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Aardvark Weekly 27 August 99
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Dateline: 7 December 1999 All Day Edition
Read Yesterday's Edition

Editorial
The Online Cretins Strike Again
From this week's Infotech Weekly:

NATIONAL music retail chain Sounds launches a $1 million e-commerce and shopping Web site this week, offering New Zealanders local access to 22,000 CDs, music gig listings and an online radio station

Sounds great eh? Another cool place to do your e-Christmas shopping!

So I fired up my Netscape 4.6 and headed for the virtual CD bins.

Unbelievable!

Now I'm pretty fly (for a white guy) -- I have Real Player, I have the latest Microsoft media player, I have Flash 3 -- but still I wasn't allowed in.

What on earth is the point in spending a million bucks on a website, only to turn away the vast majority of NZ Web surfers who haven't yet downloaded and installed the latest Flash 4 plug-in?

In a patronising tone the, the front page of the site says:

If you don't have Flash Player, click here to download the player! It'll be worth it!

They almost make it sound like it's optional eh?

At Christmas time, people's time is usually in pretty short supply -- that's one of the reasons they will be turning to the Web to do their shopping. To demand -- yes, DEMAND that they spend time downloading and installing a plugin (more than likely with the obligatory Windows reboot) is patently stupid!

I'm sure that animation is just fabulous -- let's hope it impresses enough people to make up for the fact that most users will simply click away to one of the growing number of other local online music e-tailers.

One must also wonder at the stupidity behind choosing Apple QuickTime as the audio/video standard on the site. Do these cretins not realise that every Windows machine already has MS Media Player and the vast majority also have the Real Player but, according to the latest figures I could find, less than 5 percent of PC users have QuickTime installed.

Anyone who's tried to download and install Apple's QuickTime product on a PC will realise that it's not always a simple or foolproof operation -- so, once again, why are these people making life so hard for their potential customers?

Here's my prediction for the week:

Very, very soon you will find that this site drops the mandatory Flash requirement and you'll also see an MS Media Player and/or Real Media version of the multi-media content.

You'd think that for a million bucks they could have employed someone who at least surveyed the market to have a say in the site's design and choice of technologies.

Why is it that so many "designers" just keep making the same mistakes? How many times have we seen majorly expensive sites rendered almost useless because some idiot has decided to show the world how clever they are and wrap the damned thing in Flash rather than use it sparingly but effectively?

I'm not against Flash ... there are some *very* impressively economic uses of this product around -- the I'm afraid that this site looks like yet another sad case of too much money and not enough sense.

What is wrong with NZ retailers? Why on earth can't they just build a sensible, easily accessible, functional, cost-effective e-tail site instead of trying to be the biggest, best, or "Flash"est?

Tell Me
During my comments on the Flying Pig site I received a few emails from people who pointed out that there *are* some damned fine e-tail sites on the NZ Web. These sites are, more often than not, built and operated by much smaller retailers than either the Pig-People or Sounds.

If you have a favourite online shopping site, tell me and I'll publish a list later this week so hopefully we can save ourselves some time and money without having to spend needless time and money upgrading and reconfiguring our PCs first.

 


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