New and Used Laptops for Sale

Introduction

notebooksgalore.com.au is a website that sells bargain priced new and used notebooks in Melbourne, Australia. Upon landing on the home page, the first two thing that got my attention was the smiling face of the owner (Peter McGuigan) and a “Cant find IP” error on top of the left menu. Why show the IP?

Form and Function

The home page is welcoming and functional. The user can order the laptop almost right away by clicking on the “order” button. Navigation is dead simple from the top and left. The author emphasises the word “trust” and “honesty” alot of times in the website and this certainly gives the buyer a peace of mind when purchasing notebooks from the site. The content is great and I really like the “about us” section where the author is very open about himself. The testimonial is well placed below each item but it seems to be from the same person “Mark Harrell”. Consider having some rotation? There is also a testimonial page but it is kind of hidden in the footer on certain pages only. Perhaps it should be more obvious?

I believe the author has spend alot of time polishing up the language and content and I want to give him credit for that. Despite all that, the website lacks the look and feel of a modern day website. Not a biggy but younger generation may not feel comfortable with it.

Talking about click rate, I feel that the navigation structure and layout plays a big part. I strongly suggest looking at the notebook/laptop section in www.ebuyer.com and www.bestbuy.com or even dell.com to a certain degree. If I want to buy a notebook, I would want to be able to search by popularity, brand, price, reviews, color, memory, new/used and so on. Giving users these options enable them to find the notebook they want quickly and therefore increases the sales. With notebooksgalore.com.au, users don’t have much choice.

There is a different shopping cart section within the site. Clicking on any laptop detail page actually brings you to http://petermcguigan.sitesuitestores.com after which the user cannot seem to get back to notebooksgalore.com.au. For example, there is no way to get back to the index page of notebooksgalore. The left menu in http://petermcguigan.sitesuitestores.com is also different (see fig 2). To get more consistency, I think the author might want to relook at the site navigation structure. There are also some broken links such as http://petermcguigan.yahoostore.com.au. Broken links are bad for many reasons.

I really don’t like the footer in the home page. The layout is crazy and all the links there does not seem to serve any purpose. They look more like spam links (see fig 3). Search engine has evolved alot and I think this technique is obsolete. In fact, it only brings down the credibility of the site.

Conclusion

notebooksgalore.com.au is a decent and functional ecommerce site with emphasis on trading integrity. I feel that the lack of a proper search function and notebook categorisation is a hinderance to usability, ie the users will have trouble searching for the notebook they want. Look at sitecritic.net for example, we have a search function and don’t cramp all our reviews in one section. Having an overview page like the index page is good but users need to be able to get to what they want quickly. If not, they will not stay for long. Fixing this will not be an easy task though.

I strongly suggest the author to revamp the whole site. A quick way to do that is to get a good off-the-shelf ecommerce software (and there are many out there). Many ecommerce software comes with cool templates and layout. This will also make maintaining the site much easier.

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fig 1. Item detail page looks clean.

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fig 2. Left menu looks different from home page.

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fig 3. Spam links from the footer?

Simple and Clean Architectural Website

Introduction

cca.qc.ca is the website for the Canadian Centre for Architecture. By actively promoting interdisciplinary research in all aspects of architectural thought and practice, the Canadian Centre of Architecture hopes to increase the awareness of the role of architecture in the society.

Form and Function

The visitor is welcomed with an Ajax slideshow on the home page. The layout is straight forward and clean with the main navigation on the right and subnavigation on the left (see fig 1). The main content is in the middle and is scrollable with both left and right menu fixed in position. The author has obviously designed the website with usability in mind and you can feel that the whole website is very organised. I can’t see the logic in the left menu though as it keeps changing on every page. I prefer to see something related to the menu that the user is in. For example, if the user is at “bookstore”, the right menu could display the recent titles and so on…

To be honest, I am not a fan of using right menu as I usually read from top to bottom or left to right (perhaps many users are like that too). I am OK if the website is flashy and is designed to show off creativity like http://us.powerade.com/.

I thought many sections are very clean and thoughtfully designed. The ajax lightbox image gallery works very well in most cases. The only drawback is the loading time. The “bookstore” section is not appealing enough for me though. I like to see more visuals in this section (see fig 2). As I navigate through this section, I noticed that it is an online shopping cart. The “place order” page actually ask for the user credit card details but is not ssl encrypted. I strongly urge the company to disable the checkout till it is fixed or think of some other ways to handle online payment.

The “browse” and “calendar” section looks different to me. Why change the css for these 2 sections? The left padding for the left menu now seems abit off for me. I am not sure what “browse” means… seems like a sitemap to me. Does it really need to be so obvious and be part of the main menu? Also, I feel that the secondary navigation on top of the “browse” section does not have enough contrast. Perhaps they need to be more obvious with better mouse over effects (see fig 4).

Conclusion

cca.qc.ca is a highly organised site with quality content. The navigation is simple and the content is uncluttered. I am sure many people will have good impression of the site after visiting it. However, having said that, I do have some concerns. I think that the bookshop is not fully functional yet and should not be handling credit card payments. Secondly, I don’t like the left navigation – I think it is competing with the main content. Lastly, I feel that more improvements can be done to the consistency in navigation in the sub sections. For example, “calendar” and “browse” seems to be very different from the rest of the site. Overall, I would say that this site should be in the top 10 percent and close to 4/5 stars.

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fig 1. Not sure if I like the left menu

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fig 2. Booklisting needs a thumbnail?

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fig 3. Calendar and Browser doesn’t look right to me

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fig 4. Browser top nav mouseover needs more contrast?

Accessible Website Design

Introduction

Website Accessible assist websites to meet website accessibility standards and offer new websites and website re-designs. My first impression of the website was quite ghastly as I find it astounding in modern web design that there is no actual “graphic design” work in the website, decease simply coding (ie, it looks like the most boring Joomla template you can find).

Form

While no doubt the author has thought well about such things as SEO, loading times and content, my interest was close to zero as the bare minimum of images and colour schemes make it look even less attractive than a get-rich-quick page. Then again, I guess you don’t need bells and whistles to get your website onto a PDA or mobile phone.

The first warning bells for the customer who wants design work done would be the lack of a distinctive logo. While it’s great to have ALL text on the website easily readable, you’d think a business advertising re-designs would pay some attention to having a memorable brand logotype.

Layout is quite acceptable and simple. I’d be quite sceptical about the design abilities of the person who created this website (although I’m not questioning their programming ability).

The navigation of Website Accessible is excellent – this is where the simplicity is useful – although I’d like to see better naming of the Policy page, which is more like a Business Objective or “Our Aim” page.

Fonts are very boring but this is not so much the author’s fault as a generic and ongoing web design problem (the lack of exciting fonts gets many designers annoyed). At least the font is a good size (web standards advocate reasonably sized fonts for older people).

I’d recommend putting some colour into the website, not just using white as a foreground and background colour. Create an exciting banner and create a logotype which compels people to look at the site. Personalise the site a bit by putting a photo of the business or the people or anything to make this site more interesting and unique.

Also, I think the “skip to content” link at the top should be deleted as it’s not very helpful.

Function

The content is reasonable and explains enough in a businesslike manner. The author explains what accessible website design means and why it is important. However, the impression I am getting is that an accessible website cannot be both accessible and exciting at the same time.

Since there are no pictures to display and nothing else to hold up the loading time, Website Accessible has a fast loading time. It meets web standards and would do well in SEO and reaching the audience intended, although hanging onto the audience might be another matter.

Coded with CSS, I was impressed by the “No WYSIWYG editors putting additional code or formatting in. Just hand coded to ensure the code is valid” statement, even though this could be said of 95% of quality websites out there. It’s not really a unique selling point. In my experience the customer doesn’t care about the how, only results.

Conclusion

I think Website Accessible need to think about what kind of business they want, as they are talented at creating accessible websites but seem to poor on appearance or personalised content. If they want to market the design/re-design they might be better off stating that they “improve communications”, “expose websites to the world” etc, as mentioning design/re-design implies a makeover of appearance as well as code and if it can confuse me it could confuse anyone!

If the intention was only to design websites for handheld devices or only to design for accessibility, not eye candy, Website Accessible has achieved that objective well enough.

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fig 1. This website needs some colour!

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fig 2. The logo is not eyecatching.