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As site owners, we must demonstrate to our customers:

  • You are our top priority
  • This site is here to serve you
  • We respect your time
  • We won't waste your time by imposing unnecessary steps
  • We have done our utmost to make our site easy to use

Splash screens, for the most part, communicate the exact opposite. Especially egregious are those that impose themselves on us every time we visit. A good example is www.futureshop.com. With each and every visit, customers must first indicate their language preference:

At first blush, it may seem perfectly reasonable to ask your visitors' language preferences before directing them to your site. And indeed, there are cases in which is it justified. (That is, where it's not easy to predict a visitor's first language.) But in the case of Canada, we can make a pretty good guess at a visitor's preferred official language: French in Quebec, English everywhere else.

Sure there will be exceptions, but so long as it is easy to switch between English and French versions, what's the harm in making an intelligent guess (via IP address) and sending visitors to the version they're probably looking for?

If the above is too technically difficult or otherwise problematic, how about using cookies to record which version customers have chosen? Then at least customers will only be subjected to the splash screen once. (Unless they clear their cookies of course.)

Am I asking too much? Am I being politically incorrect?? Well… consider that even the Canadian Government manages to pull it off and thinks it's okay. When I go to Canada Post website, I'm directed to the English version. And there's a nice clear link to the French version. Why can't Future Shop do the same?

Jakob Nielsen said it best: “Splash screens must die.”

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