There’s this hotel I think we’re going to stay in for our first night in Rome (we’re arriving in the evening, after closing hours for the apartment booking service). It’s gotten excellent reviews, is moderately priced, is located close to the train station but not on the seedy side, and generally seems like a good choice.
However, their website is one of the worst offenders I’ve ever seen in terms of style over substance. It’s just terrible! First, there’s a splash page with a big, slow-loading Flash video. Then, once you get bored with it and hit Skip, the main page isn’t much better. It too is Flash-based, and while I don’t have any problem with Flash per se, it needn’t be the basis of every single page.
Despite having the flags of different nations, which is a common way to signify that a page is available in multiple languages, it’s actually not very multilingual at all. For one thing, clicking on a flag won’t get you anywhere. You have to click on the name of the language under the page, which generates a little roll-over animation of the word. Also, the names of the languages are all in Italian. That’s not so bad for Inglese, but I bet there are a lot of German speakers out there who would be looking around for the word deutsch instead of tedesco.
Also, if you do manage to find the language you were looking for, it only helps a little because a good amount of stuff is still in Italian.
Please note that I am not taking the position that everybody should bow down to English speakers and cater to their every whim. Half the fun of going to another country is trying out one’s language skills, and I love Italian and speak it decently (though probably as much through enthusiasm and flirting than true mastery).
I’m just saying that if their goal was to make a website that is useful, easy to navigate, and appealing to a wide audience, they failed big time.
Still, I guess we shouldn’t fault them too much for valuing style over substance. After all, Italy is the country that brought us this: