Oh Dear!

I made myself a promise that I would take this page down. After all, my diatribe against this desperately flawed website had already had a good run for its money, and I have no gripe against the good folk of McMaster University. But then, I just thought I would take another look. And guess what - it had been updated, and it was even worse.

Medieval Women

An Interactive Exploration of Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

This is what I wrote before.

This supposedly interactive website is part of a larger interdisciplinary project from McMaster University which includes videos, audio tapes of music, a multimedia CD-ROM and a television series. This web site supposedly explores the life of a 15 year old girl in the 15th century, but rather than following a plausible fiction, it goes for a crossdressing romp through a life that no 15 year old girl enjoyed. The introductory Flash splash screen has no written information, just a Disney style drawing of a fantasy scene that emanates flashing stars when you pass the cursor over various hot spots. You have absolutely no idea where you are going until you click. Once you get into the story, you are presented with written text, and little audio buttons that produce sound files that are so compressed that they are virtually incomprehensible, but it doesn't matter because they are only reading what is written on the page in front of you. Without being too pedantic, I think "interactive" should imply more than just that the navigation links work and the "go" buttons make things go. There has to be some input from the user. The whole concept is seriously woeful.

And this is what I found recently.

The hideous twinkling Flash splash screen has now been sandwiched between a ghastly Flash intro in which letters wobble all over the screen and the "skip intro" button doesn't work because the poor computer is so busy processing this rubbish that it hasn't got time to respond, and another whole set of Disney style twinkly Flash graphics which appear after you click on the first layer of twinkly bits. I have no idea whether they have changed the content (Basic story: damsel dresses up as a boy and goes to university!!), because I never managed to drill down through these layers of meaningless graphics to actually find any content. I am not pedantic about website design, and think that there are various ways of getting your message across, but number one rule has to be that the home page should say concisely who you are, what you think you are doing, and should provide a simple means of getting directly into the content. This looks like it was designed by a bunch of first year multimedia students who got their graphic design skills from 1940s cartoons and their medieval history from French art house movies.

Phew! That feels better!

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