The House at the End of My Street
Growing up, Halloween was a big deal in our neighborhood. I lived in a very middle-class section of the city where the streets were safe, there were many houses owned by families with young children, and those families gave out good candy and lots of it. These factors contributed to kids from the other parts of the city descending onto our neighborhood each October 31st for their share of the Halloween haul. Yeah, Halloween was serious business in East Woonsocket.
While the majority of homeowners in our neighborhood participated in the spooky fun of the holiday, there was one house that went so far above and beyond that it became a legend for us trick-or-treaters. It was the house you most looked forward to visiting each year and which set the bar for Halloween. It also happened to be the House at the End of My Street.
The Capital of Halloween
A massive structure (not the building pictured in this article, but similar in many ways) that loomed over the neighborhood as the undisputed capital of the area’s Halloween festivities, the owners of this house would outdo themselves each year. They would turn the entire space in their multi-car garage into a haunted house complete with wall to wall decorations, spooky lights, music, and multiple fog machines.
The homeowners themselves would also participate in the fun, wearing elaborate costumes – either vampires or Frankenstein monsters or something similarly appropriate for the hosts of a Halloween extravaganza which seemed to grow bigger and more involved each year.
As for the treats, simple “fun size” candy bars may have been good enough for other houses in our neighborhood, but not for this one. They would serve trick-or-treaters hot chocolate and warm apple cider alongside donuts, cookies, and other homemade goodies. Then, after you had enjoyed your warm drinks and sugary baked goods, the hosts would direct you over to bowls piled high with Kit-Kats and Snickers bars and other top-tier Halloween offerings, instructing you to take a handful to help fill your plastic trick-or-treating pumpkin.
The Halloween Experience
I can remember the anticipation of visiting this house each year. While others would visit it early in the evening, unable to contain their excitement any longer than necessary, I would wait until the end of the night - literally saving the best for last and putting a perfect exclamation point on another successful Halloween.
As I began brainstorming ideas for this year’s Halloween-themed article here on Pumpkin-King.com, I looked to my childhood memories of the holiday and I immediately thought about the House at the End of My Street. While trick-or-treating as a whole has blended into one faded picture over the years, the House at the End of My Street remains a vivid and indelible memory. Why is that? It is because those homeowners did so much more than just “participate in the holiday.” While other homes gave us trick-or-treaters candy, the Home at the End of My Street gave us an experience.
In an article I wrote for Smashing Magazine titled “A Fun Approach to Creating More Successful Websites”, I talk about the concept of adding “fun” to the websites we design and how that approach can actually create memorable experiences for those websites. As I think about my childhood Halloween memories and the House at the End of My Street, I actually see a variation on that principal.
All the houses I visited during my trick-or-treating excursions presented a “fun” experience. They gave me pieces of candy and remarked at how cool, or scary, or original my costume was. That was absolutely a fun time, yet none of those homes stand out as memorable to me because none of them were different.
There is a common design principal that states that when you emphasize everything, nothing is actually emphasized. My Halloween memories share a similar fate - when everything is fun, nothing sticks out as memorable because nothing is different. This is why, of all the houses I visited on Halloween, the one at the end of my street is the one that stands out even all these years later. It was not only fun - it was different. It was better.
Be Different. Be Better.
I often field requests from clients who want to add some new feature or addition to their website. When I hear this request, I always ask the client why they want to make this change. Many times the answer I receive is that one of their competitors has a similar feature on their site and they need to follow suit to keep pace.
I understand the sentiment here - you don’t want your company’s site to appear outdated or lagging behind the competition, but too often these requests are made without considering whether that addition makes sense or not. Even if it does make sense, simply adding the same feature that your competitors have to your site is rarely the answer. Like the homes in my old neighborhood, when everyone is doing the same thing, no one stands out.
Doing something the way that everyone else is doing it means you will just blend into the crowd – just another house giving out candy. If you’re going to do something, do it better than everyone else – be like the House at the End of My Street and kick so much ass that everyone else fades from memory while your “house” remains clear in your visitors’ minds.