Simple and Clean Architectural Website

Introduction 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

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 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.


fig 1. Not sure if I like the left menu


fig 2. Booklisting needs a thumbnail?


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


fig 4. Browser top nav mouseover needs more contrast?