Greg Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a communications consultant and marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the more interesting kids sites as seen from the eye of a near-kid himself.
Success has everything to do with a strong identity and the rule applies to Web sites. Ultimately, any site is just a source of stimuli, but you can see that the best sites have come to terms with what they are and what it is they have to offer.
Site schizophrenia and confusion are rampant because any site has the potential to be any or all of a million different things. Unlike existing media, which are highly familiar and well defined, the Internet has the general population on a learning curve, and Web sites are only thinking about delineating boundaries.
Good sites won’t necessarily cater to visitor preconceptions about what they should be and, in fact, usually do the opposite. But, when a site misses the target, you see things like on-line magazines simply functioning as magazines that are on-line, instead of the awesome entertainment and information powerhouses they could be.
Many site designers fail to recognize that the appealing elements of the original product often smoothly make the transition to the virtual realm. (For example, the innate attributes of comic books remain at a good Web site.) Ignoring this, they proceed to formulate images instead of identities. Sites that kick have structure and provide platforms from which content can effectively operate.
Kids are the ultimate stimulation freaks and thrive on information bombardment. They’re quick to form an opinion about why they like something. A site in disguise is fronting and will be discarded when its weaknesses quickly surface. A site true to what it claims openly offers the choice to explore. At the very least, a visitor will respect you for that.
The test for most products will be making the transition to the virtual world. Passing the test will come from knowing who you really are and, only when it’s tight will the fun really begin.