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Fred's Views

The State of the Web

In preparing my little piece on country music I had a need to visit a few web sites. (Even when you are listening to the words of a song, you can still forget the exact wording of a title.) I was somewhat disappointed with some of the sites I visited.

Jessica Andrews' site( featured some new shots of a blonder, more sophisticated Jessica. But it featured a large animated "intro" possibly done in Flash that, on my puny 56K dial-up took an unnecessarily long time to load in. Now there's nothing wrong with using a little flash (or a little Flash), but give the viewer the opportunity to bail out if it takes too long to load - and make the "bail-out" button clearly visible. If you don't, some visitors will bail-out completely.

John Michael Montgomery's site( or was both worse and better. It featured a fairly quick loading intro page that seemed to have only two links: to odd-sized (at least to Windows) pages or something. I chose the one that was closest to my screen resolution. Perhaps things would have been faster had I chosen the other one. However, the page gave me no indication of what I was selecting, or any obvious opportunity to avoid a selection. What loaded in, eventually, was a very visually pleasant view with page choices sprinkled over a landscape and JMM's portrait on the right side. The only animation, however, were the clouds rolling by in the background - hardly worth the long wait.

Reba McIntyre's site( was somewhat better. Recent news articles appeared almost immediately on the left hand side and a menu of pages followed shortly after. Then the animated portrait of Reba began. It took some time to load, but, at least, there were links that you could use to move on to your point of interest.

LeeAnn Womack's site( loaded in much faster, despite the heavy use of graphics which were, thankfully, broken down into small pieces. The site, itself, however, was confusing and disappointing. The only ray of hope being an announcement on the bottom of the page that a new site was coming soon. is not Shania Twain's official web site. It is a strange mix of reasonably fast loading graphics and text links that go on and on and on and ... well, you get the idea. No animation on the home page, but clearly over kill with the text links. Still, the really good news is there may still be a new album in 2002 after five, long dry years! (The International version of Come on Over does not count as a "new" album in my books - even though I have both versions.)

In an attempt to re-locate Shania's "official" site, I tried to get to Mercury records home page. I tried "" and got neither the record company nor Ford's (nearly) defunct automobile line site. I tried "" and got a rather ugly "Dymo" tape site called "Island Records". They must have been around for a while since they had a rather large number of "name" artists listed. Guess it is a subsidiary of Mercury. "" didn't work, but, finally, "" did the job. I'm really surprised that a major entertainment property such as Mercury wouldn't have a link to all its divisions on the "mercuryrecords" site and wouldn't also have grabbed "mercury-nashville". The site itself opens with an animated "Mercury", but it doesn't take very long for other links to appear, including one for Shania. This site is much nicer than the "Island records" site, but still nothing special.

The link to Shania opens a new window (and can also be reached with The top two-thirds of the screen is filled with graphics (in small pieces), but they usually load fairly quickly. From this "news" page you can choose to enter the site with or without "Flash". I chose "without" as I usually do when given the choice. The site remains much the same as it was the last time I visited several months or more ago. But it is a pleasant site, heavy on words except on the multi-media pages, and fairly easy to navigate. I hesitate to say it's the best of the sites I visited, since I am just a little biased.

What I have learned on my little tour of web sites of country music artists is both surprising and disappointing. Most sites use far too much animation and graphics. This is surprising considering that, of all the surfers in North America, I would think that country music fans would be the least likely to have high bandwidth connections. I barely live in a rural area (less than 5 miles from a town center or 15 miles from a major city center), yet the only way I could get a high bandwidth connection (except to move, of course) is one-way satellite that is both expensive and of limited use to me since I do a lot of "uploading". I may be the exception, but I don't think so. (Have you seen cell-phone ads or soap operas where the cell phones work in mountains, forests, islands and other barely inhabited areas? Well, cell phones don't work here - and we're far from being truly rural, let alone a wilderness area.)

Choice. The Internet is about choice and freedom. If I can't choose between immediate access to the information I want and a slow, aesthetically pleasing but ultimately unimportant animation, I'll simply go somewhere else where I am given the courtesy of a choice. On many of these sites, the web page designer is prominently displayed. If I were them, I'd hang my head in shame. Give people fast access to the navigation system of your site. Give them a choice to use high bandwidth or not. Give your visitors the respect they deserve. I don't always succeed with this, but I try.

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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