November 18, 2006

Honduran websites have bling

Here in Honduras, a web site is not considered complete until it has bling − things dancing, bouncing, blinking, beeping, or singing. Professional website developers impress their clients by including every flash application under the sun. They like pop-up windows a lot, too. The links may not work. No one will ever answer your email. But they do have bling.

Instituto Hondureño de Tourismo (Honduran Institute of Tourism) has a typical site and the whole page is in a frame. Why a frame? This one hurts my eyes with the pictures flashing so quickly. For full enjoyment, run your mouse over the page and menus will be changing color and popping out everywhere. (2009 Update: This website is much improved since 2006!)

Hondutel, the state owned telephone company, is another good example. It has a Preguntas Frequentes (frequently asked questions) section, but amusingly, or not so amusingly, the answer to virtually every one of the thousands of questions is "call us" or "come in to the office."

It's just inconceivable that problems could be solved or questions answered in an efficient manner without inconveniencing the customer with a day-long wait in line. For example, just to get my personal password approved by the department of security so that I could log onto the website, I waited an entire nine days for the email. Inexplicably a duplicate email was sent approximately six months later, again informing me that my password was approved.

La ENEE, the state owned electric company, has a more subdued front page. I find it funny, though, that rather than highlighting questions or services on the front page, the two items highlighted are 1) The date the electricity will be turned off for late payers this month, and 2) denuncias (complaints).

Monthly electric bills can be paid through my bank's online banking service. This is a great convenience, except that it can only be done from 8:00 a.m. through 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. I picture someone at the other end of my connection getting my request and culling through a big ledger of manual entries to send back the information on my account.

We have a 5-year-old computer and generally it has adequate power to do everything we need. But opening the Tigo site, one of the national cell phone companies, is a struggle. I've never seen so many moving targets on one web page in all my years on the internet.

To really enjoy this site, run your mouse over the page and watch how everything bounces up and down. What really annoys me is that it takes control of my computer and won't let me switch to another tab until it is through loading, which takes awhile on my computer.

Claro, the other cell phone company, likes a lot of movement on their front page also. I guess they think that their users will be so entertained that they won't notice that we are paying the highest cell phone rates in Central America. So high, in fact, that some Honduran residents near the borders of other countries get their cellphones there, pay international rates for calls and still come out ahead!

This Honduras site only has five moving objects, but the color scheme makes me think a 16-year-boy designed it to look "cool." I think it has a lot of good information, but how about a little organization! Even just alphabetizing the seventy topics would help, if categorizing is more than they can handle.

I'm glad I don't bank at Ficensa anymore. Waiting for this jigsaw puzzle to load every time would drive me crazy.

To give credit where credit is due, the Honduran government site is vastly improved since the last time I looked, much more professional looking now, although I see that they are having a hard time keeping it updated since 14 members of the President's cabinet have quit in his first 10 months of office. A couple years ago when I was trying to get some information, it required downloading some direct-X program to view it! You've got to be kidding me. No thank you!

The Presidential site, however, has a bit of a Hitler-ish look to it that I don't like. And the superimposed photos are just a little creepy for me. (2009 update: The Hitler-like photo has been changed.)

While writing this article, I tried to check the Televicab site (cable company and my internet service provider) to see if their front page was still full of broken links and naked HTML code. Interestingly, Firefox can't reach the server at Televicab. How can that be? Isn't that my server? Oh, well.

I sent them a couple of emails November 2005 − I'm still waiting for a reply. (2009 update: The page still won't load and I'm still waiting for a reply. Haha)

2009 update: I've seen much improvement in some Honduran websites. Some government sites, though, have remained in the dark ages, and sadly, some have gotten even worse, converting some or all of their sites to FRAMES upon which you must click incessantly to read the information! With a few notable exceptions, most of the sites do not have the kind of helpful information that citizens might need, and neither can anything be accomplished from a website or email.)
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