View from the comm port-hole

Guest critic Nick Routledge tells about a few of his favourite things

Nick Routledge, a partner in the Los Angeles based Idea Brewing Company, an Internet and web design consultancy, gives an analysis of some of the better sites around the web.

Cisco at

Without a shadow of a doubt the most impressive "corporate" site on the Net, although, because of the market these guys are in, and the approach they’ve taken, your average net surfer doesn’t know anything about it. These people have devoted a huge amount of resources to their site. They’ve committed massively to making an online presence a cornerstone of their marketing strategy. It’s sophisticated, well-designed, deep, breathtakingly comprehensive. The definitive online corporate marcom tool. A lot of manpower required, however, to pull this sort of thing off.

MCI at Hotwired at

A novel use of the medium because it attempts to use the strengths of interactive technology to deliver a fanciful marketing app - in this instance, hide a marcom message behind an image-map clue library and “interactive” storyline that prompts curious investigation by the user. Weakly executed on the technical front, though. It’s hard work getting through this domain. You have to be determined. I suspect the designers were very new to the technical limitations of web design - very sluggish image-loading makes getting around very slow, too: there are technical tricks to deal with this. Not a domain you would come back to. Likewise, although domain structure is sound, the storyline is weak. If you want people to stay and browse, and then revisit, the content and copywriting has to be snappy, upbeat, dynamic. Still, not a bad first effort and the concept is a precursor of much to come, I suspect.

Sun at

One of the first, and busiest net sites. Now it’s a little dull in terms of execution but strong relative to the competition. Why of particular interest? Because Sun stumbled across a winner, in terms of traffic building, with their link to the World Cup and then the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Tour. The World Cup angle came through their EDS/World Cup Sponsorship: the Rolling Stones site happened because someone at Sun knew one of the roadies and the relationship evolved from there. There was no formal support for the project until after it had been gunslung, bootstrapped, etc. The Sun site is otherwise predictable (although Sun’s big push to set up scores of SunSites around the world is a masterful marketing ploy). The model of pulling in third party sex appeal is worth noting. There’s nothing unnaturally complicated about buying third party sex appeal, but it is expensive in terms of man hours/programming resources. The other big advantage of tieing in “real world” events/personalities/groups is that the PR impact extends well beyond the Net itself. The Stones broadcast, for example, was a technical nightmare, but it got an enormous amount of coverage away from the Web itself.

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