Greg Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company specializing in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.
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Building brands is never an easy task, and providing Web site support for brands is even more difficult. In taking up the challenge, will Kids’ World Online and Humongous, two sites from software companies, leave visitors feeling animated? The ratings tell the story.
Humongous.com is huuuuggge!!! OK, it’s not huge, but it’s definitely no lightweight.
At the top of the list of things to do is sign up to join Club Humongous. Membership has its privileges; once enrolled, you will be mailed copies of the Club Humongous Gazette, a quarterly newsletter with games, activities and tips on playing your software games. The newsletter is an excellent idea, keeping Humongous in touch with its target audience and on kids’ minds.
In the background, Mr. Bill’s Jukebox pumps out the tunes, from the Beatles to Queen to the Star Trek theme, all performed on an organ. Throughout the site, you’ll find plenty of characters from the company’s various CD-ROMs. Smart, because these features keep things very inviting for visitors of all ages.
Links to a section on the making of the Putt-Putt Travels Through Time CD-ROM appear at every turn. This area could definitely use some moving pictures; right now, everything is very static, causing the site to lose a little energy.
The Playroom is one of the site’s strongest elements. Print off the games and activities shown here, and you’ve got hours-or minutes, at least-of low-cost fun.
New software offerings, such as a SPY Fox title and the Big Thinkers educational series, are well promoted with plenty of screen shots. And, of course, there is the comprehensive Humongous catalogue, guaranteed to impoverish parents around the world.
Beefs? A few, namely:
- Huge product downloads that literally take hours to get. The option to order the demo CD for five dollars, mentioned right after the downloads in the Demos section, could make the downloads appear patronizing.
- The less-than-subtle response in Frankly, Freddi-an area where kids can submit questions to the company’s Freddi Fish character-to a child’s request for pencils: no pencils, but ‘. . . in the meantime, do you think a Freddi Fish T-shirt would do?’
- The fact that the site d’esn’t profile any of the people who write to Frankly, Freddi-and there are tons, from all over the world! This could be an excellent opportunity to build an on-line community.
The best way for Humongous to use this site would be to offer sneak peeks and new games and puzzles. But as it is, if you weren’t already interested in Putt-Putt, the vibrating little car, you definitely are by the time you leave. Putt-Putt and Pajama Sam are cool.
Overall rating: large and in charge (7.75 out of 10)
-Kids’ World Online by 7th Level
Kids’ World Online is an eclectic blend of extraterrestrial objects and fuzzy little animals, mixing skunks, bears, satellites and spinning radar. But take a quick look around, and it will all make sense.
The site’s name is a bit of a misnomer, because its focus on shopping gives it a distinct orientation toward adults. For kids, there’s very little to do on-line; most of the activities require kids to print them first. Fortunately, everything, right down to the printable activities, is well integrated.
The great thing about Kids’ World is that it uses a standard template to profile each of the company’s CD-ROMs. You’ll consistently find links to demos, activities for kids and chat forums. Unfortunately, there are a few too many ‘coming soon’ notices, which are disappointing and give the impression that there is a lot more work to be done.
The Virgil Reality section, starring the company’s Virgil Reality scientist character, is particularly cool, with spacey graphics and great language-’view slides such as earthworm intestines and brain tissue.’ Who wouldn’t want to?!! The Family PC icon needs to be a little smaller, because the hotlink only serves to encourage people to leave the site.
The potential for development at Kids’ World is fairly significant. The characters, including Stinky and Alphabot, could easily be developed to display larger on-line personalities, the screen shots enhanced to be less static and the forums structured to generate more activity. The site just needs to be a little more dynamic in everything that it d’es.
Kids’ World is cool, because it’s inconspicuous in its sales techniques, but it lets you know the details all the same. The next logical phase in its evolution would be to develop more on-line interaction for the tikes, to get the activities off the living room floor and on-line. Regardless, this is a solid sales platform for the existing content.
Overall rating: simmering (7 out of 10)