3 things a News Website should NOT do

There’s a conference in Brighton this week, and one of the industry media – GamesIndustry.biz – has a base here, so they’ve been cropping up a lot in the reporting. In passing, I noticed some glaring howlers in their web-design. The 1990’s called, they want their web-design templates back…

Three glaring errors I noticed in particular. One of these they’re in good company – it’s the same thing Rupert Murdoch has done, along with sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming “NA, NA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! GO AWAY AND TAKE YOUR STUPID INTERNET-THINGY WITH YOU, YOU FREELOADING BASTARDS!” (not a literal quote, of course). Although a lot of people seem to think that’s a weak strategy even for the mighty news empire…

1. Sell a large number of Flash ads, and put them ALL in the same place. At the same time

What do you see when you view a page on this site?

If you have a laptop, and you surf their site, does the battery last noticeably less than normal? (hint: yes, it should – I’ve seen this happen on a wide variety of PC and Mac laptops)

Why?

Because they put not 1, not 2, not even 5 … not even TEN … but up to FIFTEEN SEPARATE FLASH ADS all animated SIMULTANEOUSLY on every page.

Flash wasn’t designed for this – the flash runtime can overhwelm a modern computer with just 1 rogue flash app; 15 is begging for trouble.

I suspect (because some of my former employers used to purchase them, regularly) that these “mini-ads” are a decent source of revenue for GI.biz. It’s a pity then that they’re mostly Flash, because that means an awful lot of people in the target audience (game developers), see something like this:

Screen shot 2010-07-14 at 20.09.40

Incidentally, I offer a tip-of-the-hat to Relentless, whose animated-GIF has so many frames of animation that it smoothly animates some stuff that looks straight out of a Flash ad. Smart move on their behalf – they DIDN’T use a Flash movie.

OMGWTFBBQ! That must take TONNES of animating frames! Why, yes – it uses an *unholy* 50 kilobytes, just to display one ickle GIF. Shocking. And yet … in 2010 … such a tiny tiny file in the scheme of things that it suffers nothing for not being Flash. (Flash was originally needed because internet bandwidth was poor; it only gradually grew into the all-singing, all-dancing beast we love today)

2. Hide all your content. Keep your news … secret

Try viewing any article on the site.

Follow any link that a friend sends you via email

Click on a link in any blog post or forum post.

Actually … you’ll have some trouble there. Lots of blogs and forums no longer link to GI.biz. Why?

Because anyone who follows the link only gets to see ONE SENTENCE of the article:

Screen shot 2010-07-14 at 20.19.36

Hmm.

3. Block anyone who uses Gmail

If you try to sign-up on their site for an account using Gmail, the site refuses to “allow” you to create an account. It seems they have hard-coded a list of email domains that they consider “unacceptable” for game-developers to use.

Funny. I’ve been using gmail for my professional email for many years now. It seems a fairly common practice. Google’s … well … Google is a pretty well-known company these days. Their products are … well … kind-of popular. No?

I tried emailing the site admins to ask if there was a way I could create my account anyway – it’s fairly easy to check that my gmail account is bona fide. A funny thing happened.

Their website has no email addresses. Instead, it has a javascript that creates email-addresses on the fly. It’s a neat little javascript, and used differently would be pretty cool. But the way they chose to use it has two obvious effects:

  1. It is impossible to use a web-mail client to email anyone at GamesIndustry.biz direct from the site (the right-click, “copy email address” won’t work because of the javascript)
  2. Spammers have to look at the source-code to find the email address, and be a very very little creative with their bots (well within their capabilities these days)

Internet: 0, Newspaper/Web newsite: 1

O RLLY?

No, not really. I’ve got nothing against the news-site, and I’m well aware that this is only an echo of a bigger, louder noise: mainstream newspapers are in their dieing throes, lashing out at anyone and everyone in their panic.

But I’m suprised that a tech-industry focussed site chooses to fight so hard against the medium that so much of its own industry relies upon and worships. The first and third items above I would normally attribute to ignorance and just spending too little money for their web design team. But the middle one reflects an active decision to block the internet at large – even though the workaround is to create a “free” account, it’s an artificial barrier entirely of their own making.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year working with or around mainstream journalists, magazine staff, and authors. I’ve noticed a lot of this stuff going on. This is just a personal opinion, but … I humbly suggest that whenever ANY news/journalism site acts as though it’s at war with the very medium that the world + dog uses for spreading said news … that whatever else happens, it’s probably not going to end well.

3 Replies to “3 things a News Website should NOT do”

  1. I followed a link to there recently about Hello Games calling XBLA a slaughterhouse, only to find myself staring at a “register to read this article prompt”.

    I got annoyed and closed the window. Good thing I didn’t try to actually register (I’m on gmail) or I’d _really_ be annoyed.

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