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Q: How can you tell that money's been wasted on a web site?

Frank Wales

Imagine calling the normal telephone number for a company. When the phone is answered, you hear this:

Thank you for calling the Foo Corporation. Before we connect you to the number you dialled, here's famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti singing our new company anthem:

'We are Foo! We're here to service you!
We take the time to hear what you say,
Then do what you want in the nicest way.

'We are Foo! We've goodness through and through!
Our prices are keen, and so are our wits,
Our products all work or we blow them to bits.

'We are Foo! To serve is what we do! ...'

And so on.

If this is the first time you've called, and you have nothing else to do, you might just take the time to listen to an expensive singer holding up your attempted transaction.

But if you're like most people, and especially if this isn't the first time you called, you might actually want to get put through rather than waiting for an unknown further quantity of trite lyrics and dulcet tones to go by.

Now this is clearly a silly example. No business with even a modicum of sense would blow a large amount of cash on something that just gets in their customers' way when trying to call them. No offence to Signor Pavarotti, who is a wonderful singer, but forcing every customer to listen to him before putting their calls through would just be dumb.

So why is it that there are still web sites around that insist on making visitors sit through the downloading and playing of some elaborate Flash-type presentation, before then letting them get to the real site? What do the people who design and build these things think is the nature of web site visits, that it's okay to spend time and money on these 'introductions'?

Some creators of these things clearly realise that they're actually wasting visitors' time, since they put Skip Intro links on them. But this just highlights that they're really a waste of the client's money. It's like adding the feature to our Luciano telephone anthem where the caller can press '#' to skip the song, and just get connected to the person she phoned in the first place. So why's the song there again? Who exactly benefits from the song?

Similarly, who benefits from skippable intros on web sites? Not the visitors, who skip them. And not the client, who paid for the thing that's being skipped.

So, going back to the question asked in the subject line: "How can you tell that money's been wasted on a web site?" my answer would be: "It contains the phrase Skip Intro."

If a site would benefit from Flash presentations, make them available through the regular site, draw attention to them as a feature, and let those who want them choose to get them. But don't waste money creating intros for the home page, whether they're skippable or not.

Your customers will thank you for it, and so will your shareholders, even if Luciano's agent wouldn't.