Why do "artsy" web sites use second windows?

A disproporiatenly large number of “artsy” sites (Flash-heavy sites that display lots of pictures) have a main page which does nothing but launch a second window. Example: supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio’s official webpage: (WARNING: no nudity, but probably not workplace-safe): http://www.alessandraambrosio.com.br/
But launching that second window is detestable on so many levels – pop-up blockers may break it, it runs against the general paradigm of web surfing, it annoys users to have to close a seperate window, etc. Futher, the window is usually not resizable, which is also annoying. The designers of all these webpages must have had some reason for doing it.
Given how bad this practice is, why do so many Flash-based “artsy” websites do it? I’m assuming it must be some limitation of Flash that requires launching a new window to get the full effect, but I don’t understand how that could be since I’ve seen lots of pages use Flash in-place.
So why do so many websites do this?

Art supercedes praticality.

One reason is that they don’t want the ugly back/forward/address bar things to appear above the website. The website as much as possible should look like a picture frame. Also, they tend to prefer to precisely define the size of the window so that it works across all resolution monitors.

In short, they are trying to preserve some of the traditional print art paradigms in the web world.

It looks nice. But it also bugs the crap out of me. My photography website has no intro page (a big pet peeve of mine), and no pop ups or anything. While it might not look as good as some of the fancier sites, I like to think the convenience, speed, and simplicity add something to it.

That said, there are some all flash sites that are very well put together, and if done right, they become not only beautiful, but also very functional. It’s very hard to strike that balance, though.

More bluntly, they are trying to subvert the essential philosophy of the Web because they are too unimaginative to use it to their own advantage.

The Web is a very client-oriented protocol, to the point that website authors don’t get to control how their page renders on the client’s screen. A lot of web designers don’t like that, to the point where they either create a website that’s a bunch of tables and divs and fonts all defined down to the individual pixel and with single-pixel clear GIFs thrown in to make sure things line up in the one and only browser the site will ever be tested with, or create a website that is just a wrapper around a Flash dingus, which does give them absolute control over what appears on the recipent’s screen.

Neither of those plans allow for some of the fundamental things the Web and HTML are honestly pretty good at:
[ul]
[li]Gentle degredation: If I visit your site in Netscape 4.0, it should be readable and navigable and generally usable. It might be a bit less flashy, some of your JavaScript might not work right, and I won’t be able to add your RSS feed to my list with a single click.[/li][li]User-controlled look-and-feel: I like the fonts I choose. You don’t get to choose for me; the most you can do is suggest that this would look best in a monspace font or that the other text should be emphasized somehow or other.[/li][li]Accessibility: If I go blind, how will your site allow me to use it? Vision degredation short of blindness can require people to do horrible things to sites that like to control text and background colors (contrast, in other words) and specify absolute font sizes. Guess what? The site designer is wrong.[/li][/ul]Dive Into Accessibility is a good online book about how to make websites (especially blogs, but the tips are universal) more accessible. It is good to read if only to see how many people do it wrong, out of laziness or sheer perversion.

There’s special or intentional about it.

At one time, on the original small Mac machines, linking was done for text.
Each keyword link went to a new article. Articles followed their paper formats and had cover pages, like for a monograph.

Then that became the standard format that came with several of the earliest software packages, Front Page and the first Geocities.
Everybody had that format in the early years.
The techies saw the drawback and ignored the lead page, while the arty types have enough trouble just getting anything to run that they don’t fuss with it.

Commerce supersedes both. You put content before whistles and bells, you impress nobody but casual visitors, critics, and cranks. Paying customers want Flash, XYZML eight-point-whatever, etc., whether it sells their wares well or not. This is because it tells them a web builder is up-to-date and competitive in ways business people intuitively respect.

Competency with whatever technology is of the moment is the web builder’s resumé. Without it, s/he has to rely on a good sense of architecture and design, which is not something the money people can appreciate.

I despise that second window crap. Any site that does that immediately gets closed.

It hasn’t been mentioned so far, but I suspect that a part of it is also content protection. If the pics on the site are contained within flash slidehows you can’t easily cut and copy them to your hard drive the way you can with most web based pics without doing a screen capture or some other clumsy kludge.

Actually, one of the benefits of Flash is that it resizes itself. For a quick look, check my page and click on one of the animations. If you resize your window, you’ll find the frame at left doesn’t resize–because it’s regular html–whereas the Flash does. I didn’t have to tell it to do that, either. Those sites are apparently ordering Flash to be less effective.

They do it because it gives them absolute control over that window launched–they can get it the exact right size, remove the back button and the address bar, etc., so that all you see is their site and have to go through it the way they want you to and see it they way they want you to. They don’t have to worry about things like “well, it looks great in 800x600 but the background tiles in 1200x1600 and if I make the background bigger the file size is too high” or “if users hit this section and use the back button they won’t see this coolio nav dealie I built”.

Personally, I think it says “I hate my site visitors/I love my vision more than I like them” and I’ve NEVER done a site like that. I don’t even use Flash if I can help it. I suspect the designers who love it are print/video/multimedia designers who later moved into the web, so they are accustomed to having total control over their viewer’s experience; the ability of the users to have different size monitors, resolution, different browsers, block their popups and so on bugs them since it means their site may be seen in all sorts of different ways, and they only want it seen their way. They’re trying to make the web more like print or video instead of embracing its strengths, like the user’s ability to control his experience.

When was the last time you looked at a photo, film, or painting and though “gosh, what’s really missing here is my ability to control my experience.” If web content were predominantly text documents like it was in say, 1994, then I’d agree. But nowadays, that’s a 2400bps philosophy in a broadband world.

Ditto, in case any web designers are reading this.

But the web isn’t a photo, film or painting. It is made to be interactive in a way that they never were. The web isn’t just a flat picture to hang on your wall–you need to use it to find out information, buy things and interact with people. That requires active user control, not passive watching. If you want users to watch a movie rather than browse a website, just give 'em a movie.

Do you have to deal with paying customers on the web? Because I do, and what you’re saying is so far from the truth it’s almost its nadir.

Customers want accessibility. They want clear navigation, logical interfaces, and the information they are looking for immediately available. They do not want flashy blinky animated crap all over the page interfering with their ability to get to the product and purchase it.

GuanoLad, I’d be willing to bet that Beware of Doug was referring to the commercial relationship between a Web designer and his/her artiste client, not the buying public.

If the Web designer offers up easy-to-navigate, multi-browser-compatible sites with standard HTML code and JPG images, the artistes are probably going to turn their noses up at it and go with the Flash-y XYZ-ML site designers, because that’s what their model/artist friends’ Web sites look like. The hoi polloi (who actually have to navigate the site) be damned.

Count me among the people who, when a site’s opening page says “Please Turn Off All Popup Blockers” (like the OP’s link), walk right on by.

Wrong and wrong.

First, if you want something the users can’t control, then create an image and let people download that. Don’t be shocked when people balk at downloading a 5 meg image, however.

Second, rather few people have a broadband connection. Rather few people will ever get a broadband connection. Unless you only want a few percentage of Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans to ever see your site, you cannot try to shove ten tons of shit down a garden hose.

Or I could just use a rock and hit them over the head with it, and maybe they’ll get the point that way. I agree that you have to make sites as lightweight as possible, but designers have a right and duty to tailor it to their target audience with the technology that they’re most likely to have in common. If I’m pretty sure my target audience all have broadband and like big flashy things, then I don’t really care if the greybeards and Sudanese turn up their noses at it. I’m after a few people’s attention, not everyone’s.

If you take the world as a whole, rather few people have televisions and many people don’t have telephones. Television advertising seems to be scraping along somehow.

My TV allows me to control the volume, brightness, color, and hue. My VCR allows me to pause, fast forward, and reverse. My DVD player allows me to skip tracks, repeat them, even rearrange them to my liking. My browser (at the very least) should allow me to resize the window as I see fit and it should only open a new window if I want it to.

The people who have broadband are the ones that have the money. They want the people with the money to see their site - it is all about commercialism.