Online gimmicks on their way out?

An Associated Press report this weekend is music to my ears, and while the report talks about online gimmickry and political conventions, I’m hoping it marks an overall transition on the World Wide Web:

Gone from Internet coverage of the political conventions are most of the gimmicks, like 360-degree cameras that Web surfers can control from their homes. Also gone are television-style reports at USA Today’s Web site and an original newscast from America Online Inc.

While 2004 brings better use of high-speed Internet connections, Flash animation technology and independent Web journalists known as bloggers, media organizations are largely returning to the basics on the Internet.

They are dropping the bells and whistles in favor of what they do best: covering the news.

“The big difference between here and four years ago is that the gee whiz element of the Internet has ended,” said Stephen Bromberg, executive editor for Fox News Channel’s Web site. “People now just expect to get the news from the Web site.”

I can remember conversations years ago arguing that the overabundance of gimmicks and effects on even the popular Websites was the equivalent of creative children playing with finger paints. Television was the same way. Early pre-produced TV (mostly commercials) was largely one effect after another. The Web was even more irritating, because of the hundreds of effects available to publishers: blinking, whirling, moving, try this, try that, bold text, big text, small text, rollovers, mouseovers, pop-ups, moving colors, changing colors, chirping, whistling, beeping, “You’ve got mail,” doors slamming, doors opening…a typical Website was then (and still is) a mass of people trying to get your attention ANY way possible.

I hope — I pray — that people are beginning to get the point that it’s the content that brings people to a Website (or a Website to people) and keeps them involved, not the fancy bells and whistles that have dominated Web development for too long. My company’s slogan is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Can I get an amen?

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