A Unique Taste Of Tuscany

Introduction

Tuscany Holidays is a website offering local tours, guides, cooks, chauffeurs, teachers, other “friends” and assistance in order to discover “off the beaten track” areas of Tuscany. It’s a great idea for a site and looks like it would be a really personal and delightful touring experience.

Form

Design is quirky, cute and interesting to a web audience. Well done to the designer in creating a unique and attractive website. There are a few pointers with the design which would make it even more attractive by simplifying some parts of the design that are a bit “busy”. The right menu contains links in boxes with a background behind them. By removing the background and making the boxes a solid border (not a dashed border) the menu will stand out more and make the main page look a lot neater. The flashing text for “Find Accommodation In Tuscany” was a bit annoying after some time spent on the site – maybe a different coloured box or text could highlight this better? No animation is needed to make Arianna & Friends look like a personalised and exciting website. The left menu bar with the text/graphic combinations is terrific and a great example of an exciting and aesthetic menu. One issue I would like to highlight though is the heavy header gif which is 26KB.

The three column layout on the home page becomes a two column layout on other pages, but since the right navigational menu stays consistent throughout, this is fine. The navigational text has drop shadows underneath it which can somewhat impair reading of the text, however, as it adds to the elegance of the design the drop shadows are acceptable. Colours are green, blue, brown and yellow and reflect an “earthy” and landscape theme. The white background is hardly noticed as the eye is drawn to the images and text in the layout. Fonts are readable and the bolded text, while frequent, is used effectively.

Function

Loading times are average, probably a bit slower because of the graphics, but viewers should be able to load the page easily enough. The navigational links work well and everything seems to be in order, with some text links at the bottom of the page like “Privacy Policy” etc. There are a lot of links but at all times the visitor is aware of where they are and where they can go. Coding is standard html with some javascript inserted. There are no CSS (cascading style sheets) used for the text and if this were to be used, it might speed up the loading time of the pages.

The Tuscan Accommodation section of the website is easy to follow and contains a useful map of the area with colour coded regions which is very much appreciated by viewers on travel websites. Selecting a region displays the top tourist farms, holiday houses and properties for a special holiday. I found this section to be very useful as it contained all the information for travel for the particular region, without the traveller having to work it out themselves (such as the time from airports, pricing, realistic looking photos, peak/off peak times and everything else you would want to know about the accommodation).

The Wine & Food Tours In Tuscany page is enough to whet anyone’s palate, with wine, olive oil, cheese, pasta and chocolate tasting tours that visit interesting places (such as a medieval castle) for reasonable prices. The Services & Activities page also has a lot of activities from horse riding to natural park treks.

Conclusion

Arianna & Friends is a unique website with fantastic content that made me want to pack my bags and go to Tuscany. With the use of CSS and slight graphic improvements, this website will appeal to anyone who enjoys fine food, personalised tours and local region exploring.

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fig 1. Some solid borders and no background image would make this menu even better

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fig 2. Attractive looking activities

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fig 3. Accommodation info page has links to detailed information

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fig 4. Graphically aesthetic navigational menu

Efficient Business Lighting

Introduction

Businesslights.com is an e-store specialising in energy and maintenance efficient lighting for commercial and industrial facilities, indoor tennis courts and sports facilities. If you want to be green, use energy efficient lighting.

Form

The website has dull colours of slate blue, white and aqua, which assist in making the products stand out a lot, but don’t make the design especially memorable. However, the colours and style do indicate a professional web presence and are only hampered by the electric blue and orange text which do not fit into the colour scheme at all. Changing the text to another slate blue, grey or dulled aqua would help stylize the colour scheme. The logo is simple, has an image of a light bulb and some textured text. The idea for the logo is on the right track but this logo did not grab me as “The Lighting Solution Center” has too much space between it and “Businesslights.com”. Some more work with making the logo elements fitting together better and maybe some simplifying (ie a better globe image) would help this.

The traditional e-store three column layout is suitable for the business and customers know where to look due to the standard layout. Product categories, a shopping cart, bestseller list, general information and a search box work in the left and right columns. Featured products are down the bottom under the main paragraphs. If the three paragraphs under the main bolded paragraph were made into one, the featured products table could move up a bit and this would help people with smaller screen resolutions and look tidier.

The text at the bottom with the address, product index and contact details, while in the right place, should be in the same font as the rest of the page. Regarding design, the bolded first paragraph text also doesn’t quite fit in with the page and might be better in the standard font but bolded and a different colour.

Function

Product categories are in alphabetical order and clicking on these brings up a page of products to choose from. It was good to see that there are actually lots of products to look at and that pricing is included on them. By clicking repeatedly on the product, it is possible to navigate to a full description of the product. The shopping cart appeared functional but Australia is missing from the Country menu. The search box works well and so does the Manufacturers menu, although some manufacturers have no products listed. Overall, the navigation is extremely good and an additional suggestion is to put a FAQ or Help link near the “My Account | Cart Contents | Checkout” links at the top for customers who share common queries. Also, more could be made of the handy “Product Index”. Rather than having it at the bottom, why not display it in a prominent graphic or prominent text link on the left or right, so customers can go to it as soon as they see it?

The coding is php (standard for an e-store) and seems to be a modified php template that works efficiently with no errors. Loading times are fast and lots of customers will appreciate this.

Conclusion

Businesslights.com is an efficient, fast loading and average looking e-store that sells light bulbs, Fluorescent Lamps, Ballasts, Halogen lamps, light fixtures…etc. Honestly, if I was comparing Businesslights to other lighting websites out there, I would say that it is useful, but not memorable. For an example of how to make an e-store look memorable by using exciting colours and graphics, check out DVD Orchard or even Lighting.com. Using the same layout they currently have, Businesslights.com can make their business look more exciting quite easily – by putting some work into the main banner where the logo is, changing colours and even creating some ads for products to spruce it up.

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fig 1. Electric blue text doesn’t match colour scheme

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fig 2. Business Lights Logo

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fig 3. Nice Shopping Cart Layout

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fig 4. Contact Us Information

Water Spouts – Are You Ready?

So I was on my way to begin shooting for my 2008 Dogs of Key West Calendar and off to my right I spotted two water spouts. Like any good photographer (and terrible driver) I pulled my car over to the side of the road jumped out with my Nikon D70, through a 70-200mm VR lense on and started snapping away.

The moral of this story is not to chase storms or throw your car on the side of the road every time you get the urge that something “might” happen. The moral of this story to be ready! Always be prepared and USE your equipment. We all spend tons of cash on our cameras, lenses, tripods etc… and so its only natural that we also spend the big bucks or complex bags and gear covers.

The thing is if I had to pull my car on the side of the road and go to the back of the car to unpack my camera bag and walk over to the bridge the water spout would have been gone and I would have missed my shot. When I drive, my camera is always on the seat next to me. When I’m out on a shoot, my camera is armed and ready in my hand ready to shoot. That’s what I mean by being prepared.

I once over herd a conversation between a student and Pro Nikon photographer. The student asked the photographer approximately how long it took him (the pro photographer) to take a picture.

The Nikon Pro replied “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

The Student said “from the moment you see something, how does it take you to pull out your camera and start shooting?”

The Pro replied: “Son, if you saw it you missed it.”

These are words every professional or wanna be professional photographer should live by.

About The Author

My name is Colby Gwyn-Williams; I am a professional photographer specializing in Pet and Action photography. Photography is not only my passion, it defines my life. I have been an animal enthusiast since my early years on our family farm and photographing since I was strong enough to hold my Mother’s old Nikon F2S Photomic camera. The earth and the creatures that inhabit it have become the visual playmates of my own personal “rabbit hole,” and, like Alice in Wonderland, I would like to invite you on an adventure by going through my site and seeing the world as I see it through the “looking glass” of my lens.

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Dolls, Dollz & Dolly Parton

Introduction

Cartoon Dolls is a place where your favourite dolls come alive. There are lots of activities to do such as doll dress up, celebrity dress up, colouring pages, crafts etc. If you are a fan of dolls, you should visit the website.

Form

This site is loud, flashy and interesting to the audience for which it is intended (I suspect they are pre-pubescent girls) but not instantly appealing to adults. The home page has lots of small graphics on it and some small animated graphics (the small graphics mean smaller file sizes when combining a lot of them) and the overall colours are black and blue. It’s a bit girly in the graphics but not overly so with the colours and the site is laid out in a three column structure with lots to look at and read.

The graphics are original (created by Dollz and Doll Makers of the World) and the site is targeted well towards pre-pubescent/teenage girls, with things to do, lots to read and some flash and glitter. The three column structure is suitable for the amount of information contained and advertising is suitable for the content. Clicking on any page from the main page brings up pages with different coloured backgrounds, more graphics and the activities to do. As a website intended for adults, all of this would fail acceptable website design standards; since it is intended for youngsters it has the perfect combination of busy text/graphics and lots of different colours and backgrounds.

Function

I found the Doll Palace Navigator only came up on some of the pages. This means that although you can click the “back” button in your browser, navigation to pages might a bit confusing. The colours of blue and black might not be appealing to pre-pubescent girls, although black and blue add to the “gizmo” look about it like videogames, phones and smileys so this might mean I am in error in judging suitable colours for this market. The front page could use one larger and more elaborate graphic to “grab” attention, as there are quite a few cartoony looking sites to compete with out there.

Some interesting sections of the site include “Dress Up Games” (which involves creating dolls in certain fashions) and “Colouring Pages” and both are interactive and complex parts of the website. “Dress Ups” has a large selection of dress ups to pick from. Upon clicking on one of these, you are able to choose the entire outfit, body, pets, background and accessories for your doll and there are thousands of combinations possible. After you have created a doll, you can save it and access the html code for forums, MySpace sites etc. The sample doll I created for this review was pretty spiffy and exciting, even though I am well into my 20s (and female, incidently!)

Colouring Pages” allows you to colour in pictures of dolls with a moderate colour picker. I couldn’t find a button to save my coloured image, so I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do much with the finished product except view it. Also, I went to colour in a face and it coloured in part of the hair, eyes and dress as well so the outlines need to be more clearly defined in some of the template drawings. The colour picker worked at a average speed and the Colouring Book of Dollz with the magic brush worked well and were interesting.

Code is php with inserted javascripts and images are jpg, gif and png but tend to have smaller file sizes due to straight colouring, not gradiated graphics (ie cartoons). Loading times are fast.

Conclusion

The Doll Palace is quite a large website with lots of activities and images and is well suited to its intended audience of pre-pubescent girls and possibly, older girls. In this review, I didn’t get the chance to explore all of it, but the parts I visited were interesting and good looking (if you like cartoony graphics). I felt the authors put in a ton of work and while they might be sighing with relief after all that creativity, they may be in for a bigger battle to attract audiences in future decades when the competition steps up a notch with 3D virtual worlds, messaging, personalisation and freebies taking over the web. However, since the doll activities are free, personalised and can be sent to your friends, the battle may well be half over.

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fig 1. Doll Palace Navigator appears on some pages and not on others

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fig 2. Screen Image of the interesting Dress Up Games

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fig 3. Ooops! My doll’s hair and face are the same colour

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fig 4. The fast-action magic brush tool in the Dollz Colouring Book

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fig 5. My cute Dress Up doll

A Simple and Well Coded Finance website

Introduction

RepayMortgage.co.uk is a website about Sell and Rent Back Property. They promote debt solutions, view offering no obligation appraisals to best meet client needs using refinancing and reselling as their main focal tools.

Form

RepayMortgage is a very simple looking site and there is only one major graphic of green hills at the top. While green hills and green colouring can be soothing to potential desperate clients in need of help, the hills remind one of the default Windows XP background, commonly found on computers around the world. Without a strong company logo to identify RepayMortgage as a completely separate business, the colours of blue and green make this website look like hundreds of other websites out there and may not look memorable. Having a logo in what looks like a webfont (instead of in another, more elaborate font) gives one the impression that the company is not serious about its website.

The tagline “Clear your mortgage debt and keep your home, or sell and move on free from debts” gives away the game too quickly and could be shortened for impact and to keep the mystery so the reader has to read on. Maybe “Clear your mortgage debt” is good enough? Also the tagline is in a webfont too, so maybe by coming up with a more original top banner, incorporating a unique logo and the shortenened tagline with a new font could help this website a lot.

The nice grey background while plain, appropriately draws attention to the text in the middle two-column affair, but the blue background headers contain the text too close to the edge for professionalism. A way to fix this is to indent the header text (an inserted fancy bullet symbol can make it look more in line with the paragraphs). Heading text could also be made the same size as paragraph text (although bolded) to make it fit seamlessly into the page and make the font choices look businesslike.

On the main page are three bolded questions to the potential client at the top and I feel these could be made more exciting, such as using a bright colour or larger text to grab the eye. Making these questions into a graphic (eg a comic thought balloon eminating from someone) would further enhance the message.

It is pleasing to see textlinks down the bottom of the page with a sitemap so readers couldn’t get lost. Some sites put the sitemap in a prominent place but this technique isn’t needed as the navigation is simple. The XHTML 1.0 Script link on the bottom of most pages should be removed, as most visitors are not really interested or understand much about it and also because when you click on it it says “Not Validated”.

Function

The left menu is consistent on all pages and is very easy to follow. The main navigation is on top while the extra information links are below. I didn’t have any problems with navigating this website. My only comment is that the “Find properties to rent” link didn’t open in a new window, hence unsavvy visitors might not be able to find the RepayMortgage website again.

The site content is useful and well written and this is especially evident on the “Information to help stop repossession” page where pre-empted enquiries and a simple list of answers can help the Repay Mortgage website to minimise customer queries, thus saving time and money. The page with “A quick property sale” is also a good example of the well-written content, demonstrating the webmaster’s (or webwriter’s) ability in making what could be difficult and legal-speak English comprehensible to clients.

I found the “Contact” page had handy telephone numbers and an email for contact as well as the standard contact form. I wasn’t sure about the idea of phone numbers containing capital Os instead of 0s though…

The source code is extremely clean and easy to read. It does not have any complex javascript or anything that blocks search engine spiders from crawling the site. No doubt, the author built the site with great emphasis in search engine optimisation. Check out the source code and see it for yourself.

Conclusion

The Repay Mortgage website has all the right ingredients for a good business website, but needs to work on a corporate identity and fine tune some small website design errors. The coding and content is great. I believe that the well-written content will be helpful to potential customers and makes the company sound friendly, professional and helpful.

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fig 1. Plain webfont logo & tagline, with common green hills banner

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fig 2. Blue headers need indented text

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fig 3. Capital O

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fig 4. Questions need to stand out more

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fig 5. Remove the XHTML 1.0 Script text link

Eye Examination Photograph – Slit Lamp

This is a photograph shot inside an operating room. There was no operation in progress during or after the image was photographed. However, recipe an examination is quite a daunting process for an ophthalmologist, viagra sale when the patient is an infant. Infants obviously tend to get scared of lights being shined into their eyes by strangers!

Anyway, sick as a photographer in an OR, it is a very different experience from shooting in your own studio. For one thing, a medical photographer has to come to terms with the fact that his assignment is NOT the most important work going on at any given minute, and the photographer does have to take the backseat. By this, I do not mean to imply an ego hassle. The fact is, that a photographer needs to understand that he does not have the freedom to set up lighting conditions to his preference. Also, the photographer rarely gets the opportunity to get a posed shot. To put it in a nutshell, a medical photographer needs to have a quick mind, a good versatile on camera flash and an adjusting attitude.

The attached image shows the slit lamp examination of the eye of an infant. The child is sedated before the examination, so as to allow the ophthalmologist enough freedom to perform tests. When the doctor focused the slit lamp on the eye, it provided the right opportunity to shoot an image that would depict the procedure. The slit lamp light on the eye could easily have been lost if a fast shutter speed was used. Of course, a flash WAS used to shoot the image. However, it was bounced off a wall so as to soften the light. Also, the image was slightly underexposed to allow for the slit lamp light to come through. The flash lasts for a fraction of a second, and speeds as high as 1/250 second are enough to sync the shutter with the flash. The flash duration is less than 1/1000 of a second by the way. Now, balancing flash light with ambient light is the mark of a good photographer, be it medical imaging or any other indoor/outdoor photograph. In this case, a slow shutter speed was used to be able to capture the light on the eye.

It is very important for a photographer to keep a cool head in a situation as this. The infant was anesthetized just for a few minutes, so the doctors work deftly on their tests. There are not many second chances if you miss a good image in a place like this, so knowing your equipment like the back of your hand does help. You wouldn’t want to use a new camera/flash model in an OR, just as a good hunter wouldn’t go after the prize catch with a new rifle! Lastly, when in doubt, shoot extra. That goes in terms of number of shits as well as the composition. You can always crop later!

About The Author

Siddhartha Mudaliar, photographer, INDIA

Short films: the writing/directing pitfall

Often seen in student films the writing/directing syndrome is the source of many mistakes that could have been prevented by giving more control over your creation to another person.

Going to screenings of film schools is always an enjoyable experience. It’s a great learning tool as well, as when watching these films it is generally easier to analyze what are the strengths and weaknesses of them, and how they could have been better, than in big productions. I believe that the reason behind this is that the teams producing the student films are generally minimal in these situations, which means that there is less crossover control of what is done. What I mean is that each person is going to do his or her own task and not worry too much about what the next guy or girl is doing. Which results in some mistakes not being prevented by looking over someone’s shoulder to see that they are doing something wrong because you are already too busy on your own task.

Obviously mistakes still happen in big productions, but they come generally down to bad decision making at a higher level, and individual errors are generally prevented by the fact that a team of people performs most tasks.

By watching student film after student film, a pattern emerges. Writer/directors. The majority of student films I have been given the chance to watch suffered that syndrome. I believe it is generally a bad thing for the production when the team is reduced and let me explain why.

When working with beginners, directing is crucial. When working with beginners who think that they know perfectly what they are doing (i.e. film students) directing is critical. According to my previous point regarding individual mistakes, in a small team if each person is too busy with his/her own task to check on what the other guys are doing, this should logically be the director’s responsibility to see that every member of the crew is doing the job right, and is doing what the director expects. This adds an extra load of work on the director compared to bigger productions.

In such a stressful environment, the director ends up having to act even more as a commander of anything to do with the production. Of course some have the luxury of a PA to look after the crew while they are focusing on the actual directing, something often forgotten in student productions but that saves from the extra work of working in a small team.

But even in the ideal situations of the director not having to worry about individual mistakes thanks to the PA, we come back to the issue of the director being the writer as well. Whereas the team has the PA or the director to remind them of what they are supposed to do, the writer/director has only him or herself to get reminded of the story, its mechanics and how the characters should be on screen. There is no balance, and seeing the magic of his or her story coming to life easily carries the director away. And he/she forgets to actually give some real directions to the actors.

Whereas in a situation where the writer is a different person than the director, and very importantly the writer is present during the shoot, the writer can be the reminder of what has to be done and can be here to prevent the director from making mistakes and criticize what he or she is doing.

Of course if you are writing/directing you can still try to hide behind the belief that your story is so incredible that you can’t let anyone ruin what you have come up with. But given the very little amount of writing/directing geniuses coming out of film schools every year, giving away the writing or the directing to someone else could be the best thing to do in order to learn more. Chance are, someone else directing your story might make you amazed of how differently if can be interpreted and fuel your creativity. And directing something you didn’t write could make you so much more focused on the acting and actually making a good film rather than trying to reproduce what was inside your head when you wrote the story.

Image courtesy of Brandon Otto.

Photographing Black Dogs

A better title might be, “Can you find the dog in this picture?” You would be amazed at how many times we can wind up with a photo of a black dog where the bushes or shadows behind him cause him to magically disappear just as you try to get that shot of him looking absolutely adorable.

You are convinced that you could see a black dog separate and apart from the background and yet when you look at your photo, the dog is largely NOT part of the picture.

It’s an easy enough remedy, you just need to be aware that it will be an issue ‘before’ you take the shot, not after you’ve lost it. It’s all about lighting. Funny how most things dealing with photography always wind up being about the light! If you are shooting indoors and can manipulate lights you will have to check your background to make sure it’s not too ‘busy’ or too similar to the dark coloring of the dog.

In the studio I would have a ‘hair light’ at the ready. This is also called a key light and would be directed toward the hair of the dog from one or both sides of the frame and situated behind the dog facing toward the dog from behind. I would set them so they are directed toward the center of the dogs back and higher than the dog so that the light highlights the hair from behind “off-stage” so to speak. Obviously you set them out of camera range and check the viewfinder to make sure they pick up the highlights on the hair.

Try to look for situations in nature when you are outdoors that mimic this process if you need or want to use a natural setting. A reflection from a white wall or white vehicle can add needed light but do not expect it to have the same intensity that a key light would have in a controlled setting.

Now you will notice that I have included two images of the same black dog in this post. The first one I would like you to refer to is the photo of a black dog laying down in front of a show jumping field. This would be the WRONG way to set up an image of a black dog. There is far to much going on in the background and the shadows are to extreme across the dog. The subject gets lost in the image.

The next image for you to look at is the close up of the black dog with the green background. This is the proper way to photograph a black dog. Keep in mind when photographing black animals that not every hair has to be in perfect focus and light. In fact having some shadow can help an image show depth and create character in your image. In this image here you see just that, a heavy shadows across part of the dog and yet all the detail and dog and his character shine through the image.

The easiest method for outdoor shots is to be aware of the background relative to your subject at any given time. If you are setting up a shot in a specific area for a pet that will be brought in at a later time, you can always use the old stand-by, the faithful dark-haired stuffed toy dog, pony, cat, or monkey and light you setting for that. It’s quick, easy, usually inexpensive and pretty efficient. When Fido shows up with his owner, you are good to go!

About The Author

My name is Colby Gwyn-Williams; I am a professional photographer specializing in Pet and Action photography. Photography is not only my passion, it defines my life. I have been an animal enthusiast since my early years on our family farm and photographing since I was strong enough to hold my Mother’s old Nikon F2S Photomic camera. The earth and the creatures that inhabit it have become the visual playmates of my own personal “rabbit hole,” and, like Alice in Wonderland, I would like to invite you on an adventure by going through my site and seeing the world as I see it through the “looking glass” of my lens. ColbySkyePhotography.com

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Wrong way to photograph a black dog

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Right way to photograph a black dog

Sharp Web Design

Introduction

Sharp Microelectrics is the world’s leader in technology, devices and solutions that reduce parts count, board size and costs. Their website is professional and aims to make searching for information as simple as possible for the viewer.

Form
On the main page is an excellent static jpg that looks very modern with a picture of a hand touching buttons (with a blurred person in the background) some floating products and the logo, all encased within a turquoise background. This large jpg is a good example of excellent graphic design and is very attractive as well as being effective for viewers. Not only does it convey the correct message (that Sharp Microelectronics is a modern and innovative company) but it also loads fairly quickly and is able to carry the page as a stand alone graphic, rather than needing lots of graphics to make it more.

The Sharp logo has been around for ages and is well known as a corporate brand. As a logo it is a fine example of how a simple textual logo can easily be recognised on an international scale. Luckily for Sharp they are a well known company, otherwise the logo would have trouble indicating what the company is selling – but it is working on this website and adds a nice dash of colour to an otherwise white page.

There are not many other graphics and the site mostly relies on the main page to look beautiful and attract customers while the rest of the pages are textual and informative. The Press Releases and New Products tables have pleasing matching colours in the top cells which help deliver the banner to the viewer. I was pleased to see that the only advertising on the site is for Sharp’s own products and it is kept to a minimum.

I noticed a small irregularity (see the Optoelectonics page for an example) where the Flash LEDs grey description table had a bit sticking out of the left side. Other grey tables also have this problem.

The “Home”, “About Us” and “Jobs” which “float” to the right of the main menu are somewhat off balance and might do better if they were made into subtle coloured buttons as part of the main menu (there could be a space put in between the main menu items and this group of three).

The colours used for most pages are black text on a white background with highlights of red, blue and grey. While the red and black match the Sharp logo, the black text combined with the blue text make the website look a bit ordinary. It might help make the website more techno looking to have the black text dark grey (to soften it a little) and the blue text to be a matching dark turquoise of the banner or some similar colour matched colour, rather than the very boring and standard electric blue. On some pages the banners were grey and these could be more attractive if they followed through the colour theme of the first page – like the tables on the first page. The white background, while most helpful for legibility, is a little boring also – maybe a slight tint of colour or pattern could help the overall appearance?

Function

Navigation for the viewer takes place from a simple top menu with main PNG buttons and a further left side menu for detail. This works very well, especially as the top button that is in use is highlighted in a different colour. In case the browser can’t see these buttons there is additional text links for the main menu on the bottom of the page (always recommended if using graphics for menu buttons, so that all viewers can navigate). If the web designer really wanted to maximise the loading time, it might be possible to make the top menu buttons into textual links, removing the rollovers and the duplicates down the bottom of the page.

On the left menu the items have different coloured arrows – black for the main category and clear for subcategories. I found this system to be helpful, as well as the rollover text links and the fact the the current page is highlighted with a bold text link in a different colour.

On each page is a heading of the main category which clarified where the viewer landed. Further menus and subcategories appeared in the content section, but only related to relevant page information. A lot of information is contained within the site but it was very easy to navigate and there appear to be no issues with navigation.

The loading time for the website is good and there is only a slight slowness because the pages are Active Server Pages. Code consists of a liberal use of css, javascript and some html with ActiveX pages, allowing for the latest database information (so no out-of-date products) and fast loading menus. The search field on the top right is very useful in online product searching, is appropriate for the Sharp website and also functions OK.

I felt that the Sharp website, while complex, appeared simple and clear for the viewer, and was geared towards making the text legible and the navigation easy to follow. The fonts used are visible (although the menu font could be a little small for older viewers and it doesn’t resize with text size adjustment in the browser). Font sizes are a bit of a dilemma for web designers at the moment, as they ponder if they should allow text resizing or not in order to preserve the aesthetic design of the site.

The technology used to create the website is appropriate and has left off useless bells and whistles (such as Flash intros etc) which would have made the site bulky and harder to surf.

Layout is consistent throughout, with the menus always in the same place and the content in the middle. It was refreshing to see a two-column layout, which maximises the viewer focus to content as I find a lot of three-column layouts can detract from the message of the website. The idea of having the logo on the top left and the search field on the top right is becoming a standard layout in effective web design, as so many viewers are recognising this particular layout. Down the bottom of the page is the Privacy Policy etc, which is also in the usual place.

Conclusion

Overall, the Sharp Microelectronics website is a professional and no-nonsense website that allows viewers to search the product categories (and other information) easily. My main issue is that the colours are a little too simple and not unique enough to carry through the exciting originality of the main graphic on the home page.

(Second Reviewer)

Sharpsma.com has a very typical layout and design for a corporate website. The source code shows a possibly outdated content management system which produces tonnes of search engine unfriendly HTML. The url isn’t fantastic at all. A typical url in the site could be something like this:

http://www.sharpsma.com/Page.aspx/ americas/en/49b2b664-958c-40ed-bf13-f7ebc3a8265f/ System_Solutions/

I think there are better ways to name the pages.

The title of the index page reads: “Product Groups”. What a nice way to name the index page! There are also tonnes of javascript before any real content appears. Try running a spider script and it will show that alot of work is needed in terms of search engine optimisation. I have to agree with the main reviewer that the site is quite functional but I would expect more and professional graphics from a company like “Sharp”. Many pages are very wordy (fig 8.) as well which makes the site boring. Yes, and what are those jagged borders doing around the lady in the advert? (see fig 5.)

(Third Reviewer)

Surprisingly, a famous company like sharp only has an alexa ranking of 700k. Should we be expecting a better ranking? Perhaps the ceo just want the website to sit there and do nothing… or maybe web presence isn’t as important for sharp. If they want to be more successful, I think they need to learn from other big MNCs like LG and Nokia. There is always something in these websites that makes people want to revisit the site. Its all about marketing and I believe internet forms a big part of it today. The marketing factor is very lacking in sharp’s website. Overall, the website is very robotic, no updates and no human touch. It looks like a dead rat and I agree with the second reviewer that it is boring…

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fig 1. (i) The Sharp Logo (ii) Floating Menu Elements (iii) Main Menu Buttons (iv) Left Menu Arrows

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fig 2. Error on the grey description table

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fig 3. Table colours that match the attractive main graphic

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fig 4. Each page is different, yet follows the same format

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fig 5. Appropriate Advertising

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fig 6. Duplicate Text Menu & Privacy Policy at bottom of the page

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fig 7. Some text and graphics need more breathing space

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fig 8. Many pages are too wordy

Life in the Past Lane

Introduction

Life in the Past Line is a genealogical and photographic glimpse of the South African branch of the Goodway family and a very interesting idea for a website it is too. Not only is the name exciting and apt but the website itself is of interest to not only Goodway family members but those who need an idea of how to go about publishing their own family website on the net.

Form

The layout of the website is a two column affair, and with good content in both the main left and right columns (usually it’s mostly advertising in the right column so this is a refreshing change). Loading time is adequate and navigation is consistent and easy to follow. It was good to note the website strived to conform to W3C standards and was classified as a “safe surfing website”. This would open the door to advertising on family friendly websites and assist in generating traffic.

Design for the site is a mixed package – the simplicity of the colours and images works well for family friendly viewing and also to impart an olde worlde style (especially the use of old black and white family portraiture). The design also works well in that the reader can see what to read and where to read it easily and the text is very readable. However, help I felt that the colours could be made just a little more exciting – maybe a background colour (deep crimson + pattern) on the left and right sides of the page could add to the design, and the text logo of “Life in the Past Line” could be a bit fancier so it is not a standard-looking text. Curlier, but still legible text would help the olde worlde genealogical aspect of it.

The photo galleries were sweet and had nice photos in them and the comments were helpful. The site map was also very helpful and useful for browsing with. Content was well researched, helpful and very useful.

Function

In reviewing this site, most items appeared to be functional (including the css and html code) and overall there were no major issues, so I would like to make a few suggestions for extending the site in the future:

– A family forum could help people communicate to other members of the family (officially). There could always be a password to help with security issues so that members of the public could be barred (you could make the forum a subtle element that only members of the family would locate.

– A list of the family’s email addresses and/or links to myspace profiles etc.

– A bigger library of past photos.

Conclusion

Life in the Past Lane is a very pleasant site to visit and is likely to be of interest to quite a number of people, both family and those into genealogical and historical research. Creating a family website for the reading of all generations is a good concept and in this case was well executed. With a few more design elements (background, logo and images) this will be a shining example of what can be done with your family tree. A well designed website with nice content indeed.

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fig 1. A photo gallery

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fig 2. Nice old photos

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fig 3. Example of a different background