Professional Handyman Site

Introduction

LA Fix It Appliance Repair Services specialises in the service and repair of all major home and commercial appliances and is based in Los Angeles. Offering same day service and 24/7 coverage, buy cialis LA Fix It appears to be a highly professional and popular service.

Form

The home page of www.lafixit.com is quite professional, making use of the large blue and orange logo in the top left corner to increase brand memorability and I feel this works well as the logo is both simple and memorable. The top banner is made up of suitable photos of professional handymen and women feature as customer service staff and clients. The photos are nicely done but one can’t help wondering if there are any handywomen in the organisation too.

Other elements on the page include the orange phone number under the left feature list (it’s always good to have a nice big phone number on your website when you want people to call you), navigational “buttons” at the top of the page, the usual credit cards and navigational links down the bottom of the page, other brand logos of equipment used etc. The text is centre aligned and this makes it harder to read and it would be recommended to make the text left aligned with cell padding to ensure it doesn’t “hit” the borders of the table.

Since many websites use white backgrounds and LA Fix It are lucky that their design works so well with it, I would still be interested if a different coloured background (outside of the table) could make any difference to the overall appearance. Dark grey, the logo blue or orange, or even a gradiated black could improve the look of it.

Overall the design did strike me as that of a professional company looking to invite customer enquiry and only a few pointers above need to be taken into consideration to make it perfect.

Layout is a centre aligned table with two columns and this is the most appropriate layout for the situation.

Function

There are a few navigational elements on the pages –a top menu, top image “buttons” and navigational text links at the bottom of the page. On a complicated site this would be too much, but in this case the navigation fits in with the design and is simple and understandable. All of the links work but some text might need to be fixed up as a serif font is used on the Maintenance Programs page as opposed to the sans serif (CSS) font on the Service Areas page.

It is good to see that the Contact Us page had direct links to the company and didn’t involve filling out a form. This can be a bit of a turn off for customers initially contacting the company, but is acceptable as a form of scheduling bookings or for non-urgent queries.

Coding employs CSS, javascript and the usual html elements. Loading time is very fast, due to efficient use of coding and the reasonable size of the files and pages.

Conclusion

LA Fix It have done a pretty good job with their website which is customer friendly and internet friendly. However, the company might need to be aware of possible gender bias regarding the “handyman” and “female customer service officer” images. Their logo is a good example of a simple but effective logo and their website follows this theme. As they have put all of the necessary information on their website, they should get very relevant enquiries and hopefully, a lot of business.

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fig 1. Good looking logo

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fig 2. Where are the “handywomen”?

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fig 3. Centre-aligned text on the home page

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fig 4. Left column elements with large contact phone number

Towards Better People Pictures!

This article provides a brief tutorial on how to take better people pictures. The topics covered include getting to know your camera, online understanding your subject, a bit of posing, and fill flash.

How many times have you been in a friend’s home and looked at the family and friend photos plastered on their refrigerator and thought, “What were they trying to capture in that photo?” or, “Wow, that’s a good photo!” ?? Actually, we all likely have been in the same place before and, hopefully, seeing other people’s photos causes us to pause and think about improving our people photos. In that vein, here are a few quick tips with examples that will help you put better people pictures on your refrigerator and elsewhere around your home and office.

Get to know your camera…

The best advice that I can give you is to get to know your camera better. Spend some time taking photos around the house, of your family, your home, anything, and then figure out what you feel you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well, and use this as a learning time. And, push your camera to its limits; figure out what all of those different settings mean so that they can be useful. By getting to know your camera better, you’ll take much better photos when the important time comes!

What’s the subject?

Or, as another question, what’s the story that you want the photo to briefly tell? If the subject of your photo is a person or people, then focus on them. Consider tightly focusing on your subject, so that’s the story that’s told by the photo.
(See Photo 1. Person photo)

If the main subject of your photo is not the person but the location, then adding people helps to provide perspective in telling the story of the room or your vacation. The story in this type of photo typically says “we were here – see?”

Posing

The most common way to take a photo of someone is to place them right in the middle of the your viewfinder, facing right at you, and then click. Easy, but not always very interesting. Consider moving the subject(s) off center a bit, to add some visual interest to the photo. Also, instead of having your kids directly facing the camera, have them turn their shoulders or head a bit. Instead of their hands down to their sides, maybe your subjects could be holding something that’s important to them or helps to better tell the story of the moment, whether you’re on vacation (a fishing pole? Hiking stick? Shopping bag?) or having dinner with the family (fork of food; ice cream!).

Also, if the subject is people, consider focusing on them from the waist or knees up (is it really important what shoes they wore?). The important thing in the photo is a person’s face, and the more of their body that appears in the photo, then the less distinct will be their face.

Watch the background!

Now, this is a mistake that all photographers make, even the professionals. It’s just that the professionals have made it so many times, we’re more likely to also be thinking about the background. Hopefully, the background of your people photo adds to the story and does not distract or detract. A background that’s “busy” will take the focus away from the people in your photos. Also, watch out for how your subjects are placed against the background, as having a pole or something stick out of someone’s head isn’t too appealing (although, there are many times when it’s funny).

Watch your flash!

One way to help to separate the people in your photo from everything else, to help them to better stand out in the image, is to use a little fill flash. In a darker room, or outdoors when the natural light is weak, turning on your flash will help to make the people stand out better in the photo. And, a dramatic shot can frequently be made if you will place a sunrise/sunset behind your subject and add the fill flash. The sun light can fool your camera into thinking that there’s plenty of light (which there is!), but your subject will appear dark against the bright sky unless you add some dramatic fill flash to help the subject “jump out.”

Also, learn about the limits of your camera’s flash. When a flash is used well, it’s hard to notice it. But, when you poorly use your flash, the mistakes will leap out at you! You’ve got to love those learning moments! Most on-camera flashes are designed to work well only within a certain range; and, the reasonable flash range is dependent on the sensitivity (ISO/ASA rating of the sensor) that you’re using in your camera. If your camera is set to an ISO of 200, and the manual says that the best flash range is 3’ to 15’ (1 m to 5 m) for ISO 200, then that’s the range where you’ll get the best results, particularly around the middle of that range. If you increase the sensitivity (ISO rating) to 400, then you’ll increase that range by double the amount or, in our example, from 6’ to 30’ (2 m to 10 m). But, be certain to find the limits of YOUR camera!

Frequent flash mistakes are taking the photo with the flash too close to the subject, so that the subject appears “washed out.” Also, beyond the reasonable range limit of your flash, it’s just not going to help, which is why I always chuckle when I see all of those flashes going off in stadiums from the upper deck, trying to photograph a player way down there on the field! People’s glasses can cause difficult reflections with a flash; but, people who wear glasses tend to be more aware of this issue and slightly turn their heads so that they’re glasses won’t directly reflect back to a camera. And, if you have glass or reflective surfaces behind your subject(s), then those surfaces can reflect your flash, so think about shooting at a slight angle to glass, reflective and light-colored surfaces.

So, here are a few simple tips towards more appealing people photos. And, the most important tip is to spend some quality time with your camera so that you’re more likely to produce quality photos!

Children in the Studio

Photographing children, illness as in most people, has a lot less to do with my equipment, lighting and props, than with my rapport with my subjects and the environment I provide or seek out for them. The environment has just as much to do with the subject’s comfort and demeanor as it’s actual presence in the shot.

For example, these girls are sisters, they were rolling around a platform of down and pillows, ribbons and bows, frolicking together, like they might on their own bedroom floor. As is ideal, I was eventually just a guest to their fun, instead of a photographer trying to illicit some trained response from them. Their smiles are genuine because they are smiling for one another, not for me. The pillows and ribbons are never seen in the shot, but are as important as the girls themselves.

On the viewer’s left is the older of the two sisters, not looking at the camera. In traditional photography, the subject’s lack of eye contact with the lens could have been seen as a flaw and this print may have ended up on the darkroom floor. Modern photography is much more in tune with seeing people as they are, as natural as possible, which is most often captured when they are not intently staring at the camera. I would say my best portraits are those where my subject is looking elsewhere. No where is this as evident than with children. If a child is looking at me, they are thinking of me and what I am doing. There is nothing endearing about that. If they are looking somewhere else, we are more likely to catch wonder and curiosity or if we’re very lucky, happiness. Children grow and change daily and parents are always taken with a photo that really shows them as they are everyday, an image they want to capture. It so happens this older sister is also the shy one, the one who “looks away.” True to her personality, the younger sister is not only more outgoing, but more affectionate as well. The older sister’s hand reaching up to touch her shoulder might seem a distraction, but in fact, it was her trying to politely distance herself from her baby sister, who was all too happy to snuggle up. She actually said to me; “She’s touching me.” Naturally, we laymen wouldn’t know this by looking at this picture, but we must always remember who the client is. Their mother knows these things instinctively and she was the client.

Most of all, when shooting children, no tool is as important as time. You may even have to convince parents to accept a larger appointment block, but be sure to point out their stress will be less if they know that time is not an issue. Children will photograph best when they have had a chance to warm up to the photographer, adjust to the environment and really be themselves. Once this has been achieved you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy their comfort zone and have a safety net for unexpected surprises. Children are after all, delightfully full of those.

Cute And Funny Pets Blog

Introduction

Daily Pets is a fun website showing blog-style contributor photos and comments of cute pets. The blog has a unique and professional design.

Form

With a fun theme of brightly coloured happy cartoon pets in a landscape, site dailypets.co.uk appears fresh and distinctive with its design. While the design might appeal more to children, decease adults may get something from it too. The green cartoon design is consistent on all pages. The website has a two-column layout similar to a common blog with right navigation menu and is therefore appealing in its simplicity and looks easy to navigate. On the home page is photos of pets that readers have contributed and these are displayed in varying cuteness. Tabs for navigation at the top of the main white box may need a little work though – the text is quite close to the border of the box (it is cut off in the “About DailyPets” tab) and the tabs have a black outline around them while the box does not. This detracts from the overall professional looking design. Also, the white box curved corners don’t help the design and a green edge can be seen on the top right corner. A square box in line with the tabs (and with the black outline) would help consistency with the professional design and would still suit it. Maybe the error only occurs in my browser?

It was good to see that the logo was well thought out and attractive enough to appear on a T-shirt (might be a good promotion idea). But the logo calls the site “Daily Pets” while the links are labelled “DailyPets” so these might need to be made consistent to make the name more memorable.

Function

Navigation occurs in two menus – the top tabs (with “Home”, “About DailyPets” and “Submission Guidelines” and the right column navigational menu with an assortment of links and ads by Google. Navigation is simple and easy to follow but it would help if the “About DailyPets” and “Submission Guidelines” were not repeated again in the right column (to make the menus more interesting). Maybe the “Admin” section could be placed at the top to assist returning contributors, followed by the animal categories then Archives then Pages etc?

I wasn’t sure about the search button, but then realised that people might try to find each other’s pets by name so typing in “dogs” or “fluffy” did yield useful results.

A lot of pet websites feature ads by Google so while it is important to make money from advertising, it is also important to the uniqueness of the site to display advertising that not everyone has.

Coding is blog-type coding (html, css stylesheets and javascript). Loading time is reasonably fast.

The Kittens page had particularly nice contributor photos and you could certainly tell that people cared enough about their pets and Daily Pets to send along their best. The Puppies page is also adorable and the comments are brief, interesting and easy to read. Puppies and kittens… yes… our best friend.

Conclusion

Overall, Daily Pets is an attractive website with a professional looking design. Some work is needed to finish the job and while the site is relatively new it is obviously attracting interested contributors. A suggestion to take this site to the next step would be to include freebies on the site, such as a free logo link for people to place on their personal websites, or a free activity that can be done with the uploaded photos (maybe e-cards?). Congrats on the cool idea and design.

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fig 1. The tab and box issues

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fig 2. Text is cut off

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fig 3. The cute “Kittens” page

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fig 4. The box curved corner problem