What are they on about?

12th January 2001 at 00:00
David Newnham calls for a tidy up at the UK's favourite website

Let's get one thing straight: I am not a boring old fart. I might be older than I was last year but I am certainly not boring. When 20-year-olds talk about the internet, you don't see me looking baffled. I'm a fan of the worldwide web, and as soon as my town catches up with Glue Ear, Ontario, and lists dustbin days on a proper website, I'll be an even bigger one.

But what I don't like is the vision of post-modern chaos which is the average web page. If I need information, then I don't want to duck and dive through some shopping street from Bladerunner to find it. "Order!" I hear myself cry. "Order, please!" The BBC Online homepage is supposedly "the UK's favourite website" (if that's true, then the UK must have a lot of spare time on its hands). So let's pay a visit.

Being the BBC, there's none of the usual advertising clutter. Instead, the page is filled with competing puffs for BBC services.

Pulsing pictures that take minutes to download vie for attention centre stage. Yet their accompanying prose, peppered wth hypertext links and labels such as "Adrenalin Pumper" and "Category: Entertainment" tell me nothing I need to know.

To the left of centre (have you noticed the fashion for dividing pages into three vertical sections and filling the biggest with the least useful material?) is a column of links, some of which are self-explanatory (News, Sport, Weather) but many of which are not (Homes, Wales, My BBC).

And to the right? Well, here are News, Sport and Weather again, only now with hypertext headlines, fussy graphics and patronising icons.

Top and bottom, the page is littered with links that are meaningless even when you hold a magnifying glass to the explanations. So what are they taking me for? A bored teenager who has wandered into their flickering wonderland and can probably be tricked into buying something on impulse?

If it's meant to make me feel good about the BBC, it doesn't. If it's meant to make me feel good about my young and carefree self, it doesn't.

It just makes me feel like a boring old fart. Which, as I've already said, I'm really not. Honest!


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