Even if it is for good cause, show quality

Gurushree institutions aim to provide technical training to young boys and girls in Bangalore so that they can seek employment in both Private as well as Public Sector/Government organizations. The institution was inaugurated in 2001 with 30 student intake to 300 today. The website looks OK for a small institute. Of course, a lot of improvement could be made.

Form

The layout is standard, ie header at the top, navigation on the left and content on the right. The home page looks boring and static. Besides the poll, there seems to be no buzz at all. I recommend adding some dynamic news or links to various departments. For an educational institute, there can be alot of things to write – Add more pics of students and events. If the author ran out of ideas, have a look at other educational websites out there.

website has layout issues

fig 1. Severe layout issues

There are some layout and spacing issues that can be fixed easily using proper CSS. It looks like the content is added directly using the WYSIWYG editor in the Joomla content management system. Using the built-in editor is cool but to gain better control of the layout, the HTML needs to be re-checked before published.

image is too big

fig 2. Large image size

All images used in the site should be optimised before published. I also think that the quality of the images can be improved. Most of them look quite dark to me. I like to see more smiles. Many pictures are either too serious or boring. Perhaps better photography technique is needed here. I also don’t think that it is a good idea to insert the jQuery image slider on every page. It is OK for the home page but for every page, no. The space occupied by the slider could be better utilised for other textual content or smaller images.

something wrong with footer

fig 3. Something is wrong with the footer

There is something wrong with the footer – It looks too empty. Perhaps putting the address at the footer is a much better choice than putting it in the header. Adding some links to the sitemap or important pages in the site can be a good idea.

Function

seo friendly links

fig 4. SEO friendly links?

The website appears to be slow because of the large images. Most of the hyperlinks appears to be very long and unfriendly. It looks like the CMS is running under Joomla – fixing them can be easy in the admin panel. We can also tidy up the CSS abit. I know this can be hard especially if we are running a ready made CMS.

why w3c link

fig 5. Why show the w3c link?

The website is not W3C compliant. Clicking on the xhtml and css link at the footer leads you to a page full of errors. Personally, I see no benefit of telling people that your website passed the w3c check unless you are in the web business like a web design or seo firm. The fact is, a lot of people don’t really care.

contact us page is too empty

fig 6. Contact Us – too empty?

I always think that the “Contact Us” page is very important. It is looking very empty at the moment. How can internet users contact the school? Have a contact us form?

Conclusion

It looks like the website was designed with a low budget. I thought it was a good attempt. If the author decides to improve on it, I strongly suggest working on the graphics and layout. The next thing on the list is to create more buzz – make the site look more busy. Add more interesting and dynamic content and grab people’s attention. If the author has some free time, start using meta headers and work on optimising the code.

Butterflies everywhere

Introduction

nature-gifts.com is an online store that offers a huge selection of nature-themed gifts for various occassions. Their product ranges from live animal kits, animal gifts to home and garden gifts. The website looks user friendly and easy to navigate.

Form & Function

The logo is consistently placed on the top left hand corner and the light blue background gives people a soothing feeling. Navigation is 3-tier, ie the index page, categories followed by sub-categories. The menu is on the left and they are all text links with no fancy effects. This can be good or bad: Good in the sense that it is dead easy to navigate but bad because it can be too boring.

The whole website is well organised with great content (and sometimes too much). I believe a lot more work can be done on the aligment and graphics (see fig. 2 – Wildlife nature art section). Adequate spacing needs to be given to separate sections within the page. For example, some padding for the left menu can be more pleasing to the eye. The lack of css means that maintaining consistency in the font size and layout across all the pages becomes difficult.

It looks like the website was built from scratch many years ago and is becoming hard to maintain. Tags like “<font face="Arial" color="#0066cc" size="3">” is almost non-existent in a modern day website. The lack of an inbuilt shopping cart is also a killing factor. Well, it is not a big deal but it affects the browsing experience. People feel like they are leaving the website and need another click or two to come back. The site should be bringing in sales for years (well worth the effort) and the author might want to consider taking the next step, ie upgrading to a modern day shopping cart system. One good example I came across recently is fastflowers.com.au.

I am not sure if I agree with emphasizing the “butterfly award” and link exchange. I feel that the website should be focusing on selling gifts and improving the user experience instead of venturing into other areas like buying new domain names and duplicating the site for example.

Lastly, I have to say that I am very impressed with the contact us page. Having pictures of everyone in the company increases the credibility of the website and gives people confidence to make online payment. If I am to purchase anything from the site, it must be because of the lady in fig 3. I do hope the pics can be clearer and there are more smiles. Keep up the good work!

Conclusion

I believe the website is effective in conveying its message. However, I am not yet convinced on the design. I feel that the website has reached a stage where it needs to be overhauled in order to make major enhancements. It is going to be a big decision for the site owner because professional help is definitely going to be involved and of course $$$$$. The other option I can see is not to do any upgrades for now but try to increase sales… then set aside a budget for upgrades in the future. Either way, I believe that a total redesign is neccessary to remain competitive in today’s world – this of course is open for discussion.

nature2

fig 1. category section

nature3

fig 2. alignment, borders around pic and spacing issues.

nature4

fig 3. We need more smiles like this!

Chicago Coast Volleyball

Introduction

Are you a fan of volleyball? Have you heard of Chicago Coast? chicagocoast.com is the official website of the Chicago Coast Volleyball Club Team. I thought the site is above average considering the fact that it is quite unknown to everyone. Many clubs don’t even have a proper website!

Form

The design looks straight forward. The blue menus and the yellow logo contrasted really well. What caught me though was the spotlight player on the left menu. His image was definitely misaligned. The title for all the pages is abit distracting as mouseover shows a change of color but doesn’t do anything; Most people would expect a hyperlink if there are mouseover effects.

Function

The section I like best is the “highlight” section (see fig 1). The video is clear and I believe this is a good attempt by the author to make the site more interesting. The other sections are OK and to be honest, they look abit boring. Some links on the left menu doesn’t work as well.

I also noticed that the top menu and footer have exactly the same links. That makes the footer redundant (see fig 2). How about a sitemap?

Conclusion

chicagocoast.com looks like a typical fan/club website that was built using dreamweaver. I like to give a plus point to the video section though. Perhaps it is the intention of the author to keep the site simple and clean. What might help though is to add more graphics. For example, instead of having one big image, use a few small ones. Make the site look abit busier! It looks dead quiet at the moment.

1
fig 1. Video highlights

2
fig 2. Footer same as header

The Demise of a Star

Introduction

worldbestwebsites.com (worldbest.com) was one of many websites that I often visited 6 or 7 years ago. I remembered vividly that the websites in their database were of top quality and provided a source of inspiration for many web designers and developers.

Form and Function

I volunteered to review worldbestwebsites.com because it was familiar to me. The last time I visited the site was 2 or 3 years ago and I must say I was quite dissapointed when I re-visited their website today. The team behind the website did not seem to update their site and the prestige that it used to have was all gone. The 5-star website is fading into darkness.

In this review, I would like to point out certain factors that I think contributed to the demise of this historically popular website.

Function

The database of websites I saw few years ago was still the same. There was no new addition of websites. I wondered when was the last time they updated their website… Though they rank quite well in Google for the keyword “website awards”, I bet the chances for their first time visitors to re-visit the site will be low because of the outdated content.

What they are offering is similar to what sitecritic.net does – recognizing well designed websites (and there are tonnes of websites out there that does the same thing). Anyone is free to submit their website for the award. However, if one’s site is selected for the award, one have to pay! This is a quote from the site:

“Entry to this award is free of charge – however, if your site is selected for entrance into the World Best Index – you will be required to make a small contribution toward network maintenance & data transmission costs. ($125 per annum for commercial & Govt. sites, $65 per annum for personal & non-commercial sites).”

To me, this is a ridiculous request. This scheme might work 10 years ago but not now especially when the web award industry is so tough. If I have to pay $125 for a web design competition, I would rather go for the webby awards.

The website contains alot of nested font tags and basic HTML errors which could be corrected easily. The index page already shows some javascript error (See pic 4) which can create a bad impression on the users when they first visit the site. There are also simple typo, alignment and broken links errors. Even the link to their founders – creative management consultants is broken.

A quick browse on every page will tell you that Google adsense is used too much. With all these advertisements, worldbest.com looks more like a spammy rather than a resourceful wesite. As you can see from the screen capture above, you are more motivated to click on the advertisements on both sides of the screen rather than the links to the content.

Many websites are database driven and have a templating system in the backend to ensure consistency in the layout. I could not find any of these in the website. There is also no usage of CSS – A quick look at the source code revealed outdated style of HTML coding. I haven’t even talked about RSS…

Conclusion

Though worldbestwebsites.com had a good collection of 5-star websites, the failure of their designers to maintain their site will cost it to lose public’s interest quickly. It seems to me now that worldbest.com is just sitting there doing nothing and possibly powered only by adsense. I would really like to see a rekindle… a real worldbest.com like the one we had in the good old days

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Website That Needs Full Re-Design

Introduction

Bluebird Manufacturing is a company that manufactures a wide variety of equipment. I must admit that their website is confusing and would definitely recommend a full re-design.

Form and Function

I was asked by the Sitecritic Team to review the website and had a hard time trying to figure out what the website is about. To be honest, the visuals of the site actually puts me off initially. The company did mentioned what they are doing but I felt that they need to explain a bit more. The word ‘biltong’ is uncommon. A search on google tells me that biltong are strips of dried meat. “Ah, Finally, I knew what they are doing… they sell machines that cuts meat.”

I do not wish to go into the details of the design and coding aspects of the website because too much work is needed. The source code tells me that the website is a direct upload from microsoft word or something similar. The are errors in the layout the site; The site does not look good both in Firefox and Internet Explorer. The screen capture above shows that the layer with the header “Quality Uniqueness Service Price” is overlaping the other text.

There is no design consistency in all the pages and everything is flying all over the place. The clip arts and large animated South African flag needs to go because they look really bad on a corporate website.

Conclusion

Bluebird Manufacturing needs to be more focus of what message they want to convey to their potential online customers. More content is needed. I strongly recommend them to seek professional help. Even if they decide to “DIY” their website, they should use a web template instead. There are many web templates around available for free or for a cheap price.

www.bluebirdmanufacturing.co.za.1

A Google Adsense Website

Introduction

Computerbrands.org is a website about immigration, work permit and business. Many people would expect the url – computerbrands.org to infer a website about computers but infact, the content has no relationship with the url at all. The author might have this spare url and decided to use it to generate adsense income.

Form and Function

Yes, this is a typical adsense website with no real content. All the content is generate by Google adsense. The main navigation is at the footer with each link pointing to a sub-domain which contains the keyword in the url. Surprisely, the menu is designed using flash. A website like this should contains more text and html text links.

As you can see, the design and content is pretty boring and there is nothing much to talk about it. The header in the index page tells me that the keywords of the website are: immigration, visas and work permit. Looking at the menu, there are no links relating to the keywords. Users looking for immigration information will feel dissapointed. While navigating the site, I found that the sub-domains do not have headers. Every page is almost the same and the idea is simple… just click on the links to visit other websites.

Adsense sites like this can be effective if the content or service is unique. A good example is whatismyip.com. This website is flooded with adsense ads but provides a unique service – checking your ip address. The service itself motivates users to return to the site. I can’t really find any motivation to return to computerbrands.org.

Conclusion

I feel that the author can spice up the website by providing some useful content relating to immigration, visas or work permit for the users. It would be even better if the author can provide articles relating to computers because that is more relevant to the current url.

Aircraft For Sale

Introduction

AFORS, viagra The Aircraft For Sale website provides aviation enthusiasts classified advertising on the internet. Though the service that the author provide is interesting and unique, store the website itself needs a big re-structuring.

Form and Function

The author has done a good job in describing what the website is about in the index page. The website looked normal to me at first but there were serious problems when I started clicking on the links.

The menu items on the left need to stand out more. The mouse-over effects could have been better. I would suggest a stronger mouse-over contrast with reversal of white and blue colors. Some menu items are too long. For example “Create and Maintain Ads(log on)”. The few links further down the menu actually point to other websites and I would suggest the author to group it under “other links”. In addition to the four drop down boxes for searching aircrafts, the author might also want to create special categories based on the searches. For example, “Featured Aircrafts” and so on. The menu is important because it tells the user the amount of information the website provides. Too few menu items might make the site looks boring but too many menu items might confuse the user.

Afors.com is designed using frames with many links actually pointing to cfors.co.uk (probably another site of the author). The outgoing urls are very long and not search engine friendly. An example of the url is:

cfors.co.uk/afors/index.php?page=view&adid=3170& si=43f9bfe931d75& PHPSESSID=fb155b8434d005239ca3279aaeb8b470& PHPSESSID=fb155..

There are obvious problems with the php coding and the author might want to fix that asap. Instead of designing the website using frames and grabbing data from cfors.co.uk, I would suggest the author to just focus on one site and redirect traffic from the other site to the main site.

The author might also want to look into the layout of ads in his website. The banners have to be consistent and I would suggest the border of the banners to be 0. The adsense actually blocks some of the text in some pages (See the right illustration). Placing ads in the wrong positions or having ads that obstruct the content can kill a site easily.

Conclusion

I have to say that afors.com needs a big revamp and would suggest the author to get rid of using frames in his website. To make the website more user-friendly, the author needs to work alot harder in the menu design and ads placement. The author is obviously a programmer. He might want to work with a designer to spice up the colors and design of the website.

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God Play

I once read an article about how we could manipulate DNA to change the destiny of mankind. We could be free from illnesses and never die. We could also clone 100 Einsteins and so on. What does it mean to be able to “Play God”? Is it something good or bad?

In one of my school animation project, unhealthy my friend and I decided to create an animation about DNA manipulation, we called it “God Play”. The animation is short and our focus is to create a negative feeling about going against nature. My friend did the 3d objects in 3d studio max while I did the story board and chose the music. We then combined the effects in final cut pro.

We felt that the choice of music was really important to convey the negative emotion we had about modifiying DNA. We looked high and low for a suitable music and finally found one. To make the message believable, we tried our very best to synchronise the music with the animation. For example, a high point in the music should be accompanied by a strong visual impact in the animation and so on. We chose only to use black and white to convey the idea of “dullness and pessimism”. We hoped the style that we used could add on to the negative feeling we wanted to achieve.

Watching an animation is like listening to a story. There is the introduction, body and conclusion. Without using words, “God Play” convey the ideas of the story using music, motion and transition effects. In a movie, transition effects is like saying “then”, “however”, “moreover”…etc in a subtle way. I wanted the transition to be smooth and able to show the flow of the story from one screen to the next. Other than using fading effects, I also used elements in one screen to lead into the next. For example, by zooming in so close to a red blood cell, your will see a bright light. The light then leads in to the next screen which is a tunnel. Hope you know what I mean. This simple technique is used alot in the short animation.

Car Review Website

Introduction

TheGarage.com.au is an Australian automotive review and information website. By providing extensive reviews on cars, buy the author hopes to help people to choose the right car to buy. The website looks just OK to me but some of the reviews are cool.

Form

There was nothing in the index page that motivated me to stay when I first entered the site. However, case I must admit that I am not a fan of cars. Some images are nice but they are too far below and I have to scroll down alot to access them. The author might consider cutting down the text with additional links like “read more” for each review. I think that making the user scroll too much on the index page is not a good idea.

The first page is heavy because of the strong visuals. I thought there are nice images but they are abit far down. Why not move it closer to the top so that people see it once they enter the site? Nice images often attracts attention. I am also not too sure of the page header. I just feel that there are too much empty space in there.

The detail page of each review looks good and interesting. The images can be enhanced to increase the visual appeal. Under the review section, buy viagra the images of the cars are stacked one on top of each other which forms a long list again. The author might consider utilizing tables to organize the thumbnails of the cars to cut down on the scrolling.

Function

The top menu is pretty straight forward but I am not too sure of the left menu. People always like to search for something interesting in the left menu. The current left menu consist of boring resource links which is standard across all the pages. The white comment boxes that appear while hovering the left menu seems to be too big for me. The right column consists of long menu items on car reviews. The list is long and I think it should not be on every page. I would recommend putting other links such as advertisements or even remove the whole column altogether.

To me, the reviews on the different models of cars could have been better organized. Instead of listing all the models in one page, the author might want to categorize them into different brands such as “Toyota”, “Hyundai”, “Ford” and so on.

The author can work harder on the title and meta description of the pages. Every page should have certain targeted keywords to optimize. In many cases, the use of images for the headers are unnecessary. For example, the “Welcome to thegarage.com.au” in the index page need not be an image. Using images inappropriately can hurt the SEO of the page. All images used should also have alt tags. The author might want to use more h1 and h2 tags.

Conclusion

The car reviews are very detail and professional. I am sure it will help alot of people who are looking to buy a car. However, the image layout in the site could have been better. The author might also look into what to put into the left and right columns.

www.thegarage.com.au.1

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Australian Music Web Portal

Introduction

The Australian Music Web Site (AMWS) is a resource site containing information about Australian bands and artists, online retailers stocking Australian CD, DVD movies and music titles.

Form

When I first visited the site, I had a hard time trying to understand what the website is all about. The website header is the best place to describe the purpose of the site because people tends to look at the header first when they read from top to bottom. The header in AMWS is somewhat confusing with too many links. I had Google and Alexa toolbars installed and the header with advertisements already took up half of my screen.

The header could definitely be simpler. The author might consider using just a phrase or a sentence to replace all the text in the header. I believe the advertisements could also be arranged in such a way that the header appears less bulky. I do not like the idea of using animated advertisements because as I feel that it tends to distract your visitor’s attention (just my opinion).

The design is very simple and nothing fancy to discuss about. This is perfectly alright if the content can capture the reader’s interest. However, this is not the case. The logo gives me an impression that the site should be fun and interesting but the content tells me otherwise. I would really want to see more details on the movies or music, rather than just links to external sites. I think there are too many annoying links at the moment and some of them are not even working.

Sites like this should have stronger visuals to create more lasting impressions. It is not difficult for a movie or music site to impress their audience. The key is to use quality images of actors, actresses, bands…etc. When people feel related to their heroes and that they have something to read, they will stay longer.

Function

The top menu is pretty easy to use and straight forward. The database displayed on each categories are also well organized. However, some of the lists are very long. I would suggest the webmaster to break the list down into different pages or sections to help the eye to digest the information better. Portals like this should have a search function. It is very inconvenient for the users if they want to look up certain information quickly.

There are 4 main categories in the website: music, movies, kids and sports. The layout of each category is different. For example, in the movie section, there are images, description and links. For the kids section, there are only images. The 3 images on the right show the layout for the 3 different categories. It is a good idea to standardize the way information is being displayed so as not to confuse the reader.

I also think that they need to talk more about themselves. I have no idea who they are and where they come from. They also need to have at least a section on their legal policy or something similar.

I had a look at the music dvd section and spotted duplicate entries for the dvds. Upon further examining, I found that the 2 entries for “Kylie Minogue Music Concert” for example, consist of the DVD and VHS format. Since both the records share the same image and information, I would suggest combining them into one, with just extra links to the DVD and VHS detail page. Alot of space could be recovered if this technique is being implementation.

The website does not seem to be running from a database which I think it should. Managing vast amount of information on website like this is a tedious task without using database technology.

Conclusion

I expected abit more resource from a portal like this. AMWS needs more real content and not just links to other sites. Alot more work could also be done on the visuals.

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