Skittles: Great attempt, but you fall short of appeal.

One of the big topics of discussion today is the new Skittles website. What’s so fascinating about it? Well, thanks to the work of an outstanding agency, the Skittles site is loosely integrated with social media applications like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Yeah, you heard me right…I said loosely. Why? Well that’s because when you go to the site, there’s a bunch of items that I’d have to call out and say that it was poorly done, but it seemed that the entire Skittles website was created within 24 hours and pushed live before any creative review or QA was done to get it looking like how the brand should.

Let’s examine this a little bit closely, okay?

One of the first things that you see when you go to the Skittles website is the Twitter search results page for anyone on Twitter talking about Skittles. Yes, that’s points for them, but is that what they’re trying to accomplish? To use the site as a “here’s what people are saying about us” page? Just because Twitter has been mentioned several times in mainstream media does not mean that everyone, including probably Skittle’s core audience, will know what Twitter is and how they can add in their own two cents. So why do you have your main page being a Twitter search page?

I’m all for market research and think that people will voluntarily give out some unidentifiable but demographical information to help a company better reach them, but the key word here is “voluntarily”, right? When you first log into the page, you’re immediately smacked with a message that reads:

Hold your horses. Before you can check out Skittles.com, you’ve gotta tell us your age. So spill it

So what’s the point in this? Is there any adult content associated with the Skittles page? Is there an “adults only” section that will allow people over the age of 18 to access so that they can get the mythical “sensual Skittle”? The message is very unfriendly and there’s not even an option to skip. At least put in a small text link that will allow people to skip out of it if they don’t want to share that information. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t have their demographic people but they still visit your site and have that experience. Currently, you’re either demanding that they visit the site or tell them to “piss off” and go somewhere else. Is this the attitude that you really want?

To support this claim, let’s look at the demographics of who’s on Twitter. According to Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs, there are no children on Twitter. So who’s doing the buying for Skittles? It’s candy so one would think children with allowances. Would parents be buying it for them? Not sure…but I’m betting mostly children. With respect to Twitter, a majority of those folks using the application are between the ages of 18-49 years of age. So yes, I’m betting that Skittles is reaching out to someone new, but apparently is ignoring their base.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely applaud Skittles and their agency for reaching out to attract more people through social media, but was this done right and efficiently? I don’t think so. I believe that they were great in having a Facebook presence but are they also on Myspace? Going back to where I first began this post…why is the Twitter search page the “homepage”? Why isn’t it something more audience-friendly that everyone (or at least the majority) can relate to?

Okay, now is it me or does that floating navigation that you see on the Skittle’s website driving you insane because it just stays there, but you want it to move? When I first came to the site last night, I thought it was pretty cool, but that was when I realized that it couldn’t be moved. You know how certain AJAX features could let you re-arrange things on the screen sometimes? Well this website won’t let you. It’s one of those static boxes that just stays put and irritates you since it stays in that same part and obstructs your view of the entire screen. Think about it like when you’re watching a TV show and the station puts up a “in-program” ad that blocks part of the screen. That drives me nuts and I want to get rid of it. The navigation on the Skittle’s website is no different and I think should severely be rethought of. It’s nice that they continue to have the navigation apparent throughout the different “third-party” sites you visit, like Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, etc., but there needs to be another way – specifically when you’re watching their YouTube channel, the primary navigation obstructs the video player and that is a big turnoff.

If I had to boil this post to a central theme, it would be about user experience. This website has done a bad job of looking at the site from a user experience. Again, they’re great in going after the social media, but does this all tie into their message and would this relate to people who want to buy their product? Recently in an article about website aesthetics and usability, an interesting quote came up about how these two issues mesh together:

How we choose what to buy is a key question that should be asked when designing an ecommerce website. While we all like to think we all make rational decisions, considering the functional nature of products, aesthetics clearly influences people and their choices.

Skittles misses the boat in this department and, in my opinion, the half-assed approach towards getting things integrated together and not looking like a cohesive brand shows that brands may have a little bit further to go to understanding social media. But, like I said, Skittles has made a great effort. As Dale Larson of No Such Agency said (and I think he put it best): “We’ll all learn something in the conversations and fallout. That alone is worth the experiment. Bravo, Skittles.”

Bravo.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.