There's not a lot that can be said about the Mini that hasn't been said before. Any discussion which turns to the Mini inevitably reveals the fanaticism of some Mini owners. There's now a site for these fanatics, full of information, games and fun.
The official Mini Internet site is media rich. A frames-enabled browser is a basic requirement. Animated GIFs, quicktime movies and Java adorn the site. But be prepared to wait for some of these to download; more than one of the movies clocks in at over 1Mb in size.
The home page splits into two frames, curiously enforcing a 640 x 480 overall size limit on the frame. Having a browser window larger than this will result in a grey border around the site. It's confusing at first because it looks like a failed Java applet. Resizing the browser to match makes it look a lot better. In various places, the HTML is served by CGI scripts that send pages optimised for Netscape or MSIE, which make the overall look of the site more consistent between browsers.
The site itself is split into five main areas, covering information about the Mini and its designer as well as Mini-related games. The first real stopping point is a page on Sir Alec Issigonis, designer and father of the Mini. It includes a brief bio of Sir Alec and a Java applet which displays one of his comments when you move the mouse over his mouth. It adds to the fun of this site, but it's quite a bit of download time for no appreciable gain.
Following on from this page are links that delve into the history of the Mini, with a "Mini time machine". The information is placed in historical context, with a quick summary of sports, fashion and general world information. This is a clever way of presenting the information, although once again the graphical content slows the pages down.
To Sir, with love
Another link from Sir Alec's page is marked "sound and vision". This is where the large movie files can be found along with various sound files. The size of the movie files is indicated so you are warned before clicking. Unfortunately, a number of these failed to work when downloading on our test machine. We're not sure, however, whether the fault was at our end or theirs. The quicktime player was downloaded direct from the Apple site in order to view these movies, and is the latest version. The audio files are intriguing, but the selection of audio samples doesn't make sense until you reach the fun section.
There is also a section dedicated to the latest model Mini. It contains information about this year's models and has a link to various order forms. You can order information about the new Mini from Rover, or you can buy Mini paraphernalia. You can't buy directly over the Net, but you can print out an order form and mail it or fax it to Rover.
Do you wanna have fun tonight?
Enough of the information bit, what about the fun? The main part of this revolves around designing a Mini of your own. This is a large Java applet which allows you to customise the paintwork, lights, wheels and so on.
Some of the choices available are both real and fantasy, such as Ben Hur's chariot wheels. A lot of effort has gone into this applet. The fantasy option is full of sound effects and jokes. This applet is great fun and it's worth waiting for it to download.
The custom Mini section is also enjoyable. You can save your Mini to the gallery and enter it into a competition. If your design is popular, it can get placed into a hall of fame. Mini snow plough anyone?
You can use your design as the basis for a sliding block puzzle, where the picture is jumbled and you have to rearrange it by sliding the pieces around. You can even download it as a screen saver for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or Macs. Finally, you can display a certificate containing your design, signed by Sir Alec himself.
It's a fun site, and one that any Mini fan should visit, even if only to have a go at designing your own car. It may well become a talking point at Mini meets.
Launch: December 96
Design: Good Technology working with ad agency Ammirati Puris Lintas
Target Audience: Motor car fans
Competitors: None. Mini is a unique car
Setup: Hosted by Good Technology on a Sun Sparc running Zeus
Hits Per Day: 28,000
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