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Thursday, June 01, 2006


For years I owned and managed a retail computer store. We had Apple Macintosh, Atari and of course IBM PCs displayed at our demo stations. We also had lots of software to show off on these constantly advancing machines.

One of my pet peeves at the time was a lack of animated demos. It amazed me that other industries spent millions of dollars creating cardboard mobiles to hang from the ceiling trying to sell
soap or automobiles, while the software industry didn't even bother to animate a screen when they had such beautiful resources at hand.

As you might guess, I found the rare software that DID provide animated demos and left them running most of the time. These titles garnered a disproportionate mind share which I think helped
them prosper.

Now computers are available at Walmart and BestBuy, but much of retailing has moved to the internet. Google gives us a major search advantage, but we still under-utilize the magic of movement in
keeping the customer's attention once the page is displayed. This is a missed opportunity.

Even as software developers focus on the design of their user-interface, they often miss the most critical point of contact - it's your home page. You only have a few seconds to keep the user
from bouncing off to the next website. Animation is the key, but only if effectively used.

I've spent the last couple of weeks animating a demo of my text editor, Sudden View. I started with a free trial of Camtasia Studio 3 from TechSmith. It works as advertised though I'm sure I've
only tapped about 10% of it's features.

I'm still learning the editing process but I have a first cut on the website. Check it out. As you can see, the whole site is still a work in progress, but it's now doing a better job of
expressing just how strange yet effective Sudden View can be.

Since I was going for small file size to improve load speed, I produced in animated GIF format. I kept the screen shot at 640 by 480 and limited the loop to 125 seconds. Screen size seems to be more important than length of animation. The Cut-Outs didn't add much at all.

Running an animated GIF is also a great demonstration of the difference between Explorer and Firefox. If you have both loaded, do an A-B comparison and you'll never go back to Gatesware.
Which brings me to my second pet peeve about animation - too much of it.

The worst animations are the big Flash files that take forever to load. I'm amazed at how many of the big money sites still use them. One day they'll get a clue. Maybe.

Almost as bad are those little ads that constantly flash with absolutely NOTHING to say. Do we REALLY need to see lots of different product banners in the same little rectangle?

And they never give us a break. It's a maddening distraction while you're trying to read the content. To add insult to injury, they don't let us scroll off either. There's another copy flashing somewhere down the page. I don't stay long on these sites either.

So if you have a "moving" story to tell on your website, dive in and give it a shot, but only if it's worth telling in animation. There's no need for bouncing coffins or vibrating lake front

And remember, keep it small and short. And let the user scroll it off the screen after they've watched it. You DO want them to read the rest of your content, don't you?

Any one else have any animated web experiences?

Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. That is a GREAT demo program! I got the meaning conveyed quickly, and it was engaging.
    I wonder if the 'one license per machine' policy is the best, for a product that has unlimited trial... personally, I don't like what Gates is doing with the Winders licenses anyway, and this one thing irritates me. I like the rest of it.
    Dave Cline