If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Case Study: The Tower Heist Website A Formal Case Study on a 2011 Website of a recently released film, auditing the user experience of the website and all of the processes involved for cross-promotion, sharing and getting people to see the actual film.
Ever since the advent of Social Media and other trending cross-promotion platforms, websites nowadays are seldom seen without various buttons or widgets for frictionless sharing across these mediums. Spill is no exception to this; in fact this very blog post contains a
button in which the user can showcase this link on the following networks:
Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, digg
as well as an email option. For good measure, it also contains a twitter and 'like' button to speed up the sharing for Twitter and Facebook.
Since so-called frictionless sharing has become the accepted convention in website application, it will bear it's ugly and bloated head on conventional website design in 2011. The case study for this item: The Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy comedic-duo vehicle "Tower Heist"
The initial landing page of the website is a cluttered mess. Whilst not the interactive Flash Website we are used to associated with official movie websites, it is cluttered with numerous functional elements to external promotional material. Worse off, the website autoplays the Trailer immediately on entry, an ongoing user-experience mistake often associated with these types of websites. 1: The 'Share This' Header
The Header of the website containing all of the sharing options of the film.
Here is a full list share options in the embedded header for the website.
the web to load the basic data-mining info they need to register their tracking information to see how effective an individual item is. Because of this, it actually creates an unnecessary load time and a runtime issue for the website which could also hurt the brand itself because it isolates users with low performance computers or lacking connections to enjoy the experience of the website.
Not to mention that it is ugly. The layout of all of these conflicting colour schemes and functional elements is absolutely hideous, with the clustered iconography being absolutely confusing for users on first glance if they weren't an absolute socialphile and compeltely in-tune with every social media faction on the web.
I will not say that it's all bad, the Live twitter stream is actually a very clean design individually. However it is nestled between the Facebook promotional material (with dark text on a dark background. Illegible. ) and the various sharing icons of the other widgets.
The biggest problem with this header is the fact that it is the header: The first point of contact the user's eye is drawn to upon landing on the website. It seems to me when the UX designer of the website created their initial wireframe, these cross-promotional tools were deemed the most important.
2: Call To Action
The Various ways for website 'users' to become product consumers.
It is the most important goal for a movie website to introduce the user to the product itself. Traditionally this had been as simple as showing the film's North American release date to confirm that the movie will indeed be playing in cinemas after a certain date. However websites such as
MovieTickets.com act as an online centralised hub for movie session times so that users may plan their long, arduous trip to a local cinema.
The problem is that this
work. The homepage of the website is essentially a Flash website, with the only HTML elements being the header implanted on top of the Flash navigational elements. Enterring the zip code in the above submission input is
supposed to translate that form field onto the website the user is going to. Unfortuantely, each time I submitted the form, the field resets and the new windows that opens as a result presents me to input the zip code
the filter my sessions appropriately.
This function is one of the 3 most important functions on the page along with items 4 and 5, however they are located on the right-side of the page. Because most people living in a western culture read left-to-right, it has placed on of the most important aspects of introducing the user to the product itself lowest on the priority list for consuming information presented on the page.
3: The Goodies
Banner ads add to the visual pollution of the website, full of clashing design elements.
The biggest advent since the emergence of social media from the corporate standpoint is the fact that your own consumers can act as promotional fodder for your own product. Going beyond mere 'sharing', the marketing teams create a collection of
By having a
single available on iTunes, a
Facebook competition, a
GetGlue check-in competition, an
8-bit Browser Game, a
Facebook Game, a smartPhone Theme, a Ringtone AND a
Promotional Video for ESPN... it's a lot of media to be consumed.
Cross-Media promotions is all about creating line-extensions to validify the original product, it extends to consumables of the original brand to different consumers in different areas to extend the core market base of the master product; in this case the film. The fact the user regurgitate this content onto their peers is showcasing the corporate faith in social; to an extent in which it becomes virtually redundant and just another frequency in the already noizy field of games, check-ins and competitions.
Because all of this material is layed out over THREE columns on the website, it is clear that no matter where the user's eye is focused they
to be drawn onto this external promotional material.
But that's the biggest drawback; these are all external. Every single one of these links takes the user away from the website and away from the most important links to the product. Because the homepage is clustered with these line-extensions, the navigational experience is killed before they can even look up a movie session or find about what the film is about.
The user can do anything they want except learn about the actual product itself, which is detrimental from an overall sales perspective. This may increase sheer exposure of the product, but it limits in informing the user of the product or for them to actually consume the product.
4/5: The Heart of the Product
The Most important buttons on the Home Page.
It is the most important exercise for navigation architecture to ensure that the vital navigational items are easy for the user to be drawn to. With a page of 34 linking or functional elements, this is proven to be a difficult task. Creating a hierarchy for the most important buttons or links on this page is proven impossible, because there is simply to much to promote.
The 'Enter Site' and 'Watch Trailer' buttons are the two most important buttons on this page. They are large buttons with an appropriate font. Their importance is highlighted by the fact that the trailer automatically plays upon the initial landing on the page.
However the 'Enter Site' button is most intriguing, as it implies heavily that this is merely a landing page; a pit-stop before the actual website full of content the consumer truly needs.
Behold! The actual website about the film!
We are taken onto the Interactive Flash website, complete with autoplaying audio and loading screen. All in all, this is actually a very well made Flash website. There are social media link embedded on the footer as well a Facebook and Twitter links on the top right. However from an aesthetic and functional standpoint; it is really well done and more akin to what we expect from a feature film website.
The primary focus is on the characters, with a neat little multi-depth scroll with enlrages and shift the character with the mouse scroll. However, the actual content of the website is tucked away in the top-left corner as the 'Menu' button. If you are going to tuck something away the top-left is indeed the best place, it still should be more of a primary focus.
Content! There's actually content on this website.
The term 'Content is King' is now completely outdated, considering the number of of clicks and the competition in navigation to get to the actual content of the film. Content isn't valued by a corporate entity unless it can be used to promote to product additionally. This in turn ultimately hurts the brand itself, in any market or medium no matter what your selling.
The content is actually really well done here and kudos to the Flash development team for creating this as it contains a Gallery, Videos, About page, downloadable content etc. It's a mistake that direct links for this content isn't readily available on the splash page for the website: every link on this menu page should be available within a single click for a user.
With a cluttered enough front page as it is, having these available in the footer etc would save the user from actively searching for it. This version of the website is more in-tune with the Fullscreen Interactive Flash websites we are akin too during the middle-part of the past decade.
It is important to note that they are selling a product with a limited shelf life; essentially the cinematic run which is a span of weeks at most. The value is ultimately with cross-promotion, not the content of the film. And it's the way it will be for any and all films for the foreseeable future.