Ga-Ga Over Go?

I try very hard to steer away from beating up on one particular web site or another. After all, let he who is without blame cast the first stone and all that good stuff.

So before anything else, let me invite all the people responsible for writing the introductory tour copy at the Go Network to visit forkinthehead.com and tear it to shreds in the public forum of their choosing. I didn’t write it all, but I’ll take my share of any inbound forks.

Down to business. I went to the Go Network in search of good stuff. It’s a newish site, launched with great fanfare. I’m probably the last person in this business to check it out.

I get to the home page and find it has a LOT of words on it. So I look around for the “keystone” line or statement. You know, something to tell me what this site is about. Why I should be here. What’s the point of this place.

But I find nothing. There is a green light graphic that accompanies the words, “Go Network.” But that doesn’t leave me any wiser.

Perhaps I should click on something and find out.

Trouble is, on my first screen alone, there were no fewer than 56 clickable links. Shall I check them out? I don’t think so. If I want that kind of work, I’ll sign up for a degree course.

But the smart people at Infoseek/Disney/Go etc. had anticipated my short attention span and limited patience. So they gave me a “Take a Tour” button. Excellent. Really. I think first-timer tours are a great idea — especially when your site is as complex and crowded as the Go site.

So now we get down to the words. I’m going to start quoting from the Go Network Tour Page.

“If you’re like us (and you probably are)….”

I beg your pardon? I can tell you right now that I am almost certainly NOTHING like you, whoever you may, collectively, be. What a crazy way to open.

A few lines later: “Like you, we love the Internet.”

Who says I love the Internet?

“We love its diversity and the way it helps you in ways you never dreamt possible.”

Are you nuts? I want a forkin’ tour! I don’t want an assessment of what you mistakenly assume my views on the Internet to be.

“Sometimes it can even make us heroes in our own lives.”

I’m not kidding, this is part of their introduction to the Go tour. What the heck has this got to do with introducing me to the Go Network?

I’m reminded of the classic movie line where the hero is in a restaurant, and the waiter says something like, “Hi, my name is Bryan and I’ll be your server today.” To which our hero replies something like, “Hey, I came here for a meal, not a relationship.”

Well, Mr. Go Network, I came here to find out what this place is for, not a relationship.

So now comes a classic line: “GO Network was built for people like us.”

Well, I hope you’re going to be very happy, because I’m getting really bored hearing about you and your special feelings about the Internet.

Anyway, I’m puzzled, but none the wiser. I still have no idea what Go Network is about. So I click to start my Quicktour.

“Welcome,” it says. Can’t fault that. But I am puzzled by the picture of the frog’s legs.

Anyway, here comes the text: “Check out the valuable tools and information we’re putting at your fingertips and remarkable personalization that lets you make our site uniquely yours.”

(Those of you who follow this column will know that I’m going to get a little steamed here. Twenty three words is way too long, especially with no punctuation.)

But we’ll let that go for now. What exactly are they trying to say here? As with everywhere else, they’re writing from their own perspective, about themselves, with no apparent understanding of the audience they’re trying to reach.

It’s at the end of that sentence that they give themselves away: ” that lets you make our site uniquely yours.”

Gotta make up your mind here. Is this site “ours” or “yours”?

I have no idea what they’re trying to say. But here’s the subtext…

“This is our site. It’s ours and you’re jolly lucky that we’ve made some spiffy tools and that we’re going to let you share our dream.”

Finally, a big line at the end of the page says, “Are you ready to go?”

Oh yes. I’m ready to go anywhere. So long as it involves applying pressure to the back button.

Now I feel bad. I’ve trashed the work of some perfectly nice people and they’re probably much bigger than me.

So here’s what I’ll do in next week’s article. I’ll do the “constructive criticism” thing. I’ll rewrite the Intro and Welcome pages in a way that I think will work much better for them.

The secret of my approach?

I’m going to write it from the perspective of the site users not the site creators!

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