Digital Art to Go!

Introduction

With a tagline of “digital art to go”, Zymmetrical is a website where digital art can be bought and sold. Photos, graphics, microstock, fonts and videos can be sold for 50% commission (not a bad commission for microstock or amateur contributers looking to sell their personal stuff).

Form

It takes awhile to load, but the Zymmetrical website is interestingly simple and quite modern looking. The colours used are classical greys and blacks with a hint of colour and the fonts vary within a modicrum of small. On the home page, additional touches such as the multicoloured arrows under “buy art” and the different font sizes which wobble under mouseover under “popular tags” add a bit of uniqueness to the website, as does the small person silhouette in reference to the artists.

Function

With simple menus and easy-to-find sections, navigation on Zymmetrical is quite easy to the user and a good example of what can be achieved with quite a few links placed in the correct areas. I noticed that some tabs on the header has different mouseover and mouseclick as compared to how the rest of the site functions. This may confuse the viewer and I would recommend staying with the same format of mouseover or mouseclick for navigational purposes. Perhaps the designer is still updating the site?

Loading time is a little slow on my machine, not sure if it is due to the complex code or galleries of images. However, this is normal for websites of art and photography, so it is not a huge concern. Clicking on an item brings up pricing, dimensions and file size so this works well; clicking on an artist brings up a search box which could be a bit confusing to someone who wanted to view an artist’s profile. The mouseovers in the galleries (for example the zooming on photos) doesn’t work fast – you need to be on the page for awhile for it to load correctly and this could be an issue for people who click through looking for a stock image photo they want to use in a hurry.

There seems to be a fair few images on the site, but the artist profiles are sadly lacking in photos and there is generally not much information in their profiles. I hope the database will grow as time passes – giving good incentives to artist to sell stock images through their site might work? May I also suggest making the profile submission compulsory when signing up? PageRank is good and there seems to be good stock photos and art available for graphic design in the microstock site. Considering the website is listed as Copyright 2007, I’d say overall it is off to a good start.

Conclusion

A cute and simple site to visit, just needs a few tweaks to get it really user-friendly. The design and concept is excellent and is a good resource for graphic design. I feel that http://www.zymmetrical.com is a candidate for Sitecritic.net Awards if it has abit more content. I am always excited by websites which offer genuine opportunities to the web audience. You may support them by visiting their buy stock images page. Finally, I look forward to seeing how this microstock website develops over time.

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Multicoloured arrows add interest

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Mouseover images helps viewing

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Detail for purchasing product

Plant Lighting Hydroponics & Grow Lights

Introduction

The website has a domain that reflects what it is selling – grow lights, generic hydroponic systems and plant nutrients. It is not immediately apparent whether the website is selling for dope dealers or for scientists dwelling in underground bunkers as the online store has lists of items but no associated media such as customer galleries or press releases. There are no product reviews yet. However, cialis sale it was pretty easy to navigate my way around the site and there certainly appears to be a lot of equipment to choose from.

Form

The design of the PlantLighting Hydroponics & Grow Lights website seems to be purely functional, salve with minimal attention given to the colour scheme, logo, headers etc. The site almost looks like a typical template which has been modified slightly. However, an online shop hardly requires fantastic graphics, so this website would work well for people who want to shop with no fuss and frills.

It’s very easy to navigate as in the three column layout, the menu of items is on the left, bestsellers, specials and reviews are on the right and the middle is filled with new products and a brief summary of what’s on offer. When you click on a product out of the left menu, all items in that category are pictured and when you click on one of those you get a price and can click further for more detailed information. There is rather a lot of clicking to be done, but I feel that buyers don’t mind clicking a bit as long as it is clear where they are clicking to (which is obvious in this case). The only two issues I can see with the site is that:

(1) the navigation on the top left stating “Home >> Catalogue” appears with the same screen whether you click “Home” or “Catalogue”

(2) the design is not all that memorable, and would need a more unique logo or branding to really stand out from the competition

The domain name caused some concern as even though it clearly states whats for sale, it’s too long to remember easily.

Function

The site loads up fast enough and is easy enough to navigate. The Quick Find search tool is always handy in an online shop, but when I typed in “grow bulbs” nothing appeared, so it might need to be updated. Links to sign up for new accounts or check shopping carts are easy to find (you wouldn’t believe how many online stores hide these details). I was especially thrilled to see the contact information displayed clearly down the bottom of the page. When I saw that, I thought “here is a business I can trust”…if I was ever in the market for hydroponics.

Conclusion

Overall, the website works well for its intended purpose. I’m sure a lot of happy customers will thank them for the no-nonsense shopping interface. Some tinkering with the template elements such as the Quick Find and navigation might help a bit. However, if the website is to stand out more than the competition, a stronger identity (ie, logo or associated images) is required as it needs to be more memorable. May I suggest a photo of a giant tomato plant on the home page (with gargantuan tomato on it)? Even better, a celebrity chopping away at the giant tomato plant – could help the store display it for both sides of the fence!

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Branding might need some work

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Main item list on the left

Fast Muscle Cars

Introduction

Dragtimes.com is an online database for fast cars and motorcycles. There are alot of technical jargons used in the site and it seems the only people who are into car racing knows what the site is about.

Form

The entire website is trying very hard to optimize many keywords related to drag racing. As such, viagra sale there are many text links in the content (see figure 1). Though technically it is not wrong but graphically, case it can be intimidating for first time visitors especially if they know nothing about drag racing. To be truthful, decease I was acually abit put off when I first looked at the index page… but having said that, if I am a car racing enthusiast, I might be happily scrolling the page down or navigating the site to see more of the car statistics.

There are many graphics used in the site but many of them have funny dimensions and not very clear. This might be the result of “copy and paste”. Some graphics are very large. An example is the 2005 Chevrolet Corvette C6 Coupe jpeg in the home page (See figure 3). That image is only 225 x 155 pix but has a file size of 27kb! I really think the author needs to work harder to optimize all the graphics in the site.

Function

The author has provided some statistics for each of racing car (see figure 2). In the page of the muscle cars, the author also organizes each car nicely in a table. Everything looks good but I feel that more could be done. Perhaps, a short description for each car might also be interesting.

Another point worth mentioning is that the site has covered everything about drag racing very well. From vehicle parts to events and classified ads, the author managed to put some content in all the sections. There is even a tools section for the user to calculate the horsepower and torque of the car.

Conclusion

The website is established with strong links from dmoz, yahoo directory and many other authority sites. Although there are already some unique content in it, many parts are still quite empty. I guessed the challenge is the update it with fresh content. From the way it looks, it seems that the author wants people to advertise in the site – The classified ads section is quite empty… So, maybe an advertising campaign for the fast cars website might help?

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fig 1. Too many links?

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Fig 2. Nice stats of the car

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Fig 3. Large image file size

Vector Design – Using Adobe Photoshop CS

When you think of Vector design, cialis one does not need to rely on Adobe Illustrator to trace the image. Using the trusted Adobe Photoshop, view you can achieve the similar effect of a Vector Graphic by manipulating the Polygonal/Magnetic Lasso Tool and apply colour via using the Paint Bucket tool.

Firstly, look select an image ( a person, flower or an animal) and crop the unnecessary elements out of the selected picture. With the image in mind, magnify the image to 200% to 300%, ignoring the pixelated edges. This ensures that you can use the lasso tool to line the edges of the image as accurately as possible, as well as to draw the different sections that would require different colours. With that, once the image is back to 100%, the vector image would seem impeccable without any stray lines or colour out of focus.

Secondly, add layers upon the image to build on the colours from the darkest to the lightest shade. Using the Polygonal/Magnetic Lasso Tool, trace the outline of the image and fill in the first base colour on this new layer. This ensures that once we hide the real image, only the vectored image would be seen, without any gaps or empty spaces. Continue to define smaller areas, adding a base colour for the hair of the human, the face of the man, the clothing and the arm on a different layer each, ensuring that any mistake can be easily rectified by deleting a layer, without destroying the entire graphic.

Thirdly, focus on each section at a time, giving attention to even smaller areas like eyes and nose another new layer. Always hide unnecessary layers so that one can decipher the most accurate opaque colour closest to the real image of eg. the pupil in the eye. Using the Paint bucket tool to fill in the colour of each contour of e.g the lips, starting from the dark red on the entire lips, the light shade on the rounded portion of the lips, an even lighter shade to shown light and the 3D shape of the lips and finally a lightest shade to add the extra gleam on the brightest point on the lips. With a step by step procedure, attend to each body part with delicate care in any order of preference, e.g the strands of hair till the drapery of the clothing.

Lastly, clean, add or substract any colour or line from the finalised vector, saving the image under a transparent background so that the entire compressed image can be manipulated to have a different background or shifted in different positions as a solo graphic on its own. The tutorial is tedious – it requires patience to finish a well done graphic. Beginners may need approximately 4-5 hours but fret not, the feeling of accomplishment is well its worth.

About The Author

Alice Wu is a freelance graphic designer, painter, fine artist, music junkie and a fashion fanatic. Her works are hosted on http://pulchritude.a-cro.net , and she divulges much of her time in her pursuit for the excellence in the arts.

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Fig 1. Adding Layers to vector each specific body part

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Fig 2. Using the Eye tool to hide/reveal visible layers

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Fig 3. Choosing a transparent background when creating a new file

Desperateness Kills

Introduction

musiccontracts101.com is a website that sells a wide range of music software and contracts. The design of the website is simple and straight forward but the author seems too desperate to sell his software.

Form and Function

I was greeted with a floating window that asks me to sign up for a newsletter upon first entry to the site. Should I reveal my true email address? I believe it is a “no” for most people because of the fear of receiving spam mails. The author probably knows that most people block popup windows, case so he uses a floating “div” to get around the problem. I strongly advice people not to use this technique because it is not a good practice and does not reflect good on the integrity of the company or person running the website.

I navigated the site abit and the thing that kept catching my attention was the right column – the testimonials. The testimonials appear on almost all the pages, viagra prompting the user to click on the flash “play” button. I have to agree that the flash voice testimonials are cool but they have been over-used.

The source code reveals the professionalism of a website. A quick “view source” will tell you that the author of musiccontracts101.com tries to optimize the site for search engines but has again, over-done it. There are also simple mistakes in the title and meta tags like the use of html in the title. If I were to be the search engine, I would love to penalize this site for keyword spamming.

Conclusion

I would love to do a more thorough review but was put off but the recurring popups (Sorry). The author is too desperate to sell his stuff. I would love to see more information on the music software and probably improvements on the overall layout, color and design. Though there are alot of testimonials, I am not sure if I believe in any of them.

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