or castration via rusty spoon? I'll take the spoon, please.
August 16, 2007 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Help me convince a co-worker, by pointing me to credible sources online (or offline, if necessary), that adding "web avatars" to web pages, such as those found at, are a HORRIBLE idea. I am primarily concerned with issues dealing with usability + accessibility problems and eye socket/ear drum bleeding caused by such things.
posted by basicchannel to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jakob Nielsen just covered this: The answer seems clear: minimize features and chase simplicity at any cost.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:16 PM on August 16, 2007

Who is the target audience for the site? I think they're a bad idea in general, but I suppose it depends on the context
posted by meta_eli at 6:56 PM on August 16, 2007

Some people just love tacky gimmicks and want to load pages up with spinning logos, fancy interactive menus and talking avatars.

The thing is, you can't pull out an authoritative report that pronounces "Spinning logos, fancy interactive menus and talking avatars reduce sales by 98%"; it's more subtle & complicated than that, so someone with expert knowledge has to use their experience and confidence to talk them out of bad ideas (possibly by referring to specific research where possible, but usually it's about trust and force of personality).

Otherwise all you can do is try to put them off with vague stuff about usability and accessibility, or try to find reasons why their pet feature should be shifted to 'phase 2' of development.
posted by malevolent at 12:24 AM on August 17, 2007

Sorry, the site is an informational site for a large university system.
posted by basicchannel at 2:46 AM on August 17, 2007

I hate avatars like these, hate hate hate. In fact, I pretty much dislike all animation and movement on web pages, unless it's Youtube.

That being said, I hired a property management company based on an avatar on their homepage.

I'd been surfing for information on management companies for seemingly hours, and was growing weary and bleary-eyed. Then, suddenly, the avatar with a spoken spiel. I listened to the spiel, phoned for info, and hired on the spot.

My point is, avatars are incredibly annoying, but can probably be effective if 1) used for a specific sales purpose 2) designed in a way that provides clear, concise information to the viewer.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:33 AM on August 17, 2007

Ahh... the plight of the tasteful web designer. Gimmicky crap that they can show to their uninformed friends/spouse/kids and go "look!" and they'll go "ooooh!" (cause, sadly, no one outside the industry swoons over well-formed CSS and "but look, it validates!" doesn't really bring in the ladies).

Anyway - my suggestion is that you tell them that because of accessibility/usability (esp. for a University page, that's a BIG deal), any information that they're hoping to defer to an avatar be done in text, below (or left-aligned wrap around) the avatar. And, the avatar should NOT be auto-starting. This way, you get the best of both worlds - s/he gets their damned avatar, and everyone else gets a useable page.

Furthermore, you could defend the position I just mentioned by repeating three little letters : S E O. Google can't "search" a talking friggin' avatar, and if this site is to offer important information, it's important that people can actually find it quickly. Also, browsers don't have a "find in page.." solution for talking friggin' avatars.
posted by revmitcz at 7:48 PM on August 17, 2007

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