Greg Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a communications consultant for Mina Research 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 interesting kids sites as seen from the eye of a near-kid himself.
In the nineties, technology rules. Well, yes and no, because no matter how many tricks, gadgets and goodies a site has, a Web site is as much about the feelings it generates as it is the technical aspects that comprise it. So whether it comes from content or construction, the key is whether the user gets that warm fuzzy feeling.
Throwing tons of money at a site d’esn’t necessarily guarantee a good response, and may in fact act as a repellent. The reason is that the best sites may not be slick, but often come from within specific subcultures and often garner a stronger response than their costlier brethren.
The most recognizable trait of a site not getting it is when it includes everything under the sun. But at some point, critical questions-Is it giving me what I want? Are my needs being fulfilled? Am I feeling satisfied or shafted?-will all have to be answered. It’s when you leave a location with a tweaked mind and a peaked imagination that you feel hyped.
The interactive element of Web sites means that in personifying corporate image and identity, they easily outpace existing media, so a site not up to speed with what’s going on says a lot. And as more locations get better and better, you’ll really have to know what satisfies.
It’s really easy for kids to tell right away if a site has the stuff that they want, so whatever you do, you had better make their stay a good one.
When it comes to today’s music and kids, the real soul food comes from the streets. So if that’s the case, then this site is urban gourmet for sure.
Strolling into Def Jam, you don’t really know what to expect, and then wah@#!, right in front of you, a dope little graffiti home page with hidden links. Intentional or not, this home page is a good example of breaking the norm. A lot of sites out there make everything too obvious when a challenge is both necessary and nice. A page that keeps you clicking means all exploration, and boredom begone!
Graffiti icons form the nav bar and guide you around the site, giving the whole thing a nice flavor (though changing them each update would definitely keep things crisp) and site content is bolstered by on-point vernacular and verbosity. Excellent target market knowledge here.
The big plusses are a rich color palette-it largely ignores the usual mundane shades of grey-that injects amazing life and (finally) really good speed; nothing ever keeps you waiting too long and everything drops in nice and quick. Cool, especially if you don’t have the latest equipment.
Problems? Well, actual mail is conspicuously absent from the Mail section, there are a lot of typos, and there’s a real need for some sort of update (cobwebs are a bad way to lose customers). Soliciting questions and not providing the forms is never a hit. Hmmm, there seems to be a detail issue here.
On the other hand, the nav bar setup makes it really easy to get around. The site has the requisite audio and video clips all over the place (as well as an A/V library. Solid.), and excellent content such as what’s new, tour highlights and excellent artist profiles that give you the bits you really look for.
Where it disappoints the most is that you expect loads more info and waaaay more breadth. Right now it’s all very narcissistic and too much preening can lead to a site that’s easy to forget. With so much happening out there, its content could easily gain some weight. Really, all it needs is to cast its net further.
It keeps it all consistent, but never boring, projecting a nice, cool vibe. Everything you want and everything that you need is definitely here, just not enough of it. There are some issues to tweak but they’re not huge, which means this site has no trouble getting its groove on.
overall rating: bangin’ (9 out of 10)
Yahooligans! Check it out. Very catchy. But it begs the question, ‘is this site all in the name?’ Nope, because this one is even better than its label. And that’s hard to believe.
First off, everything drops in super fast with lots of clip art-type pictures to keep everybody interested.
Navigation is excellent, with a menu or category link always available on your journey. And looking for fun? Well there’s a ton of stuff to do, all of it revolving around Yahooligan resources (who would have thought?).
There are jazzy little things, like automatically going to Yahooligans every time you start surfing and a Club section where the newest Web sites are e-mailed to you before popular release. Smart.
It’s all super tight when Random boots you around the world on various adventures. (We ended up at Sports Illustrated For Kids-see page 39 in KidScreen’s February issue-the Internet public library and Dinosaur hall.) The Street Smart section is, in actuality, a set of guidelines for safe surfing (surf protected and stay away from viruses). Holy.
Yes, there are the usual Cool and New sections and, as expected, the content is immaculate and completely eventful.
Contests bolster site resources (for example, tell us your favorite sites, for the common good of course) and the nice little entry forms provided collect all requisite information.
Yeeks! Disney seems to have links everywhere, and why not with a hook like, ‘don’t click here for entertainment’? The result is most surely a trip over to Disney on-line.
All of this and guess what? You haven’t even reached the meaty section yet. The Sports and World sections, among others, have excellent categorization and detail. Everything is right at your fingertips. The Homework Answers section especially gets a gold star. The best part is that if you can’t find it, Yahooligans finds it for you.
Overall, site construction is immaculate. One, maybe two, crisp cruises through and most kids will have the hang of it. The site has positioned itself as the search tool of choice, and it pretty much is.
If you really wanted to get nitpicky, Advertising Opportunities is embedded with kids topics when it would probably operate more efficiently elsewhere and the instructions for adding a URL (Web site link) seem somewhat adult-ish. But that’s about it!
Every single page, it seems, is pure simplicity and lacks any clutter. There are a lot of forms to report things (such as problems, bad links), and the site makes you feel that all information is at your fingertips. Solid.
Yahooligans describes itself as a browsable index for 8- to 14-year- olds (yahoounderstatement), but as an offshoot of its big brother, it’s hardly all kiddy stuff. This site is as refined, if not more, than its renowned sibling and a lot of others could really learn a thing or two from it. Never out of style, Yahooinvaluable.
overall rating: didyouseethat!? (9.5 out of 10)