has got an attitude. It’s cute at first. “Can I help you find something?” she purrs.

But wait a few seconds and Ms. Dewey will be smirking, staring at you and making fun of you. She’s really pushy.

“Hello!” she says, sarcastically. “Type something here!”

Users can watch and listen to Ms. Dewey talk on her cell phone, flip through a magazine, and try to be funny. (She’s not.)

Probably the worst aspect of the site is that after you are mocked and prodded, you click on a URL in the search results and it will pop up in a new window. Ms. Dewey, meanwhile, will continue to yell at you from the previous window.

Yes, Ms. Dewey does come with a MUTE button. But after one visit to this flashy peculiarity of a search engine, most users will vow to never stray from Google again.


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