Web Design In Seattle

Introduction

The Visualscope Studios is a Seattle Web Design company that does Website Development, here Web Design and Search Engine Optimization. They provide online marketing and e-commerce solutions as well.

Form

It’s always hard work to create a web design site, pills as people expect it to be more brilliant than most of the websites out there, mind and there’s a lot of technical information to squeeze in which also has to be explained to a general audience in layman’s terms. Visualscope Studios has a professional layout and design using blue and orange colours in a two columns. The use of key points which are linked to further information for “Web Design & Development” and “Online Marketing” etc are a good way of shortening a lot of detail, and the orange and white arrow/circle bullets are cute too. The top banner has a silhouette of a man/boy opening his arms to the sky to portray maximum potential, and while this is an acceptable design, it’s not really “out there” as a concept to grab an audience with so much competition for website services around.

The message of the website is repeated twice – once in the top banner with “Maximize the full potential of your website” and secondly with “Let us help your website reach its true potential” in the left column. If I had to pick which message attracted me the most, I would definitely say the brightly coloured left column one stood out – so getting rid of the top banner message could assist the graphic to work better on its own?

Fonts used are used well – key words are in bold, phone numbers stand out in smaller text and the main blue and orange message got my attention. The headings in grey with small orange and white arrow bullets are nicely subtle, and the repetition of the web services (from the left column bullets) to the right web services list are necessary, as on the left they are images and on the right it is text, allowing those who don’t see images to see something. I liked having the right click disabled – little details like this are attractive to potential web design customers and I also liked the short amount of information on the front page and the box-like design which made it feel contained neatly.

Clicking through the pages revealed a consistent site, the main issues being the repetition of information (such as the list of services which appears too often) and the banner images which weren’t quite exciting enough. I recognised many banner images from popular stock photography websites and I believe a personal touch with the artwork is the best way to be original (or even try manipulating the stock photography images to create something new). I would definitely recommend removing text from the banner images unless it is very visible. The white text on the yellow “about” banner is an example of text that is hard to read, also the font on the banners does not match the rest of the website. Instead of repeating information, maybe a simplistic approach could be tried, or new information inserted. A lot of people seem to like uncluttered websites and find them easier to read.

The background is a grey gradient that gives the box design a “floating” effect. Keep this one – it works well! The copyright text down the bottom in subtle grey with black hover is great too.

The orange navigation menu under the banner is very obvious and easy to follow. The grey hover colour helps too. All pages appeared linked and overall navigation was very good.

Function

The Web Site Services page explains in simple terms to the viewer what the services are (no mean feat for web designers – we’ve all found that a bit hard). Well done on explaining the services in less than seven short paragraphs! If people are not yet convinced, they also provide their Web Design Portfolio online. It was really good to see the professional looking websites they designed before which became better when the links were opened. Another nice touch was having the Visualscope Studios heading at the top of each loaded website – and the links continued to load in the bar too.

If they are doing seo for a company, then perhaps some statistics would be even more convincing. How about putting some search engine ranking figures (before and after) for the “Wailua Bay View Condominiums” project?

Conclusion

Visualscope Studios is a professional looking website that should attract customers. Their portfolio is good and the main components of the website are effective. Personally, I feel that there are a few design issues which mostly involve trying to inject more originality and pizzaz into it – in any other industry this website would be terrific – but for website design, which is highly competitive, more work is needed for this website to stand out from the crowd. Search Engine Optimization is focused strongly in the entire site and if that is their selling point, then perhaps design becomes secondary.

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fig 1. Cute “bullets” and nice text

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fig 2. This text could use some work

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fig 3. The portfolio websites look interesting

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fig 4. This banner is a bit daggy

Harry Potter Web Magic

Introduction

The latest Harry Potter movie, The Order of the Phoenix, has it’s own website, which is an interesting online experience promoting the movie. This is one of the most well-designed Harry Porter website so far.

Form and Function

When first arriving at the website, your browser will probably ask for an add-on, but I suspect this is only necessary for those of you who need to view in a language other than English, because the Flash introduction worked OK without the add-on for me. The design of the introduction was very good, a basic middle Flash container with Warner Bros. website links up the top, an opportunity to skip the movie within the container, links to different language versions (these were greyed out due to the add-on I suspect), some red “alert” text and other bits such as a privacy policy etc. I liked the design of the Flash container with the magical looking border corners, but upon further inspection, I noticed that the 4 border corners were different in size and design to each other but this took a while to notice as the whole effect was pretty good – and design-wise the border corners couldn’t have been better. Pressing the Sound On/Off button worked on the main part of the website where there was background sound but not on the intro which was interesting but quite loud.

With lots of black, wood colouring, and olde fashioned textures, the site reminded me of the old Lord of the Rings site. The main website page had a two column layout, with Harry Potter website links on the left, the main viewing screen on the right and all the links needed for Warner Bros. website on the top and bottom. The left menu had some interesting CSS for the hover functions and also some nice looking hover down menus. Olde weathered wood textures abounded and with a default creepy image of Voldemort in all his horrible glory, the home page had an excellent appearance.

Clicking on the Marauder’s Map (top right) leads to some addictive and well presented games. I had some trouble opening the Pensieve link though, I believe the add-on might have been needed for this one. Some of the items require you to sign up to the website – these involve “joining Hogwarts” or downloading webmaster materials and so on. The content and depth of the site was quite good – lots of things to look at, lots of latest updates and info and lots of things for people of all ages to enjoy.

One slight error was found on the home page left menu where the “Marauder’s Map” link was missing an apostrophe and had a default font box instead. I suspect this is due to my browser not having the right webfont. And the blue text in the same menu needed to be just a hint darker so it could be read easier.

The navigation worked fine, all the links appeared linked. Some items didn’t load because I didn’t have the add-on, but you could download it rather easily (I just wanted to see what the add-on would be needed for). The Flash movies played fine and it looked like the site had been built by people who really knew their stuff.

Coding is a mix of html, ASPX, Flash, javascript and CSS. And I must say that while the code is a bit bulky, the loading time is quite reasonable when you consider how long the Flash intro is and the elaborate set up of all the different codes in unison. Loading time is medium to fast but varies depending on which part of the site you are loading.

It was interesting to see the amount of keywords and the long description inserted into the source code, a bit of an eye opener for someone like me who does a list of 30 keywords and a couple of sentences for the metatags normally. You can certainly see why they’d get so many visitors and you could also see that they wanted to promote the website intensely.

Conclusion

The Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix website is a website worth visiting for Harry Potter fans – I am thinking about going back and having some fun on it after completing this review! Outstanding looking design, swish graphics and very minor errors make for an interesting viewer experience and promotes the movie effortlessly. I do think that most people visiting the site would have either seen the movie or read the book but since Harry Potter is so popular there is sure to be no shortage of viewers.


Sitecritic.net award

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fig 1. The Marauder’s Map

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fig 2. Issues on the left menu

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fig 3. The Daily Prophet nes & updates

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fig 4. Triwizard Challenge page

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fig 5. One of the games

Phones That Sell Themselves

Introduction

Mobile Express is an online mobile phone retailer, “the UK’s No1 specialist direct supplier of cheap mobile phones“. With a flashy website and lots of specials, these phones are sure to sell themselves!

Form

Mobileexpress.co.uk is busy busy busy. There are lots of pics, highlighted specials and the usual navigational menus in a three column layout. These people sure know what they are doing – they have attention-grabbing red, blue and yellow specials using reverse text, one medium sized animation at the top of the page and a white table foreground with a grey background to allow the focus on the products. Some design features are standard ones that either come with templates or are often seen on other retail sites, such as the clipart for the basket, logos etc.

An interesting design idea that I haven’t seen much of is the top right yellow triangle offering “FREE delivery on EVERYTHING!”. I also liked the use of the purple colour further down the page for the free gifts as it held my attention just when I was starting to get bored.

The types of fonts used are very suitable for a retail site and look professional. While there is lots of colour and almost too much to look at, Mobile Express uses colour wisely by sticking to traditional loud colours that are repeated consistently throughout the site. The overall impression is of a trustworthy company with big specials and lots of products on offer.

Function

There are a lot of links on the page which are needed for the audience to find their intended product. Navigation occurs on the left menu for brands, phone categories and networks. These are nicely contained in a blue and white menu that is a subtle effect next to the products. The yellow and white box below it looks like a menu too, but is a list of selling points for the merchant. I originally thought the yellow box linked somewhere as it looks so much like the blue navigational menus, so maybe using square corners instead of rounded ones on this box might make it appear less like a menu.

Some navigation also occurs in the right column, where best selling free mobile phones appear in a list with an image and some reviews. The reviews are a good idea and certainly will assist customers who are deciding which phone to buy. All links appear functional. There are also lots of links down the bottom of the pages for general site navigation (such as About Us etc) and links for selling points (eg, free next day delivery).

I supposed the top menu is the main navigation (Contract Mobile Phones, Pay As You Go, Accessories…etc). Too bad they aren’t really obvious as people are probably drawn to the images in the center and the right column. Make them more prominent?

Coding is ASPX with html, CSS and javascript. Loading time is medium but this is due to the large code containing images and links and is still faster than a lot of other retailers out there.

The Mobile Express blog is a great example of how retailers can make their blog interesting and useful to an audience. With latest product updates, competitions and an informal but professional tone, the blog page is geared towards advertising that looks quite inviting (see image right). I do have to suggest though that since there aren’t many comments, there may be either an issue with leaving comments or no one wants to leave one, so some extra promotion of the blog page might assist, as well as choosing more wacky and wild topics to blog on in between the product updates etc. Perhaps there should be quick links somewhere in the home page that points to the latest mobile news category – this can help people to navigate to important sections of the blog quickly.

Conclusion

Mobile Express offers a wealth of product information and I can see why it’s “the No 1 UK specialist direct supplier of mobile phones”. I would classify the website as a professional retail one that has a lot to offer. The blog was really interesting to see and clicking on the phones guided the viewer to a phone and purchase without getting bogged down in too much unnecessary information. The loading time was a bit slow but still operates faster than a lot of retail sites out there. Very well done with fitting in so much information in such a constructive way! If you are living in UK and are looking for mobile phones, contract mobile phones or even free mobile phones, give www.mobileexpress.co.uk a visit.

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fig 1. The yellow triangle (top right)

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fig 2. The yellow box that looked like a menu

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fig 3. Purple colouring stands out

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fig 4. The good-lloking blog page

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fig 5. Ready to pick and purchase!

Watch This Website!

Introduction

City Chain is one of the key players in the watch retail industry. With over 200 retail shops throughout SE Asia and the Far East, City chain is marketed as a sleek, professional brand with a website to match.

Form

Upon entering the City hain website, you are greeted with a trendy looking Flash intro that loads quickly and uses colour and patterns efficiently to attract your interest. With the option to skip the movie, it’s a very modern design that is correctly laid out in a good sequence. The home page which follows is just as nice-looking, but is left aligned while the intro is centre aligned. This detracts a bit from having a consistent design.

The main home page also has a Flash intro of a basketball star in sporty poses on a background of a lightning field and a large watch imposed in suitable places. City Chain has managed to convey this difficult-to-design message quite well and it’s very professional looking without being too corporate.

At the top of the page are red buttons containing navigational elements and the logo is in the top left. A few details made me think that this website is really well designed – the navigation was all in one place and simple to view, the elements of the page were simple but effective with colour and the focus was on the product (which is after all, why people are visiting this website).

I liked the Asian characters next to the logo and also for translation on the pages. It was essential this site was in another language as their shops are in Asia – but by being able to see the site in English I believe City Chain will reach a wider audience. The translation elements need to be consistent however – it would be good to choose to view the site in either language before entering it or making sure that only English is displayed when clicking the top right English button, as the translation buttons are in different places on different pages and some are interactive while some are not. This could confuse viewers who like to know where to find the right button!

On the Catalogue page, it would have been good to read a short paragraph about each of the brands so that I had an idea what they were about. The layout varies from page to page but this was done quite well from a one column layout to a two column one and kept my interest. It could help though if the red tabs on the left of the Catalogue page matched the red tabs on the left of the Contact Us page etc.

It was also refreshing to see a lack of advertising or Google Ads on the pages and I’m glad City Chain think their brand is more worthwhile content than someone else’s ads.

Function

Navigation was very easy to follow, with a main menu at the top with bright red buttons. The rollovers on the buttons are quite slow however and I have often found this to be the case when image rollovers are used. It could be worth making the image rollovers into textual ones by changing the CSS hover style. I know it wouldn’t be the same font as the logo, but believe me, customers will hardly notice with the red boxes and the fact that they are reading and clicking on the text instead of just looking at it.

There is a confusion between languages especially in the customer service page. If the default language is english, then all the pages should be in english without prompting the user to choose the language. Though the flash is attractive, I found it very lacking in terms of content. The “about us” page needs to work harder. If they consider themselves as a key player in the watch industry, we would want to know more about them! I would also like to read more about the different models they have, faqs… more, more and more.

The site is very dead in terms of content and there is no buzz at all. The company needs to re-think if they want any web presence at all. Perhaps if they allocate abit of budget in online advertising, things might get better?

Conclusion

Competitors watch out – if City Chain put as much content and presentation into their products as they do into their website, customers will be queuing up to buy! There are a few layout and design issues and a competition or special offer might be needed to attract new customers but this is a cool website that is attractive to modern watch hunters. Excellent concept and (mostly) well executed!

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fig 1. A frame from the Flash intro

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fig 2. Interactive navigation is interesting

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fig 3. Product catalogue

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fig 4. Simple store location map is quite effective

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fig 5. Essential Asiatic language for the natives