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So a client of mine is making repeated requests for things that were "cool" when her website originally launched in the late nineties. One feature is a scrolling marquee that just says "welcome to {domain name}" (client and domain withheld because of NDA).

I have repeatedly advised the client that this is a negative design element because a scrolling ticker is only useful for constantly updating data, and all she wants to put is a welcome message. Can you think of anything contemporary as far as subtle animations that would substitute for a scrolling marquee? The text would again just say "Welcome to {Domain Name}"

UPDATE

Some people have asked for clarification, so here's some more info about the site. I'd share the design, but again, NDA. : (

The design is the following themes: Patriotic, Clean, Slightly Textured. The concept that was given to me was a stock image that contained an old American flag and a copy of the constitution with a quill laid across it. I used that as a background and put the content on a paper-textured center container. The colors are red white and blue (white background with red headers and blue links). A flag waving might actually be perfect for that, as @Scott suggested. I'd love to see a suggestion of how to implement that.

UPDATE 2

In the interest of proposing solutions and not just creating problems, here's a jsfiddle of a jquery plugin to make a wave. Suggestions? Improvements? http://jsfiddle.net/yPZVy/

CLARIFICATION

I may or may not have explained this part well enough, she's not simply using the "marquee" tag but rather a flash animation that does the same thing. This is obvioulsy a problem for a lot of reasons.

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I would suggest non-moving text. But if you have to go with anything go with flying doves and a repeatedly inverting rainbow gradient design along with a soundtrack in the background that you can't turn off. –  Johannes May 9 '12 at 19:52
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For this client, it'd be screeching bald eagles and f-35s flying across the page. I'm not sure Kenny Loggins could be reached for permission to use Danger Zone. –  NateDSaint May 9 '12 at 19:53
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@scott I don't think it is, I'm not asking for a technical possibility for what I can do. I'll probably end up using a css3-based animation with a jQuery fallback. My question was one of design: what type of element can conceptually replace a bold marquee animation without affecting readability? –  NateDSaint May 9 '12 at 20:04
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Ahh fair enough. That is a puzzler, since any replacement even close to a marquee would be as distracting. I mean... "Tasteful Marquee" is itself an oxymoron :) –  Scott May 9 '12 at 20:06
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She demands it because she thinks it makes the site "pop." Yup, one of those clients. Honestly I just want to make it out of this alive without recreating their old site. I've updated the question with details on the design. –  NateDSaint May 10 '12 at 1:58

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I find that if you dig deep enough there's usually a nugget of sense in even the craziest client requests. The words they use to express what they want are usually wrapped up in a hodge-podge of what they've seen and what they think is normal - but every profession has its own flavour of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". It could be worse, we could be doctors trying to tell patients that the drug they saw an ad for yesterday won't cure them, or mechanics trying to explain why the client's friend "who's really good with cars" was wrong and it this really honestly isn't a simple fix.

I'm guessing in this case because I don't know the client, but I can imagine a few genuine, sensible desires which, when put through the meat grinder of limited knowledge and experience, could result in them asking for a marquee with a welcome message that 'pops'.

  • They want movement that jolts a new customer into focus, actively pointing their attention to a start point and actively introducing chosen elements to the customer. If this is true, there are loads of things that use movement to focus on key elements which your client might like, if they are presented right. Outside of text transition effects, the obvious one is a carousel - a bit of a cliche maybe and often misused, but they can be very effective when done right. It's also probably the closest thing to a marquee.
  • They instinctively know their customers like the personal touch and can feel intimidated by even the cleanest modern web design. They feel they want to reach out and hand-deliver a welcome message to their customers as a clear place to start and they want to push that message to the visitor like an enthusiastic host. If this is what they want, this Smashing article on website introductions might be a place to start getting ideas.
  • They might know their audience like things at a slower pace and like things to come to them - more shopping channel than shopping arcade. So they like the idea of slowly, gently pushing things towards the viewer at a set steady pace. Maybe your client knows their demographic feels lost in the digital jungle, and a marquee is the closest thing your client can think of to throwing them a guiding rope. If this is what your client wants, you've got a really interesting design problem: you'll want to explore and re-imagine the varied world of website elements that work for a semi-passive audience. A few examples of the top of my head are using video and the kind of guided interfaces you sometimes see in interactive visualisations (Development Seed's homepage is a cool if slightly confusing example of this principle applied to web design in general - the general principle is, there's a clear smooth path, and you can diverge from it if you wish)

Never underestimate how well a good small business owner instinctively knows their audience, even/especially if they have no knowledge of design or of their lack of knowledge of design. (also never underestimate how ignorant of their audiences some middle managers in big companies can be...)

If you'll forgive a "when I were young" story.... I was a student on a consultancy team as part of a placement, working with a guy who ran a business selling traditional Scottish stuff. His website was a thing of nightmares: it played bagpipe music at full volume on page load. Everyone who'd worked with him had told him to remove the music, and he always refused and got defensive: the others thought of him as impossible to work with.

One day in casual conversation I found a way to casually ask about the bagpipe music in a friendly, interested way. It turns out he regularly got emails from bored, older diaspora Scots who loved listening to the music while shopping, and who said it made them feel at home. The guy was a natural salesman: he'd jump on this, enchanting them with the stories behind each piece of music, working in his other products, and before long these guys were loyal, regular customers, on first name terms. He was selling them high-value goods, and they were spreading the world about his merch.

After listening, I started making suggestions about how he could improve parts of the site he'd previously refused to budge on - suggesting prompts before playing the music, clearer music player controls, and general things like a site design and structure that encouraged personal communications. He was listening keenly and taking the suggestions on board, because he could see that I understood what he was really trying to do. Everyone else had been so struck by how obviously a bad idea it was to play non-consensual bagpipe music at people, they'd never stopped to figure out why this smart, successful guy thought it was a good idea.

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Thanks for this awesome in-depth answer! Your "when I was young story" feels a lot like this one, though I'm not sure this user has the evidence to back up her opinions as much. I was told that she would "require" scrolling text. I asked why, and she said "so people know they are on the homepage." I suggested a number of other things, and it seems animation is the only way to go for her, so thus I'm eliciting responses here. Thanks for your careful and in-depth analysis of how to approach this. –  NateDSaint May 11 '12 at 13:58
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+1 for non-consensual bagpipe music –  horatio May 11 '12 at 16:49
    
I apologize for not choosing this, I don't know why I didn't already. Thanks again! –  NateDSaint Jan 8 '13 at 18:01

If you have your customer's IP, you can have a flashing marquee just for him...

Jokes aside, this is one of those things where the customer is wrong and where you have to go over the purpose of the website with the customer.

"I am concerned that this might distract the customer from buying your product because his attention would be called away from your product or your pitch, and after the first 5-6 times, ready 'Welcome to X" is a bit bothersome... you don't want to lose sales, right?"

If that doesn't work, can you convince the customer that scrolling only 1-2 times is enough and that the "Welcome" message can be static afterwards?

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I'm working on a basic "loading" sort of animation, where it slowly comes in from one side. That may or may not be enough to satisfy whatever desire they have for it, but I'm trying to think of this as an opportunity to find a compromise between what they want and what they actually need. –  NateDSaint May 10 '12 at 18:33
    
"Loading" is an idea, but what do you have on the website that requires time to load, and will the customer accept that as a replacement for a welcome message? –  Sylverdrag May 11 '12 at 10:05
    
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that it says "loading" but rather that it only executes the animation once upon load. Similar to the way css-tricks.com shows the color of each menu item on load but then doesn't do it again (although it's the same animation you see on hover of the nav items) –  NateDSaint May 11 '12 at 13:54
    
@NateDSaint Oh, ok. Yes, that would be a good solution if the client can be convinced. –  Sylverdrag May 11 '12 at 15:44

You're asking the wrong question. The question is:

How do I get a client to focus on business needs rather than personal wants?

The key way to handle that is to never ask a client what they want on their web site. Instead, ask them what their customers need. What are their customer's goals?

As soon as they start talking "I like purple and animated unicorns" then you're no longer a graphic designer. You're now just a production artist taking art direction from someone that has no art direction skills.

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Thanks for this answer! I upvoted, but I think the reason that others downvoted it was that I asked a specific design question in the form of a brainstorming question. But thank you for thinking laterally and redirecting, I really appreciate it. The problem here is that she's convinced everyone in her industry is just like her, and I don't know her industry well enough to say that she's wrong. Not helping is the fact that her competitors all have similar features. I'm trying to find a subtle animation as a compromise, hence this question. –  NateDSaint May 10 '12 at 18:32
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Well, the specific question is hard to answer. Design decisions have to be made on business objectives. Your client is merely asking for a subjective feature based on a want. We could throw out alternatives all day long but in the end, it all comes down to her subjective want. Admittedly, we all get clients like this some times. You do what you have to do. –  DA01 May 10 '12 at 18:57

I personally don't like them, but the present day equivalent of a <marquee> element is the animated image slideshow/slider. They often have poor usability (can't be stopped or paused to allow the visitor to read the full text, show images containing large blocks of text inaccessible to screenreaders and can't be copied & pasted, lack controls to allow the user to navigate to the slide they want, etc.), and the constant animation distracts users from other content on the page.

However, sliders are very popular these days, and sometimes it seems like every other homepage features one. So it's clearly not anywhere near as taboo as a marquee, but it still has the same novelty of a large, prominently featured animation found on homepages.

The plus side is, if the client is willing to accept this compromise, you can make the slider less annoying. For one, don't stick 20 slides in there; keep it to 5 or less. And definitely make sure there's a way to stop/pause the animation so that the user can read the slides (some do this when moused over, though I prefer having a toggle switch), and that there's a way to easily navigate to a particular slide without waiting for the slider to cycle through all the intermediate images.

Beyond that, there are lots of HTML5 animations that have the same pointless novelty as a marquee. You may be able to find one that's tasteful (or just less gaudy) and can be looped infinitely without being super annoying. Though I would personally just slap a marquee on there and do a quick user test with 5-10 people and show the client the results.

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Your suggestions to make carousels / sliders less annoying are good: another good tip is to make each item a html div with real text position:absoluted over the image (never never never text in the image). Thumbnail navigation is good too. –  user568458 May 24 '12 at 14:52

I would try somthing like the 'hello bar' http://www.hellobar.com (or code it yourself) pretty tasteful, and you could combine it with a social like button.

Its not 100% inline with a marque but it does add movement to the page..

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Can't believe they charge $29 for that... something like this seems like a good suggestion though –  user568458 May 24 '12 at 14:43

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