The other day I was checking out a story that interested me on a station's website. I clicked on the little video thingy, hoping the screen would expand from a postage stamp so that I could actually watch the story.
But no, the thing ran in a one-inch square screen, the anchor's face the size of a pencil eraser.
Now I know many young people actually watch TV on the tiny screens of their cell phones, but the rest of us buy big screen televisions for a reason. It's because we actually want to see what's going on. You think I can read a super on a one-inch screen?
So this goes out to those who put station websites together. I know some stations have webmasters, some outsource the whole thing, others have all members of the staff contribute. Doesn't matter. These things are, for the most part, a disaster; a busy, cluttered mess that resembles an electronic garage full of junk.
So let's have en electronic garage sale. Toss the useless stuff and put the good stuff where you can actually see it:
-Station bios: It absolutely boggles the mind that some stations hide the bios of their on-air staff. Hello, McFly! These people are the faces of your station! You need to put them front and center, so that viewers can get to know a little about the people they invite into their homes. I know of a few stations that remarkably don't have bios anywhere on their site. Duh.
-Lame polls: Here's one that I just couldn't wait for the results...
"Are you looking forward to summer?"
Wow, call Gallup and Rasmussen and get them to do a focus group on that one. Make your polls interesting, timely, or just plain fun. "Would you marry Newt Gingrich for a half-million dollar account at Tiffanys?" "Which will get more air time this week: Senator Chuck Schumer or the Snuggie commercial?" Give people a reason to vote, whether it's just for fun or actually interesting.
-Top stories that aren't: A "top story" is just that... the biggest story of the day. It isn't the latest story you've got. If you buried Osama bin Laden under a car wreck two weeks ago, you get the idea.
-Too much information: Websites with hundreds of stories on the front page just send visitors into vapor lock. Organize them into categories, then put the strongest ones on the front page.
-Weird banners across the top of the page: If you have to really look and say to yourself, "What the hell is that?" then you need something else. Your anchor team would be nice, and a lot better than a skyline that doesn't really exist in some markets.
-Video players that actually work: Along with the tiny screens you often run into...players....that..just...hesitate so much that...they...sound....like Captain Kirk. Do whatever geeks do to speed things up.
-A "contact us" link you can actually find: I know most people send negative comments, but lots of great story ideas come from viewers. They can't send them if they can't find a way to do it, and many viewers are too shy to pick up the phone and call a TV station.
-Weather radar, temperature and brief forecast: Should be "above the fold" and one of the first things you see.