berksandbucks is an online lifestyle magazine about everything in berkshire and buckinghamshire. The portal has many great articles on food, events, properties and competitions – You name it, you get it. The website is a subsite of greatbritishlife.co.uk and share the same layout and colors.
fig1. blurry logo?
upon first visit, I was struck by the logo on the top left corner. The words "Buckinghamshire Life" on the logo was hard to read. The homepage looked really busy with a lot of events happening. I could not control myself not to look at the pictures in the content area which seemed to be interesting.
The general layout looked quite standard and professional. I couldn’t find any broken links and all urls were nicely structured. Adverts were nicely placed on the top, right column and footer. The cms seemed to be doing its job well quite well.
Although the navigation menu was well structured, the content was quite overwhelming. The top navigation was 2-tier and there was also the left menu to look at. Where should I start? I thought there were some redundant sections. For example, there was a "blogs" and "forum" in every top category like property, style, family, magazine…etc and also a "community blog" and a "community forum" on the left menu. How about removing blogs and forum from the top menu?
fig 2. About us in a weird category
I wanted to find out what the website was about but couldn’t find "about us". I eventually found it under magazine. I thought that was a weird category to be in as I expected it to be a category by itself. Putting it in the footer might be a better idea?
fig 3. Is she Mary, Tessa or Sara?
The about us page was informational. The was a blurry picture of a lady (Is she the owner?) which was great but I didn’t have a clue who she might be until I moused over a "get in touch" link. I eventually saw a link "click here to view the full list of contacts" which led me to nowhere as well. A bit more information or clearer picture of the team behind the website would be great.
fig 4. Language translation
I particularly liked the "translate" feature although I don’t believe there are any real good translators out there. The translation was slow (probably using a third party system). Nevertheless, it was a good effort to be multi-lingual.
fig 5. firebug showed that top flash banner didn’t stop loading
It looked like the top banner was keeping the page busy by constantly downloading new flash images. It might be interesting to keep the user busy with changing top banner – an interesting concept but I was not sure I liked that.
fig6. Nice detail article page
Most of the articles were all laid out nicely. I was impressed at the quality of images with the main content. The Bershire Food and Drink category looked really cool and interesting. Looking at the rating and comments, there didn’t seem to be a lot of user participation. This might be another area for the author to look at – how to engage their users in their website activities? How about running a competition that get people to use the website?
Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life is a website very rich in content. Most images looked great and all content seemed to be carefully edited. This is all well and good but I still feel that it is too overwhelming for most people and that the content could be better categorised to improve usability.
The editors might want to sit down and re-plan the site navigational structure, possibly streamlining the number categories in the website. I would start looking at some popular news portal bbc.co.uk and wn.com as a start.