The Cyber Space column is logging off as our intrepid new media maven Greg Skinner is moving on to head up a new on-line youth market information company. In this, his last Cyber Space, Greg looks at the year’s best kid Web sites, coming full circle from his very first KidScreen scribblings in our inaugural issue in January 1996, where he examined ‘the biggest, the baddest and best sites out there.’
It’s time for our top kid Web site picks of 1999, and this year there were plenty to choose from. But even as hoards of new dot.coms entered the fracas, several sites stood out as distinctly better than others.
Highlighting each and every great Web site would be a full-time job for 100 monkeys, so we didn’t even try. Never mind the volume-simple things like a lack of attention can demote a site from hero to zero in an instant. And while top 100 lists are good, the number of hits a site generates is often a function of market exposure through TV, exclusivity and deep pockets rather than good design. So the folks at Mina pooled findings culled from our daily surfing expeditions of the past year, using Go network’s www.hot.com kids listing of the top 100 Web sites as a control. From there, we came up with our own top picks based on elements like staying power, unique characteristics, content and navigability.
Top site for retail:
Cha-ching! With plenty of knickknacks and knickers flying everywhere, MXGonline is a true mogul in on-line shopping. The proprietor of copious amounts of clothing and lifestyle accessories for girls, the site offers up a truly comprehensive on-line catalog of the latest fashions, related ads (Pantene products), and extras like celeb interviews, tunes and trend-watching features. Highlights include a tie-in to Rocketcash (parent-sponsored on-line cash system at www.rocketcash.com) for EZ shopping, and the latest addition to the Web site, MXGtv-that’s right kids, on-line broadcasting featuring Webisodes, music videos, and digital games!
Top site for entertainment:
What’s going on in the lives of teen superstars? Teenhollywood.com has all the answers for kids wanting to revel in the latest goo on their celebrity heroes. This site has plenty of minutiae on the latest in movies, TV, music and entertainment, and visitor commentary is encouraged, so there is plenty of it. Highlights include best bets (a great vehicle for promoting new shows), daily headlines, upcoming teen TV appearances and celebrity chats on Yahoo-all in a format of easy-to-access blurbs, quick tidbits and a super clean layout.
Top site for info:
The site to visit with even the most fleeting questions on how something, anything works. Forget about community-building and visitor feedback, this little wonder delivers the goods on what makes clocks tick, rockets zoom and preserves preserve. Comprehensive explanations of related topics and plenty of pictures help kids secure that much coveted A+ on their homework. Plus, the content isn’t so advanced that Johnny average can’t understand. A little bit of color and better graphics would push this portal straight over the top.
Top site for interaction: www.bolt.com
There are scads of outstanding elements that make this site a doozy, but the thing putting the pep in its pants is the understanding that kids love to have their say. Hence, interviews and kid testimonials make up the majority of the content. For instance, they post ‘your worst homework nightmare,’ racks of visitors comments for everyone to see, and stacks of popular opinion polls like ‘was the homework story BS or brilliant?’ Not only is this site entirely up to speed with topics including TV, sex and dating, college and poetry (among others), there’s also the Bolt store (snowboards, clothes, stuff), and Bolt chat. Want to meet people? We logged on to greet 4,680 others. Sign me up!
Top site for fans: www.wwf.com
Fancy the latest update on who bashed The Rock over the head with a chair, or the exploits of D-Generation X? Then this is undoubtedly the place to be. A brilliant piece of work, the key to WWF.com is that it lets fans relive the wrestling experience in vivid detail. Tons of pictures, bios, merchandise (talking trading cards, videos, pay-per-view, clothing), and the latest news on its stars, means that there is absolutely nothing missing. Even more outstanding is the use of the latest interactive media such as Realplayer and Windows Mediaplayer to deliver a plethora of fully archived video clips, sound bites and even Web casts! Hah, and you thought they were just a bunch of Neanderthals!
While Cyber Space has gone offline, Greg Skinner continues on at Mina and can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.