Arguments I Keep Losing

Ever since I started covering the Internet full-time in 1994, certain practices have just ticked me off.

No matter how much I argued against them, I was shouted down. I’m still arguing, and, apparently, I’m still getting shouted down, although I still think I’m right.

Let’s review some of those arguments:

    Front doors.
    When Interactive Age launched its online component in 1994, our art director insisted on a huge (by the standards of the time) 70-kilobyte logo on the home page and became angry when it turned out people were skipping it and bookmarking my column instead.

    There’s still a lot of leeway in the art department. That must be why I keep seeing these huge, inane “splash screens” covering up home pages. If you can find the little “skip” button you can reach the real home page, but what a waste of time. Can’t you understand that the purpose of your web site is to provide service, and your commercial isn’t a service?

    Contact info.
    A decade ago, all press releases came to me with the names and phone numbers of contacts on them. Today, on the web, that’s rare. It’s getting worse. Press contacts are nowhere on a site. I can call the main number, but I don’t know whom to ask for. Then there’s the “inquiry form” that sites put down that seems designed solely to facilitate the mailing of brochures.

    When this practice started in 1995, the argument was made that spammers were trolling sites for this contact information and using it. Later it was alleged that customers were using the phone numbers as complaint lines. Look, if you don’t want to be reached, get out of business. If you want to be in business, give me a way to reach you. (Do the same for your customers while you’re at it.)

    I’m glad to see that ClickZ has launched a column on links. Attitudes toward them have been schizophrenic ever since the mid-1990s. Links make the web the web. Without them you might as well be killing trees.

    Yet I keep hearing this guff from site managers that links risk “losing control” of users, as though they owned me because I was on their pages. If links are offered in news stories, they’re usually offered just to home pages, which is like being dropped by the side of a freeway as in the movie “Being John Malkovich.” Or links open in a new browser window (as though people didn’t have “back” buttons).

    Multiple pages.
    There’s no limit to the “size” of a web page. You can scroll down forever. And every page with text requires scrolling. Why then do we put stories on multiple pages?

    The only argument I can understand is greed. We want to load a few more sets of ads. But if I’m deep into a story I’m very unlikely to be looking at ads, just as I keep my eye on the copy when I go to a “jump page” in a magazine. Some people have tried to argue that this is a design feature. I don’t buy it.

I don’t know if this column has been worthwhile for you, but I know I feel better.

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