I seem to be taking the elephants in the room in random order as they dance onto my landscape. This one’s a fairly benign one, a meek and geekly elephant who has his computer hooked up to multiple big screens, eats bland elephant chow while typing away hunched over a tiny keyboard, is fluent in every programming language known to the elephant herd, but has yet to master his own native language. If he were in flash, he would be rotating around so that you don't have to stare at his backside all the time. His wares have been discovered and exploited by the snake-oil salesmen who sell them to unsuspecting victims with the promise that showing gratuitous videos on their websites will make them appear professional and sophisticated.
Here’s the backstory of how this elephant got into my room. I was recently sent some samples of two perfume oils made by Yas, a perfume manufacturer based in Saudi Arabia, and have been testing them. Reviews will follow, since I don’t see any harm or conflict of interest in posting basic information about products that never get reviewed elsewhere (at least not in English). I thought it would be interesting to find out a little background on them, but the Yas website is every bit as aggravating as any European manufacturer’s, all flash and no information. The flash is so overdone that it takes forever to load. It’s one of those websites that requires you to go have a cup of coffee while you wait for something meaningful to appear on the screen. If the wheel in the center of the coffee cup were in flash, it would be rotating ... and rotating ... and ... Once the site does load, there is no information whatsoever about the individual perfume oils, just a rotating flash parade of bottle pictures. I keep my laptop’s sound turned off to avoid being assaulted by music, verbal commentary, or any of the other sound effects that often accompany flash shows, so can’t say if there was any sound track.
But if it looks cool to a geek, it must appeal to the viewer, right? Not necessarily. I’m willing to wait a few minutes for a YouTube video of a snowboarding crow to load, since it’s an oddity of nature that I’d like to check out just for entertainment and to increase my respect and admiration for crows. However, I’m not willing to wait a few minutes for the home page of a perfume website to load. So what’s the difference? On the one hand, if I expect to watch a video, I know up front that it will take a little while to get going. If there’s an unavoidable commercial ahead of the video, I open another window and do something else until it’s over. When I go to a perfume website or any other commercial website, I expect to find still pages with the information I want easily accessible. It’s analogous to the difference between having to load and watch an entire video from start to finish to get a small bit of information that’s embedded somewhere among a lot of irrelevant stuff versus flipping through a hard-copy booklet to immediately find the relevant information on the page where the index says it is.
Maybe other people have more patience than I do, or maybe they need the visual stimulation of moving objects on their screen. Personally, if I go to a perfume maker’s website I’m generally looking for information about the company, a perfume line, a specific perfume, or just to browse their selection. I’d like to know something about each perfume, where/how to buy it, and how much it costs. Why else would anyone go to a perfume maker’s website? To watch pastel butterflies flitting around on a white screen for five minutes, only to find out that the website just says how wonderful the products are, not what they are or how to obtain them? I would be just as frustrated if I were a retailer wishing to place a wholesale order as I am as a curious individual consumer looking for a sample.
Another thing that I find puzzling is the existence of commercial websites that function as nothing but billboards, whether moving or still. These are the websites that say, “we are suppliers of …fill in whatever product it is that you desperately want … We supply this product worldwide.” That’s it. They make or obtain it, they supply it, and they provide no clue as to how one goes about buying it. Sometimes there’s a “contact us” window that one can fill out to get a product list, price list, or quote. My experience is that more than half the time these windows don’t work, and even when they appear to do so, half of the time the company never responds. To make matters worse, their telephone number is also non-functional. Isn’t the purpose of having a commercial website to facilitate doing business?
I think I’ve probably ranted more than enough for the day, so will pose the question: What do you like and/or dislike in perfume websites? I don’t mean blogs, I mean commercial sites. I’m always trying to improve the functionality of my site, within the constraints of the system I have to work with, so your comments may well be useful. Leave a relevant comment and be entered in a drawing to win a 5 ml spray bottle of an Olympic Orchids perfume, my choice based on what I have on hand when I do the drawing on Thursday, August 16.
[All cartoons and photo from Wikimedia]