Don’t Bore Users To Death

Introduction

All Vehicle Registration Services (AVRS) is located in Sacramento, California. They handle all types of vehicle title and registration in California. Their website is simple and functional but is too boring to retain any visitors.

There are many tell tail signs that the web designer is an amateur… we are all beginners from the start. “Why get a designer if I can do it myself”? Yes, you can but there is a price to pay.

I actually think that the author has the right content for a small scale site but is crippled by the lack of design skills. The website is small, so users are going to focus on language details and graphics.

Form

The graphics are not optimised at all – they are big for no reason. You don’t need a graphic for simple text on a coloured background. In fact, separating text and graphics is a good idea. In that way, search engines can read your text and graphics can please your visitors. One good example where this can be implemented is the tag line in the home page:

“Your vehicles should always be on the road. Working as a team AVRS will customize our service to meet your needs.”

There are some sections where graphics should be used. Having the client’s logo under “our clients” is more convincing. Adding people images under testimonial is also a good idea. Mouseover hyperlinks should be consistent. Using italics for hyperlinks can be irritating (see home page).

I am not too sure of the choice of categories in the top main menu. I think ‘links’ does not deserve a place there because there are better candidates. There is also something weird about the top navigation. The menu disappears every time you are in that section. For example, if you are in ‘about us’, the ‘about us’ menu disappears. If the author does not want users to click ‘about us’ under the ‘about us’ section (and I wonder why), I would highlight the ‘about us’ menu and make it non-clickable instead and making it disappear.

Function

I think the content is good. The home page actually tells the visitor what the site is about. The font size is big and the design and colours are simple. I don’t really like the home page but I think it is functional except for the extra ‘title’ in the page title. I am also quite surprised that the extra links in home page body aren’t available elsewhere. There seems to be quite abit of content in FAQs but FAQs aren’t accessible from anywhere except from home page – consider having a sitemap?

For me, the 2 important sections to focus are “our clients” and “testimonials”. Too bad, these 2 sections aren’t that interesting. Overall, I think the look and feel of the website might suit users aged 40 and above.

Conclusion

I can go on and on. There are too many things that can be done to improve the site usability and effectiveness. The first thing I would do is to add more and replace the old boring graphics.

www.allvehreg.com.1
fig 1. Boring ‘Our Clients’ Section

www.allvehreg.com.2
fig 2. Boring ‘Testimonial’ Page

Clean and Stylish Apartment Website

Introduction

Frederics is an experienced serviced apartments provider in Munich, Germany. Created using TYPO3 CMS, their website is clean, stylish and shows consistency in terms of typography, colours, layout and navigation. These are the features of a professional website.

First of all, thumbs up for having a bilingual website.

Form and Function

In general, the website does look classy due to the consistency in layout, fonts and colours. It must have been designed by professionals. The navigation is straight forward. The only criticism I have is the white sub-menu sitting in the coloured background – It doesn’t look right to me (fig 1). It feels like something is hanging in the air.

All graphics are professionally re-touched. Well, they look great but I don’t see any human beings in there. This gives me an impression that the place is quite deserted. If friendly staffs and environment is something that frederics is selling, then they should certainly consider including more friendly faces in the graphics.

The mouseover image selector is great (fig 2). The problem is that it keeps scrolling and I had a hard time trying to look at a still image. The flash 3D navigation is definitely a bonus but I wonder how useful it is. To put in another way, “Will the 3D navigation affect my decision to rent the apartment”?

I am still not impressed with the booking enquiry. “Why must I email or call to check if there are any spaces available, can’t I check it online”? If given the preference, I would consider building a more functional apartment booking system than to have a flash 3D apartment view.

Conclusion

While I was really impressed by the functionality and consistency of the entire site, there was still a missing ‘Wow’ factor. I guessed that was because of the conventional design or limitation imposed by the CMS that they are using. Ten years ago, this would have been an award winning site. Today, people are demanding more originality due to competition and evolution of web design. Flash is back and I recommend looking into it (or AJAX perhaps). I am not saying that the website is badly designed. In fact, I consider the design and functionality as above average, like a 7/10.

I would like to end the review by making a few quick recommendations:

a. Add more human factor in the graphics.

b. Enhance the website functionality with a full online booking utility (users can book a room online, not just a booking enquiry).

A quick google reveals some notable examples (from Australia):
Quest Apartments
Meriton Apartments
The Apartments

www.frederics.eu.1
fig 1. left navigation doesn’t look right

www.frederics.eu.2
fig 2. cool mouseover image selector

www.frederics.eu.3
fig 3. 3D navigation in the apartment

www.frederics.eu.4
fig 4. why keep emphasing on frederics guide?

Purpose needs to be stated

Introduction

OKCBiz is an online magazine about the people, events and happenings in Oklahoma city. Well, it took me a while to figure that out and I am not even sure because there is nothing in the site that tells me what the site is about.

Form and Function

I don’t even know what OKC stands for as there is no explaination. I thought the words from the publisher is closest to what I am looking for:

“Now in its eighth year, OKCBusiness is the product of a great deal of teamwork, much as you practice and experience every day in your own business and life. This publication evolved through the participation of readers, advertisers and staff alike as feedback from all quarters finds its way into the pages of OKCBusiness. The new OKCBusiness magazine is the result, hence its new name: OKCBiz.”

The website looks corporate and the layout does seem to fit well for an online magazine. I thought the logo is well designed – simple, elegant and stands out from the content. The big confusion comes when people start reading the content. There is nothing in the site that tells people what the site is for and why it exists. I think more work can be done to the HTML title. “OKCBiz >> Home” is simply not good enough. Of course, this might not be the author’s fault but due to the inflexibility of the content managment system in the backend driving the site.

I knew okcbusiness.com could have something to do with Oklahoma because I have seen the word being used a few times in the articles; I knew that it is some sort of magazine because I saw the word “subscribe to magazine” on the top right hand corner. I think most people will want you to tell them what the site is about and not them finding out for themselves. Perhaps I am not part of their community, but I don’t think there is anything in the site that tells me to stay longer.

The graphics and layout is standard. However, the font headers looks abit funny on my firefox. I also think that the footer needs abit of rework as the center alignment doesn’t seem to work well visually. Having “obtain permission, contact us” as a single sentence is bad (fig 1).

The line separators need to be consistent as well. Personally, I dont like thick lines (See fig 2). The rest of the graphics looks OK. The thumbnails for top stories could be resized so that they are the same width and height? This is not a bit deal but does add abit of professionalism to the site.

Using bullet list for the top menu seems too simplistic for an online magazine? I also think the upcoming events section can be done better. Having all events in one page doesn’t sound like a good idea unless there is some sort of filtering and searching system. What if there is a need to look for an event in Jan 2006? If there are 5000 records, the user will have to search through many pages. The event links in the home page also points to the same section in the same page (using html anchors might help here?).

Conclusion

I think alot more work is needed to make the site more professional. To be fair, I believe that the site is new and we need to give it abit more time to prove its worthiness. If it is going to be a content rich site, then it is heading in the right direction by having many navigational categories and articles.

www.okcbusiness.com.1
fig 1. centralised text in footer.

www.okcbusiness.com.2
fig 2. inconsistent line separators.

www.okcbusiness.com.3
fig 3. coming up events all link to same page?

www.okcbusiness.com.4
fig 4. using ip address for ads looks dangerous.