Why The Flashiest website Might Not Sell Your Product

It seems that as every day passes, websites pop up on the Internet that feature the "latest and greatest" special effects to dazzle the visitor. These effects, while impressive, may in some cases actually be a turn off to your potential customers, in effect sending them away to look at your competitors’ sites instead of yours. The spectacular sounds and scenes that fill the screen with color and movement are great for selling the latest video games or promoting the latest science fiction movie… however, they would look hopelessly out of place on a site selling lawn and garden equipment or wedding supplies.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding on how to present the content on your site.

How long will the site take to download? These effects can extend the time your site takes to download from several seconds to several minutes. In these times when the majority of Internet users still rely on 56K dial-up modem connections, your potential customers’ patience will be severely tested by having to wait 3 to 5 minutes in order to view a 10 second video clip. According to several sources, 80 percent of Internet users will leave a site if the download is not complete in 30 seconds.

Is a special "plug-in" required to view the site? Many of the new "special effects" require that a visitor leave your site in order to download a special program called a "plug-in" and install it on their computer. Before you decide whether to use these effects, consider these things first: 

  • You have just spent a lot of time and money in marketing to get the visitor to your site. The last thing you want to do is tell them to leave, even to get the "plug-in".
  • They may not return.  Many people, due to fear of viruses and hacker attacks, are still wary of downloading anything from the Internet to install on their computer. If they are required to do this, they may decide that your site is not worth the security risk.
  • The time involved to go to the "plug-in" site, download the program, install it, and possibly reboot their computer. Many visitors may decide that your site is just not worth the hassle involved. 

Will your site work on all Web browsers? Many of the special effects available today are designed specifically for either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator/Communicator. In addition, there are a large number of Internet users who use AOL or one of the other services who supply their own proprietary browsers. Again, the last thing you want to do is limit the content on your site to specific users based on the browser they have chosen to use. It is generally considered amateurish to use the "this site best viewed with (browser name)" logo on your site. If your visitor is not using the browser specified, they may very well go looking for a site that they can view.

Will your site look good on all monitors? While monitor sizes of 17", 19" and even 21" are becoming commonplace, there are still many users who still have their trusty 14" monitors in use. A site requiring a resolution of more than 640 x 480 becomes difficult for these users, requiring scrolling to view the entire width of the page. As in #3, it is considered amateurish to use the "this site best viewed at (resolution)".

There are many other factors to consider in the presentation of your website. The important thing to remember is this: that once a visitor reaches your site, the last thing you want to do is give them a reason to leave. You are presenting an image of professionalism and credibility to market your business online. It is your choice to decide if the "flashy" effects are truly beneficial to promoting your business, or if they will potentially cause the visitor to decide that your site is not worth the time to navigate.

June 1, 2000

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