educational

Cutting Edge?

Stephen Yagielowicz

I'm a sucker for all of the latest gadgets and gizmos, especially now during the Holiday Season, the appeal of flashing lights and buttons can be overwhelming. As I'm currently working on the design and structure of a hot new pay site, I'm trying to balance "coolness," functionality, and availability. Here are some thoughts:

Hey, I'm an American! I want everything to be new and shiny: bigger, better, faster, and more! And what's wrong with that? While several arguments can be made on the subject, when focused through the lens of adult Web site design, too much CAN be more than enough.

The DivX Dilemma
Take DivX for example. Last week I told you a little about this hot media format, and I've since had a chance to play with it a bit, generating some amazing video clips in the process. I won't show you any of the results here though, as by far the "smallest" clip that I've yet generated is still nearly 10MB in size (and unsuitable for a non-age verified environment). This 30-second video wonder is a full screen 720x480 DV (Digital Video) rendering that is simply awesome. The same clip as a standard AVI was around 40MB, illustrating the efficiency of the DivX CODEC, but my really killer clips still ran up to 200MB, even with DivX compression!

Is providing 10MB+ video downloads, no matter how amazing, the key to adult site profitability? While 10MB video file sizes are reasonable enough downloads for most broadband users, are they reasonable enough expenditures of my own precious bandwidth? How many of these clips will it take inside of my member's area to compel me to upgrade my hosting plan again?

I will continue to provoke this hot technology, and see if it can be applied to less than full screen video clips, although I have not yet been able to do this, which may be due to the limitations of, or my lack of experience with, my new software and video editing and rendering system.

(More Than) A Flash in the Pan
The use (and misuse) of Macromedia Flash is another area where less is often more, or at least more useful. While most adult site visitors today use Web browsers capable of rendering Flash animations, that doesn't mean surfer's want megabyte long splash screens and tour intros.

I've read some very interesting articles and message board threads lately on the many uses of Flash and Flash file optimization techniques, and it is clear that the majority of Flash examples that I've seen on the Web so far do not make full or optimal use of this powerful tool's features or advanced capabilities.

It reminds me of the birth of desktop publishing, when the Mac first appeared on the scene and offered users (gasp!) a choice of fonts! Suddenly it seemed that every church bake sale, book store grand opening, and local yard sale was advertised on an 8½x11" flyer festooned with an enormous variety of typefaces and sizes: While these promotions were attention getting, they were often serious eyesores, as those recently empowered with abundant clip-art, and freedom from the oppressive shackles of Times New Roman, unleashed their creativity — and poor sense of design, upon a hapless audience. ...it's like getting a blowjob from a cannibal; considering the results beforehand can prevent an unwise choice.

It is this example that impressed upon me those many years ago the lesson that "just because you have the power to do something, it doesn't mean you should!" it's like getting a blowjob from a cannibal; considering the results beforehand can prevent an unwise choice.

Beyond Compatibility
In the old days my 'boss' would always harp on the need to design for the lowest common denominator, and how even the use of jpegs was to be avoided since most browsers couldn't render them. Back then I was a rebel, insisting that jpegs were a much better way to display photos, even though sticking to gifs only meant that a wider audience would get to enjoy them. We compromised of course, providing optimized gif thumbnails linking to large, clear jpegs.

Everyone could now enjoy our images, and those few fortunate visitors who had the necessary hardware, software, and connection speed to view those big, beautiful jpegs were able to as well. Today, I use jpegs exclusively for both my full size images, and my thumbnails, since very few adult site visitors are unable to render jpegs.

The lesson here is that reasonable workarounds to technological impasses can be found and implemented, but the core approach should still focus on the needs of the many, rather than the ego of the designer. When the majority of your real market becomes able to efficiently handle a certain technology then by all means implement it to its fullest, but in the meantime, if "a little dab will do ya" then start out with small applications first. Like using Flash banners, or gracefully degrading navigational elements to spice up a site, rather than a bandwidth draining Flash tour:

I hope that I've given you a few things to think about when building your next site, or rebuilding your current one. We all need to be flexible in our approaches, and even I myself might pander to those non-JavaScript enabled, Netscape using Luddites and Web TV aficionados on my site. Then again, maybe I won't... ~ Stephen

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