Earlier this month, on August the first to be more exact, MTV celebrated its 25th anniversary. In fact it is now almost 30 years old, since it was originally conceived as a two-way interactive cable TV system called Qube, with a main concept of specialised niche channels. It was only after 4 years that MTV (and somewhat later Nickelodeon) really appeared. Whereas in the early days MTV showed a lot of commercials with some video clips around them, it now airs a lot of commercials with docusoaps. The only time that I (try to) look at it is to see a wrecked car that wouldn’t pass the Belgian MOT test, being transformed in to a tawdry vehicle that still wouldn’t pass the Belgian MOT.
However there does seem to be a public for it and it would appear to be an inspiration for musicians. Mark Knofler wrote a song called ‘Money for nothing’ scrounging ‘I want my MTV’, which was the slogan the broadcasting company used to try to convince the cable providers to add the network to their channel supply. This line was both ‘written’ and sung by Sting, according to some parodying his own song called “Don’t stand so close to me”. Apparently inspiration was lacking when it came to writing things down.
Speaking of inspiration, I’ve been wondering for a while which muse –no I’m not talking about the new SAP GUIs – ate into the SDN design time, and for how long, in order for them to have come up with their new choice of colours. I thought that I had maybe stumbled across the answer when I visited the Europa Park in Germany on holiday. One of the attractions there is called the Silver Star, a mega roller coaster, with the McLaren-Mercedes F1 team as its theme. I’m not into motor sports, so while I was queuing I was surprised to see that SAP was one of the partners of this team. So I thought that maybe the design team had been inspired by the colouring of these F1 bolides. The problem is that – as the name of the attraction indicates – the main colour is silver (OK, it’s a type of grey) and the secondary colour is black.
So where did they come up with the idea for these colours? The SAP site or the SDN newsletter maybe? Yes, but while it is true that they use the grey and blue combination over there, it’s certainly not that kind of combination. And they do make use of other colours in order to liven things up. Let’s just come straight out with it and say that the current colours used at the SDN home page are dull and not very attractive. It’s even worse than when I reported in an earlier From the Grumpy Old Man: The style council that the SDN site lacked a real CI/CD (Corporate Identity, Corporate Design). There is still nothing in the design that makes the site and its subparts stand out from the riff-raff, or design-wise have more value than a template made up of one page of an SME/SMB. It has been claimed that the SDN community claims to be vibrant. Why isn’t this reflected in the design of their beloved site?
There is also another issue with the new design. The home page currently consists – with some exceptions – simply of hyperlinks to other parts of the site. It has a small number of graphics and very limited text. I wonder why it was done like that? Was it to improve speed? If graphics are cleverly designed, they don’t make that much difference bandwidth wise, certainly not when things are cached. It’s not as if changes occur every hour. The same comment could be made about the surrounding text or rather the lack of it. Some people claim that “less is more”. However in this case it just isn’t true. It’s not exactly a piece of cake to find where things have been put. I’ll give an example – old values like the SDN TV have gone. I challenge you to find the homepage of SDN TV within the current design. Even multiple attempts with the SDN search engine don’t return the desired page. It is in fact “hidden” behind the eLearning menu.
Coming back to inspiration, the last contribution was on December 22nd 2005, after which nothing seems to have happened to be conserved for the descendants, which is a pity. I’m sure that a lot of interesting SAP events have happened which might be interesting enough for the SDN community. I guess one relies too much on the input from the community itself, which might be an idle hope. Not everybody has the resources (certainly material wise) to produce a qualitative contribution. Maybe the SDN content managers should crank things up again.
To conclude, the new layout reminds me of the so called portals of earlier days: totally lacking in inspiration, dull, boring and adding no value whatsoever to the content that it is linking to. Maybe I’m an exception and that the majority actually wants things this way –after all, MTV has already been around for 25 years – but I think the SDN community deserves – and apparently The key difference between SAP and Oracle – more.