A9 Stimulating Arts and Entertainment

A9 Stimulating Arts and Entertainment

Figure A9.1. PBS.org provides a straightforward interface to audio clips, video clips, and games on the site, as well as guides to the many offline programs that PBS produces. If visitors play the games on the site, though, they find that new interface metaphors abound. (The screen shot taken from www.pbs.org is used herein with permission from The Public Broadcasting Service.)

(www.pbs.org, July 27, 2001)


graphics/common.jpg Background

This pattern forms the core of any site specializing in engaging content. Combine this pattern with other site genre patterns—including PERSONAL E-COMMERCE (A1), VALUABLE COMPANY SITES (A7), and EDUCATIONAL FORUMS (A8)—to make a hybrid.

graphics/common.jpg Problem

Arts and entertainment sites evoke new feelings and thoughts by challenging customers or by offering them an escape. But challenging visitors with a hard-to-use interface too early in their exposure to your site will turn them away.

People do not enjoy being forced to sit through something they're not prepared for. Sites that display animated movies on the first page can be frustrating for this reason; nothing can warn customers before they arrive at a site. Similarly, sites that require complex navigation schemes from the very first page, as part of the "artistic experience," tend to lose visitors who cannot appreciate why the experience is important. Customers like to be challenged with thoughtful, well-executed art and entertainment, but they want to choose for themselves (see Figures A9.2 and A9.3). If they are not given the choice of where to go on a straightforward introductory homepage, and they are immediately dropped into an animation or strange interface, they will most likely choose to leave.

Figure A9.2. Fans of professional basketball can go to nba.com to find out about players, teams, and game schedules, and even to enjoy some of the on-court action through links to audio and video clips. (Reprinted with the permission of NBAEntertainment.)

(www.nba.com, August 27, 2001)


Figure A9.3. IFILM is an Internet movie site that contains independent short movies, movie trailers, and quirky but often hilarious "viral" videos that friends email to their friends.

(www.ifilm.com, February 2, 2002)


People enjoy arts and entertainment because they are moved and challenged by the experience. Whether it is a movie that evokes strong emotions of fear, sadness, excitement, or romance, or an exhibit of paintings that stimulates thoughts of an era gone by, these are powerful cultural experiences. Online art and entertainment sites are no different.

Online Exhibits Come in Many Forms

When art or entertainment is exhibited online, it can range from pictures of a gallery installation to an online-only animation (see Figure A9.4). The Web provides a low-cost, widely accessible medium for delivery of these different "exhibits."

Figure A9.4. Apartment is an interactive exhibit that starts by asking the visitor to select a city. As the visitor types, rooms start to take shape in the form of a blueprint. The layout is based on a semantic analysis of the visitor's words. The apartments are then clustered into buildings and cities according to their linguistic relationships. The site sets clear visitor expectations for large page loads or for the need to download an additional plug-in.

(www.turbulence.org/Works/apartment, August 27, 2001)


Set Expectations Before Breaking the Rules

Site designers who break design rules with a purpose, in places where people know to expect it, can use the medium to provoke and challenge in positive ways. Many of the design patterns in this book may no longer make sense in an experimental interface. Perhaps links should not be obvious, and things should not have descriptive names. This kind of interface has its place on art and entertainment sites.

Setting customer expectations about what they will experience is key. Table A9.1 shows some examples of how you can include a few words in exhibit descriptions to set expectations before launching an exhibit.

Often online content will augment offline content. In addition to using your introductory pages to set people's expectations, you can use it to provide information about accessing offline exhibits, such as exhibit hours, addresses, and driving directions.

Table A9.1. Sample Exhibit Descriptions for Setting Customer Expectations
Exhibit Included in the Description
Guided tour Five screens (3 minutes on 56K modem)
Movie 24 minutes on 56K modem
Music John Cage's 4.33 seconds (6 minutes to download on 56K modem)
Gallery exhibit 17 images (20 seconds to download each on 56K modem)
Interactive exhibit Experimental interface

graphics/common.jpg Solution

On the first page or pages of the Web site, provide a straightforward interface that describes the exhibits on your site and provides links directly to them. Link from the introduction pages to background information pages that expand on the exhibits. In a separate area provide the actual exhibits and entertainment in whatever formats are required. Once a customer has chosen an art exhibit to view or a movie to play, the interface should conform to whatever is required by the artist or work of art. This is where it is permissible to break the usual rules in order to challenge or entertain your customers.

Figure A9.5. Easy-to-use homepage and background pages provide familiar navigation cues so that people don't get lost. The actual art exhibits, movies, audio clips, games, or other entertainment are in well-defined areas.


graphics/common.jpg Consider These Other Patterns

Use your HOMEPAGE PORTAL (C1) to provide basic navigation elements that will be familiar to customers immediately, by giving them MULTIPLE WAYS TO NAVIGATE (B1). Within the homepage and the additional background pages, use CONTENT MODULES (D2) to highlight recent additions, and to provide links to archived content through CONSISTENT SIDEBARS OF RELATED CONTENT (I6).

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