This week Skittles changed their homepage to a Twitter feed of anyone who tweeted anything with the word ’skittles’ in it and it’s created a lot of buzz. Some people love it, saying its perfect advertising in our struggling economy. Some hate it, more than a few social media types have called it a ‘cheap publicity stunt’ because of Skittles previous non-involvement with any sort of social media. But, ignoring all social media banter and looking at the new skittles page from a web design perspective, we see some potentially serious problems.
First of all, control. Your homepage is usually the #1 place people go when looking for information on your company. Is it really a good idea to essentially give up control of the majority of the content? Skittles has already run into this problem. Once word got out you could get on their homepage by simply typing ’skittles’ somewhere in your tweet more than a few inappropriate links and offensive language popped up.
Usability. The nature of this type of feed (and the sometimes inappropriate things it shows) caused Skittles to put up an age verifying pop-up before entering the site. True, if a person can add or subtract they can trick the program, and the screen is a pop-up so you can see the content behind it anyway, but putting up a barrier to entry like this is a no-no in terms of usability. Many users will simply not spend the time to fill it in and move on. Also, what happens to the people who were genuinely looking for information? They are bound to be more than a little confused on where they should go next or whether they are even on the Skittles site…not good.
The actual site navigation looks too much like a spammy pop-up for comfort. Once you get past that and realize that it is meant to be their site nav the way they’ve labeled things can confuse people further. ‘Chatter’ takes you to the same page you’re already on (’Home’), ‘Friends’ pulls up a Facebook page, and ‘Media’ brings in a Skittles focused feed from YouTube. The only parts of the entire site that still resembles a company website is a contact form and somewhat lame ‘Products’ section with a few links to their parent company, Mars‘ site.
They’ve created buzz and we really do applaud them for attempting to utilize social media to get their brand involved. However, abandoning current web convention all together and sacrificing usability is probably not the smartest move in the long run…guess we’ll have to wait and see.