Mooove to Standards – Frames are out

Introduction

Short and Sweet is a Australian based web design company, but unfortunately that was all the information I obtained about them from their website. There is nothing listed about who they are, or anything else about their business, but they have a few sites in their gallery to show the work they produce.

Form

When first landing on this web site, I immediately saw a cow with a message about business, and a “software box” with a cow in it leaving me a bit confused as to exactly what this company does. The high placed header answers that question pretty quickly, but then I really am not guided on where to go.

This site forces me to read to get the message about what they do and I don’t want to read… Users don’t tend to spend much time reading content on a designers site and instead jump right into the portfolio.

Since this is a web design company the first thing I want to see is your work. If I like your work, I will then read about your services and prices to fit my needs. I feel that this design did not take the user into consideration when it was laid out.

I find that the link to the portfolio is buried much too deep in the navigation, and since this is a “web design company” that the link should be titled “portfolio” or the like. It is just what a user expects to see on a site that designs websites.

I am not totally opposed to the design of this site but there is much room for improvement. I am a fan of blue/green combinations, and like its use here. However, the “blocking” used makes the design look disconnected and does not “flow” well. My eyes are not led to “action” items, and instead they continually go to the cow.

The navigation, though well placed, could use some attention to the text, an increase in font size would be helpful, and I would prefer to see it connected to the logo “box” rather than having the empty blue space above it. The entire sidebar could be recolored to better blend the logo/navigation area so as they appear more “connected”.

The content area of the site is readable and that is good – obviously that is the most important part. I would like to see some leading/spacing used to make it a bit cleaner, and the bullets used on the front page should be enhanced and lessened to three areas of focus keeping it “short & sweet”.

The graphics used in the site do not match, and the use of clip art on the packages pages is not something I would like to see from a “web design company”. As mentioned already, the software boxes used in this design do not fit.

Function

I wanted to give this site high marks for usability as there are not many pages to the site, so there is really no way to get lost here, however when I looked at the markup, all hopes for that high mark went down the drain.

Frames. Not usable, and depreciated. This part really brings my review score down.

Also, the opening of a new window on the packages page for an example, is not good design. Instead, an on site case study is what I would expect to see on a site of this type.

There is no web form in use for the contact page, forcing the user to open their email program to contact the company. Again, low score for usability. A web form is something a user expects on a contact page, along with the email and phone number. You have to give the user the easiest route, and then the choices.

Conclusion

Overall, this website is not terrible, but there are definitely some points to ponder. The company should rethink the images used to convey the overall message of the site, and pay a bit of attention to consistency in design throughout all its pages. The code is poor and depreciated, utilizing framesets.

Pushpins – illustration with gradient and blend

Done for Illustration class, where we were to take a household object and draw it in Illustrator, taking care to use gradients and blends to achieve the final look.

“Illustrate an everyday household object for your next assignment.” my instructor had written in the assignment book. In our discussions, I had noticed that most people were centering on household items found in the kitchen, and I knew that wasn’t for me. I try to spend as little time as possible in that room of my house, as things tend to burn for no good reason on me there. For the week leading up to this assignment, I would stop randomly and look at things that I took for granted everyday, wondering if they would be worthwhile objects to illustrate.

Finally, pulling down some old notes from the corkboard beside the computer, I set some pushpins down on the table. Eureka! my mind jumped up and down. Grabbing my camera, I got a really good closeup to use as a reference, though I neglected to notice that I should have put a blank sheet of paper down under them so I could get the shadow correct as they sat on the table.

Working on it for two days, as the Gradient Mesh tool in Adobe Illustrator was a brand-new concept to me, along with Blends, I was finally happy with the finished project. I had almost changed the plastic tops to an opaque versus the transparent, because the tools were so hard to get “just right”. In the end, though, I loved my project. The only points that I had deducted from my final grade were for the fact that the shadow, grounding them, was missing. My instructor understood that because of the picture that I had taken of them why I missed this, but I still received an excellent grade for this piece, and it has become one of my most popular illustration pieces in my portfolio.

About The Author

I’m a 32 year old mother, web and graphic designer, singer, ameteur historian and pop culture junkie.

Argentina Travel Tourism

Introduction

Argentinen Erleben (Enjoy Argentina) is essentially a tour operator working with other travel operators and building you a customized vacation based on your needs.

Form

At first glance the website comes across as a charity organization with the sterile look and feel. I was waiting for a paypal donation pop-up window. They should focus on using more earthy colors with vibrant greens and display more animal life, sovaldi people, site places etc. The majority of tourists go to other countries to experience other cultures. There’s a .pdf link hidden at the bottom of the page, which should be more prominent with an Acrobat icon. The menu transitions should be faster and visitors must have the option to mute the mouse-over click noises.

The layout is nicely done and the page transitions are smooth. The gallery has got some nice photos and the website has two language options.

The font used throughout the website is difficult to read and almost impossible to scan. The default language is German, which is not the best choice even if their majority of clients are German. English is the web standard and visitors will expect the pages to be English. If they choose to view the website in another language then the visitor can make the decision. There are no introductory text which could loose the website potential clients. Few visitors will give the website a second thought because they are looking at a big cold mountain instead of reading what the company can give them.

Some of the graphics are not rendered correctly and have a bitmapped effect on the edges. The images in the tourism section can be better optimized. The images are overlapping each other to what I suspect give a Polaroid photo album look. This can be better achieved with square photos and white frames. One of the photos is also overlapping one of the menu links. Some of the tourism section photos are not displaying. Some of the tourism sections are missing the correct page titles and some images aren’t loading.

Function

Flash really subtracts from search engine positioning and there is a lack of keyword rich body text. The title tag may be to long. The rest of the meta-tags are correct but may need some revision.

Conclusion

My original impression of the site wasn’t very good but I liked the overall website once I got used to the thought that it wasn’t a charity organization. Argentinen Erleben can generate a lot of potential leads once their website and marketing is focused on their visitors’ wants and needs. A complete Flash website may penalize them and they should reconsider using a dynamic website with flash elements.

www.erleben.com.ar.1

www.erleben.com.ar.2

A Google Adsense Website

Introduction

Computerbrands.org is a website about immigration, work permit and business. Many people would expect the url – computerbrands.org to infer a website about computers but infact, the content has no relationship with the url at all. The author might have this spare url and decided to use it to generate adsense income.

Form and Function

Yes, this is a typical adsense website with no real content. All the content is generate by Google adsense. The main navigation is at the footer with each link pointing to a sub-domain which contains the keyword in the url. Surprisely, the menu is designed using flash. A website like this should contains more text and html text links.

As you can see, the design and content is pretty boring and there is nothing much to talk about it. The header in the index page tells me that the keywords of the website are: immigration, visas and work permit. Looking at the menu, there are no links relating to the keywords. Users looking for immigration information will feel dissapointed. While navigating the site, I found that the sub-domains do not have headers. Every page is almost the same and the idea is simple… just click on the links to visit other websites.

Adsense sites like this can be effective if the content or service is unique. A good example is whatismyip.com. This website is flooded with adsense ads but provides a unique service – checking your ip address. The service itself motivates users to return to the site. I can’t really find any motivation to return to computerbrands.org.

Conclusion

I feel that the author can spice up the website by providing some useful content relating to immigration, visas or work permit for the users. It would be even better if the author can provide articles relating to computers because that is more relevant to the current url.

Black and White Photo Conversion

Most images were produced in black and white for nearly a hundred years after the invention of photography, tadalafil but now colour images have become commonplace. Creating strong three dimensional images on a piece of paper is one of the best attributes of black and white photography, generic as the effect can be more striking than with a colour photograph. Without the colour to distract us we become more aware of the subtle tones which can be found within a black and white image. In this article I will share the technique I use that will help you create beautiful, cure striking and moody black and white images from your colour photographs.

Digital cameras have a black and white mode but more information and detail will be recorded in colour, which will also create a higher quality printed image. This is why I always shoot in colour then convert images later. There are several ways of converting an image to black and white using Photoshop and many other image editing programs. You could simply desaturate the colours, but creating a black and white image with real tone and definition goes beyond this. Levels, curves and the Unsharp Mask can be used creatively with black and white conversion to provide further control over tones and contrast to create a stunning image.

Channel Mixer – I have found that using the Photoshop Channel Mixer is the easiest way to convert an image to black and white and produces the best results. The Channel Mixer allows you to control how much red, green and blue contribute to the final monochrome image.

The Channel Mixer can be selected from the adjustment layer popup menu in the layers palette or you can also access it from under the image menu.

Clicking on the left tick box entitled Monochrome will convert your photograph into a greyscale image, and gives you the ability to blend the red, green and blue channels. Adjust each of the sliders to produce an image to your liking. As a rule make sure that the total values for each channel adds up to 100%. This creates monochrome images that are the equivalent of ones shot on black and white film through red, green or blue filters. For example if you wanted to maximize cloud contrast in a blue sky, then a red filter would achieve this. I usually set the red channel to 0 and the green channel to 100 to cut down on the amount of noise, or sometimes a combination of red and green depending on the image.

Curves and Levels – Brightness and contrast can be adjusted in Photoshop by using the curves and levels tools, which can be found under Image > Adjustments Curves/Levels. Both curves and levels allow you to adjust the tonal range of an image. When using the levels command you can make adjustments to just three variables, highlights, shadows and midtones. I prefer to use curves as it gives you more precision. With curves you can adjust any point along a scale while keeping up to 15 other values constant. By adjusting the black point and white point in curves you can give your image more contrast. At opposite ends of the diagonal line you will find a small dot. When you grab hold one of the dots with your mouse and drag it around you will see the image change. To create more contrast drag the black point lower and the white point higher, so that either end of the diagonal line is curved. Practice using curves and levels and explore the different effects you can achieve with your images.

Unsharp Mask – The Unsharp Mask is my preferred tool for sharpening images, which can be found under Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. It is a traditional film compositing technique used to sharpen edges in an image and corrects blurring. The Unsharp Mask locates pixels that differ from surrounding pixels by the threshold you specify and increases the pixels’ contrast by the amount you specify. In order to get the look which I desire in my images I use the Unsharp Mask twice. I begin by using a high radius and lower amount, such as a radius of 50 pixels and an amount of 30%. This gives the image a much more intense look and details will stand out. The second time I use a lower radius of 1 pixel with a higher amount of 30%, which will correct any blurring and sharpen the image.

About The Author

Peter Horner has years of experience in photography and digital printing technologies and also co-created the large format printing company DesignerPrint. Using large format printing technology DesignerPrint create canvas prints, block mounts, and poster prints. Canvas Printing from DesignerPrint.co.uk

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Counter Strike Website Review

Introduction

Navycs.com is a website about CounterStrike, rx a popular network game. I am not a CS fan, there so I probably cannot comment on the content. From the web design perspective, prostate alot of improvements could be done on its graphics and navigation.

Form and Function

The author needs to talk more about themselves and what the website is about. At the moment, unless the author is only targeting at experienced CounterStrike players, visitors with no prior knowledge of CounterStrike will not know what the website is about.

The home page content looks OK but the images are abit dark for me. The main navigation on top could have been better organised. Some links could be regrouped under a new menu item. Looking at the home page, I also realised the “Navy Information” section itself could be categorised under the sub-menu of another menu. Alot of work could be done in re-organising the links.

One very obvious issue with the website is the consistency of its layout. The gallery section for example, is no longer “800 x 600” and the main menu has a different look and feel as compared to the index page. The header image appears squashed as well.

Conclusion

The information presented in the website gives me an impression that the author is a CS addict. I cannot comment on the content but I would definitely recommend the author to work harder on the design. Perhaps using standard CSS for all the pages is a good start. He might also consider using a template to generate the layout so that the webpages are consistent – less confusion for the user. At the moment, I feel that things are flying all over the place.

www.navycs.com.1

The stores behind the smiles

Introduction

ButYouDontLookSick.com online magazine is about living life to the fullest with any disability, cure invisible disease, or chronic pain. The website is motivating and serves as a valuable internet resource for disabled people.

Form and Function

I feel that the left menu items could be better arranged in a more logical way. The more important links should be listed first. Somehow, I feel that the “Tips and Articles” has to go up and the “Links” has to go down. Web contests are always attractive. It might be a good idea for the author to promote it. The author might want to create a banner somewhere in the content area to encourage the readers to click on it.

The navigation is easy to understand but I find some extra space on the header of my firefox browser. The layout is also abit different in different browsers. It is not serious but deserves attention. The 2 images on the right shows the inconsistency of the text and layout in the firefox browser.

Some article abstract list in the main content area is too long. The “product review” section for example makes the reader scrolls alot. The author might consider breaking up the content into different pages. It might also be a good idea to insert more images. Currently, though the content is good, the list is too long and may appear boring to the readers.

The author seems to be promoting the forum and online shop alot. There are similar links on the header, menu and footer. Indeed, both sections deserve a visit. The phpbb forum (message board) has a long range of topics and is one of the most detailed forum I have ever seen. The online store is hosted on another site. The look and feel is slightly different but the range of products is interesting. If you are looking for gifts for people with disabilities, have a look at the store.

Personally, I find that there are be too many ads around which could serve as distractors. Instead of having different ads from different sources, the author might just promote the products in the store. The author could have a few gifs promoting say a T-shirt or mug on sale for example. This is a good way to invite the readers to the store. I believe that selling an item in the store is much profitable than a click on the ads.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude that butyoudontlooksick.com is a very resourceful website for people with disabilities. There is nothing spectacular about the design but the content itself deserves recognition. I hope that the author can continue to update the website and provide more useful content for the general public. Please Keep it up!

www.butyoudontlooksick.com.1

www.butyoudontlooksick.com.2