GE United Kingdom : Hearing voices

A video is automatically triggered to run where no one can see it.

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The Site

GE United Kingdom, a country unit of US-based conglomerate General Electric, automatically runs a video in a way that many will not see and some find annoying. GE UK’s home page is headed by a full-width static image promoting featured content – currently health care technology. A few seconds after the page opens, a voice begins to speak about General Electric Healthcare. There are no obvious means of controlling the soundtrack. A forward arrow and pair of thumbnail images do allow the image to be switched between two stories or ‘chapters’, which results also in a change of soundtrack. Scrolling reveals a video-viewing screen down the page in which a short film relating to the featured image has automatically begun to play. This is the source of the soundtrack and incorporates a standard control panel.

The Takeaway

GE proclaims its inventiveness with the byline ‘imagination at work’, but its UK home page poses the question of what it imagined it was doing here. The automatic soundtrack will startle visitors, all the more so because of the slight delay in it beginning (presumably caused by the unseen video buffering rather than for deliberate dramatic effect). Frustration will quickly follow for anyone trying to control it – there is no indication of its source and the only visible means of intervention generate a different version of the same experience. The video’s automatic initiation ‘outside the frame’ also means visitors are initially unaware of its subject matter and will have missed the beginning by the time they find it – so will want to start it again anyway. While clearly aiming to provide an interesting introduction to the site, GE’s current approach also clearly needs a rethink if it wants to be interesting for the right reasons. Giving visitors the choice from the outset of whether or when to view the video should be the starting point. From there, a more coherent feature shouldn’t be too hard to imagine.
First published 26 July, 2012
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