Website That Needs Full Re-Design

Introduction

Bluebird Manufacturing is a company that manufactures a wide variety of equipment. I must admit that their website is confusing and would definitely recommend a full re-design.

Form and Function

I was asked by the Sitecritic Team to review the website and had a hard time trying to figure out what the website is about. To be honest, the visuals of the site actually puts me off initially. The company did mentioned what they are doing but I felt that they need to explain a bit more. The word ‘biltong’ is uncommon. A search on google tells me that biltong are strips of dried meat. “Ah, Finally, I knew what they are doing… they sell machines that cuts meat.”

I do not wish to go into the details of the design and coding aspects of the website because too much work is needed. The source code tells me that the website is a direct upload from microsoft word or something similar. The are errors in the layout the site; The site does not look good both in Firefox and Internet Explorer. The screen capture above shows that the layer with the header “Quality Uniqueness Service Price” is overlaping the other text.

There is no design consistency in all the pages and everything is flying all over the place. The clip arts and large animated South African flag needs to go because they look really bad on a corporate website.

Conclusion

Bluebird Manufacturing needs to be more focus of what message they want to convey to their potential online customers. More content is needed. I strongly recommend them to seek professional help. Even if they decide to “DIY” their website, they should use a web template instead. There are many web templates around available for free or for a cheap price.

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Verbal Assurance is never enough as a Web Design Firm

Introduction

Shackelford Web Design is a web design firm based in New York & New Jersey. The things that spice up my curiousity is that they have totally no visual marketing features in their website. Things like the usual portfolio of works, client listing are all missing. However, we can see a lot of written assurance in the whole website promising this and that. Is that really effective? We shall take a look.

Function and Function

Have you came across a Web Design firm that does not promote their quality of works and have totally no samples of their previously successful clients? I bet you haven’t seen one or maybe, not that often.

Shackelford Web Design’s company website had their focuses on writing how well they can provide their service to the clients. With a clean and direct layout, they attempt to convince potential clients to trust in their capabilities without showing any previous samples openly on their website. Perhaps this is one way of protecting their previous clients or it has been restricted to do so by their clients.

The Good:
On first entrance to the website, I was presented with a fast loading clean site, and easy to read content. Indeed, the site design has a perfect layout and usage of CSS and colors. Its professional and it presents everything so clear that you feel so comfortable to navigate on their site.

Relevant information like services is being linked from within the body text. The links design and naming conventions are perfectly clear. Each section is separated by a small thin line of color code, e.g. Services are in green, Pricing is in Yellow. Subtle enhancements like this are pleasing to the users eyes. Also, a simple header graphic was used to differentiate each section.

On rollover of each links, you notice a slight hover effect of increasing the text size. This is one of the ways to show the site being responsive to the user’s mouse interaction, and also a good usage of CSS.

There is also a clear footer links that adds to site usability In all the section, I can noticed one obvious tactic they used is to be as DIRECT as possible. Most of their contents are in short, simple paragraphs that talks straight to the point. This is a good example of copy writing for the web.

Can Be Better:
Under the category of “Successful Design”, Shackelford should have added some successful samples done by them. It should not have just text on how successful their works can be. Quality assurance should include visual assurance too.

At the very top of the website, there is no need for the words “New Jersey Web Design and New York Web Design”. It seems unneccessary but it could be there for seo purposes. The logo on the top left, should also be linked to the home page as most users tend to click on the logo to return back to the index.

Conclusion

Overall, as a consumer, I will not be attracted to the verbal assurance given by Shackelford. Although the website is done pretty well, it does not have any marketing value to their services. Maybe the website is quite new and I believe only as time goes by, they will show more samples of what they can do.

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Well structured Information Architecture, Thunderbolt Tea

Introduction

The internet is an information rich environment where people research and find information for almost every thing. To create a content rich website, thumb it takes a lot of time and very careful planning on how to organize the contents and structure of the whole website. Here at Thunderbolt Tea website, prostate we will see how they have made their information neatly categorized and sorted out.

Form

To deal with websites with very rich information like Thunderbolt Tea’s website, the web master must place extra attention and ultimate thoughts on the planning of its Information Architecture. Let us take a look at how Thunderbolt Tea presents their website to its fans.

On first visit to the website, I was more or less turn off by the amount of text in the main page. Its just like the feeling of being thrown into a sea of information. But after some clicking around, I began to understand how the site works and what is it for. It may take much longer to many others. I believe people will stumble to Thunderbolttea.com only because they wanted to find out more about the tea. I believe if the target audience who wanted to know more about this tea, they will endure through and find their way out.

Colors and layout are being done in a nothing will go wrong layout. Everything is pretty much standards of how most websites are done. There is nothing special to comment about in this area.

On first visit to the website, I was more or less turn off by the amount of text in the main page. Its just like the feeling of being thrown into a sea of information. But after some clicking around, I began to understand how the site works and what is it for. It may take much longer to many others. I believe people will stumble to Thunderbolttea.com only because they wanted to find out more about the tea. I believe if the target audience who wanted to know more about this tea, they will endure through and find their way out.

Colors and layout are being done in a nothing will go wrong layout. Everything is pretty much standards of how most websites are done. There is nothing special to comment about in this area.

On the site front, is actually the website’s sitemap with short information of what each section and its sub category are about. I believe they wanted the users to immediately find out what they want base on the sitemap. This method also helps in Search Engine Optimization. But negatively, it has cluttered the front index which is the first impression for users to decide whether they want to stay or leave the website.

However, layout of the site map can be improved by making good use of CSS in the formatting of the paragraphs. By adding extra pixels between the line height and padding in between the columns, it will greatly improve readability. Additional colors can also be used to separate the contents of each section. As of now, its only using blue and orange. Color separation can also enhance the readability. Small adjustments like this will help in making users wanting to stay longer and not close the website window in less than 10 seconds.

Function

The contents are being neatly separated into 5 key areas serving different purpose. By targeting on the common actions that user will do when they visit their website, contents are being placed at the right section and category. The naming conventions are also clearly name and easily understood by most users. By making use of drop down menus, users can easily navigate to other sections.

Side bar:
Some extra links are placed at the side bar which is consistent at every page of the website. Those links there are quick links which the web master wanted their users to view and use. Example is the “Tea Photos & Ecards” link which lets user to interact with the website by sending Ecards and view photos. Having fun activities placed prominently on the side bar increases interactivity between the users and the website. This allows returned and gained traffic.

They have also placed useful links like subscription to mailing list, site search, quick links to contact us, their tea shop. All of this links are traffic gaining sections which allow the overall Thunderbolt Tea’s website to be fun and interesting.

Conclusion

You never expect a tea information website to include fun activities and interesting information like photos and Tea Shop. These interactions allow user to feel fulfilled than bored down by the tea information. Thunderbolt Tea’s website has carefully planned their information architecture in a clear and effective way. Also, note that Thunderbolttea.com is so huge that not every single detail can be fully evaluated. But in overall, the user experience is good and they have done a good job in the information architecture of the whole website.

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Everyone loves a good gripe…

Introduction

The Weekly Gripe website offers a platform for discussion about problems, complaints and ‘gripes’. It offers that place to just ‘publicly’ get it off your chest, without having to stand up and do it.

Form and Function

Upon landing on the main page of The Weekly Gripe, it reminded me of a newspaper since the first place my eye was drawn was to the logo. While I do not feel that the logo relays the idea behind the purpose of the site, I WAS drawn to it and was not turned off. It is just ok for me.

My eye passed the logo and went immediately to the navigation. That is good (tell me where I am, and show me the way to go) – I give high marks for clear navigation – ‘my gripe’ would be that Sitemap and Home should be at the end of the list, moving Your Gripe and Browse to the first two slots. For usability it makes more sense to get users right into either posting or looking.

The h1 tag used as the lead in, styled as it is, should either have the underline removed or be linked to the ‘your gripe’ page, since underlines to most users means links, and especially set at that size. I personally would link it, as it just adds another entrance to the purpose – to post a gripe.

The layout of the site I found very usable, easy and effortless. Good job to the designer in that. However, I am a real stickler for web standards, and this one is not compliant. I was actually disapointed to see that.

Aesthetically, I am not fond of the comment graphics – too much shadow for my liking, and I dislike the comment submission button. It does not match the style of the rest of the site (bevel and font).

Conclusion

This site has a great deal of potential if restructured a bit, especially since my PR checker says Google is it’s friend. That should be really looked at… I consider a switch to standards, add in some of the social-networking tools available to give it more “passibility”.

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A Comprehensive Resource for Webmasters

Introduction

Webmasters Directory is a site that focuses seriously in providing good resources to people who want to learn how to become a Web Master and the necessary skills for the position. You do not see fanciful graphics in this site except for quality links and resources providing you wisdom and knowledge.

Form

In a generation when web industry is booming, here everyone wants to have a share of the big web pie. Webmasters Directory provides such people with the necessary resources for self-learning. It focuses on key skills like PHP, case CMS, find Forum Software, Website Add-On, Tutorials links grabbed from other websites.

It may seem a little messy with Google Ads just right after the main header of the website. This caused the Google Ads to be the central attraction instead of the main contents. As all ads are on the right side bar, they should consolidate the Google Ads on the side as well. So perhaps shifting it away to the side would be more pleasant.

As a user, you will find yourself browsing this website just like a telephone book, where you look for the specific area of knowledge you want to know more about. Resources are separated into clear and easy understandable titles. You can easily find the information you need.

One may immediately pin point on Webmasters Directory’s site design and overall look and feel. As the whole site is based on a blue and white color tone, you may find that it’s a little boring and dull. What the directory seems to focus is to provide quality resources to the users.

Overall, the navigation is clear and straightforward. You will never get lost in this kind of site. It is the kind of industry standard website where you may have seen or used a thousands times.

Function

Every webmaster should have their own list of resources for their own learning and reference. If one does not have such resources, Webmasters Directory is a good one to start with. The contents provided are good enough for beginners to advanced Webmasters. You can find a good listing of informative resources that can help in making your website better and you being more knowledgeable.

Conclusion

Webmasters Directory, although not well designed in terms of look and feel, it provides a straightforward approach to the user just like how a phone directory would. After all, the contents score the points here rather than how well or fanciful the site was designed. As long as the standards are there, in terms of functionality, Webmasters Directory passes the green light.

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