Site seeing: Making a site is one thing; getting the populace to notice is quite another

Greg Skinner ( is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a 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...
August 1, 1996

Greg Skinner ( is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a 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.

Put your site on the Net and you become accessible by the entire world, it’s that simple. But it begs the question, ‘exactly how do you let this new world know that you exist?’ Making a site is one thing; getting the populace to notice is quite another.

There is an excellent and often overlooked way to generate Web chat and expose yourself to as many visitors as possible: Go outside of the medium!

For some reason, the concept of using the dynamism of traditional advertising has been bypassed. It’s all quite bizarre, considering that the discovery of a new site outside of the medium can often be more of a thrill than locating one through normal Net wanderings.

On-line ads and search engines, although phenomenal in ability, simply can’t offer the same sort of visual support as a magazine ad or TV spot. And being limited to where and when you can advertise d’esn’t help with an audience that’s largely out of sight.

However, in condoning the use of more mainstream media, a warning is in order. As you span the values of the Net and those in the regular world, you are subject to a unique hybrid of attitudes and perceptions. So take heed, lest you insult both the on-line and traditional media audiences.

The most important things to remember, regardless of your message, are to keep it real and to state what you are, rather than what you want to be. This generation is the most visually based yet, and they remember like elephants.

Credibility and interest aren’t something that you can fabricate, so all poseurs will be revealed. It’s only when you create a site that has some serious market momentum that people will sit up on their own and take notice.

The Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel Online is the educational channel’s virtual take on the things affecting us-past, present, future-in our world today. Who knew we were so busy?

Discovery At a Glance, the site roundup, gets a big thumbs up for a super-solid overview. New users would sweat without it because of the steeper than usual learning curve. Use it and things clear up lickity split.

Most frustrating is not being able to zoom directly from At a Glance to your selection. Instead, you are routed back through a contents page. But, in the end, it’s for your own good because you wouldn’t learn your way around if it did. At the same time, it’s not what you asked it to do. Ah well, learning was never easy.

Icons that show up on the home page return in Discovery World to represent various topics like nature, technology and people-and each one is full of detail. This is where Discovery’s horsepower kicks in. It keeps thing fresh through healthy doses of variety.

Content-wise, some of the columns are choppy. While you might expect an educational site to be old and stodgy, this one is kind of fun and witty. If only school were like this.

The Olympics section is right on schedule. It lets you read athletes’ e-mail, download videos and link to other top-quality sites (by category). The images, which change each time you access the page (ditto for the ads that punctuate the main pages), keep it all fresh.

Navigation tools include a text-based search engine (which wouldn’t search for us and offered no clue as to why) and a function called Knapsack that heads out and locates info on the topics you specify. When it’s finished, it either e-mails you or fills your knappy for you to check later; not entirely new, but très cool nonetheless.

Interactive weekly chat sessions are a nice move to take advantage of the medium, as is an on-line contest. You don’t find a lot of big images here, but instead a lot of smaller icons that work just as well, and ensure a nice quick flow.

‘Catchy’ is the word that springs to mind when describing Discovery. You soon come to realize that the site is built on keeping you busy and teaching you at the same time. But then any site that encourages you to watch TV at the same time as you surf has to be pretty good.

Overall rating: worldly (7.75 out of 10).

Manga Messe

Japanese anime and manga (Japanese animation and comic strips) are like the high channels on your TV dial: not for everybody, but really quite good when you take the time to check them out. From the same genres that brought you Sailor Moon and the like, we look at an excellent site seemingly lost in time.

Manga Meese appears to be two things immediately: well laid out and abandoned. Typical of Japanese Web site succinctness, the index is a neat flowchart, designed around word bubbles that make it simple to tell where you’re headed. The sense of abandonment comes from updates that seem to have stopped a while back. The fact that the location still stands up so well even without recent updates is testimony to the quality of the workmanship.

The Comic Market g’es out of its way to educate visitors about the basics of the genre. This education theme runs throughout, and visitors can learn huge amounts in a short period of time, all without the alienation that a lot of sites put newcomers through.

Fanfare and flashiness don’t exist in this realm, just reams of pertinent content. A truly personalized writing style leaves visitors feeling warm and fuzzy. The biggest problem is text that’s a little too dense and in need of some spacing. Typos and miscues associated with translation are scattered throughout, but are nothing a little editing and refinement couldn’t polish.

Virtual Comics, loaded with little pics of fans (read: fanatics) dressed as their favorite her’es, is humorous to see, and even more humorous to watch in the videos you can download.

Frozen in summer of 1995 and giving you the latest selections from that period (44 to be exact) is Do! Zines, which creeps glacier-like as it loads. Fortunately, each issue satiates the largest appetite with excellent synopses of each book broken down into their macro bits, from publisher to page numbers with editorial comments thrown in for good measure.

When it comes to Manga artists, the Gallery of profiles is the motherlode. The interviews are long and detailed, mining loads of background info for fans to ingest, and super-crisp graphics provide the ultimate satisfaction.

Controls are a cinch and the flashing links that highlight accessible content are simply brilliant, saving immeasurable amounts of frustration that come from trying to check things under construction.

Dead or alive, the layout is crisp, the content outstanding and the superstructure begging for more. Unfortunately, a fair chunk of the site is hollow: all foundation and no fill. If and when it ever gets finished, it will be a killer site. It’s just too bad you can’t get full marks for an incomplete answer. But you know what? It’s still really, really good.

Overall rating: really, really good (7.5 out of 10).

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