Archive for December, 2004

The disappearance of the background colour

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

A long time ago, the webs background colour was a really quite ugly shade of grey, and all was good with the world, as everyone remembered to set the background colour to what they want. Now of course the background colour is white, and no-one remembers - to remind me to always do it, and to make plain text and XML files render easier to read in my browser, I set mine to nice mellow yellow colour. This means I now see so many sites with weird colours, and not crappy little personal sites, but big corporate sites with big web budgets, but obviously no QA. Searching for “com” in google should return some of the major sites on the web today, and what do we see Yahoo without a background colour… Other sites I’ve noticed recently are citibank, AOL, EasyJet.

I’m sure many of these sites spent thousands just on the meetings to pick their brand colours, and then they go and ruin it by not setting the background white? Quite apart from the risk of people with a background colour that doesn’t play nicely with the text colours they choose.

Firefox New York Times Ad - why?

Friday, December 17th, 2004

Firefox finally placed their advert in the New York Times, and it’s confused me a lot.

Firstly, why the New York Times? The web says it has a 1.1million circulation on a weekday (I couldn’t seem to find any readership figures, so we don’t know if 1 or 3 people read each copy, maybe US circulation co’s don’t collect this) So it has a lower readership in the US than both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, quite apart from the readership size of papers in the rest of the world. Was it really worth $130,000 (or maybe only $50,000, I couldn’t find an answer to that) to talk to such a tiny part of the market?

One possible option would be the associated coverage such a stunt could generate would be worth it, you’d really be talking to lots of other people. However google news seems to be suggesting that there’s very little interest in it, currently there’s just zdnet, which are hardly likely to be people who’ve not heard of firefox.

Then there’s the oddness of the advert itself, I don’t get what it’s trying to say, very few non-tech web users I know even understand what a web-browser is, what they have on their computer is “the internet”. So the lead question is I think confusing, I asked some people, they’re not completely un-aware of what the internet is, and use it a lot - but they didn’t understand the question, of course these are all British, maybe New York Times readers are a different bunch, but I don’t see it.

Next there’s another huge firefox logo, another piece of branding completely un-understood by the target audience, what’s it doing there, sure you need to build a brand, but a cute logo doesn’t say, yeah, I’ll try that out, which is the aim of the ad. Where were the screenshots, the hook to interest the user? The “It’s not Microsoft” argument may well work in selling to geeks, I don’t see it as a strategy for the New York Times.

Then there’s the quotes, first is speed, now I don’t firefox faster than other browsers (other than mozilla) sure it is on some things, but it’s not on others, speed is also such a function of bandwidth, that I simply don’t think most people who will try it will agree with that experience, it’s not enough of a difference to be noticeable. So the lead quote, won’t be lived up to. My browser’s not crashed in as long as I can remember, (other than when using things like crash bug examples), users with lots of spyware and viruses installed sure do, but installing firefox doesn’t clean those out, so again, there’s a good chance the user will still see the same crashes. Spyware, there’s nothing about Mozilla which prevents a user spyware, so I simply don’t understand this claim.

Then there’s the link “getfirefox.com”, so what do you get if you enter that in google (lots of users see the search engine as the web, they don’t use the location bar) Google comes back with a description saying “Skip to main content. … ” hardly the best sales pitch. If you forget the .com and just say “getfirefox” google directs you to a site which says “Ist Firefox Ihr Standard-Browser? Dann geben Sie ihm doch Ihre Stimme!”, now I may be doing the New York Times readers a disservice, but I don’t believe they’re fluent german speakers. This sort of unprofessionalism hurts, it would’ve been so easy to have getfirefox.com have all the content, google would’ve loved it, and it would’ve worked for all these users, but the advert creators didn’t seem to think this through.

I’m sure the advert will pick up a few downloads, but how many and was it really worth the cost of achieving it? How many developer hours could’ve been bought with the money, how much hardware could’ve been donated to the dedicated folk. I was shocked to learn one of the developers I respect in Mozilla was using a machine that could take a maximum 128MB ram as his build machine, 1000$ on some hardware for 50 mozilla hackers, would I think have done more long term good than a pretty disappointing advert to well under 1% of the market.

The meta lathe that isn’t

Tuesday, December 14th, 2004

Over on the meta lathe, there’s the suggestion that the programmable computer isn’t something people should be trusted with, and more importantly don’t need to be trusted with. What it misses is that the reason we have computers that can do anything and programs which can do 20 times more than any of us ever want to do individually. Is that the combination of things that each of us want in a platform is different, sure everyone uses a spreadsheet, an email client and a wordprocessor, but then there’s games. The how to juggle program Aunt Maud recommended, the Astronomy assistant etc. are all used by a few people, creating a device with all these combinations that people would want would be impossibly expensive, and would almost certainly rely on deliberately hobbling devices, once the applications had been installed - no-one is going to want that.