Nifty Design and Development to NiftyBlythe.Com

NiftyBlythe.Com is the online catelogue website for N:ifty@Work, a Singapore base push cart selling Blythe Dolls’ accessories like clothes, eye chips, socks, shoes, anything that a Blythe owner would want to beauty up their Blythe friends.

My mum’s friend approached me one day and asked if I could help them to create up a website for their push cart. Mainly with the features like a product catalogue for their customers to get an update of new products and the pricing.

Of course I accepted the project and we discussed a few possibilities and noted down the features needed, the style of the design and their preferences etc. After browsing through a couple of reference sites on Blythe Dolls, we all got a better idea on the exact direction.

I went home and continue researching from references, see what additional things can be done in order not to be the same as other competitors. There were many ideas to the design. Other than thinking of a suitable look and feel, another important area was marketing strategy to keep the traffic going. During then, Google Adsense was not that popular yet and the clients didn’t expect paying a little bit more on Advertisement. Instead, they rely solely on Referrals and Recommendation through word of mouth.

Finally, after the whole thinking process, I came up with one solid concept for the website which the client loved. To create a wonderful Blythe Land with rainbows, hot air balloons, pastel sweet colors etc. While encapsulating this Blythe land is a border like paper bag handle. Sort of like those Macdonald Happy Meal paper box. This simply represents effectively that NiftyBlythe.Com is a place where you can buy wonderful Blythe related items!

It was a hit and jackpot. Furthering the design was good features that promote interaction and customer returns over the normal catalogue. I understand the need of Blythe owners; they like to have a place to show off their Blythe Dolls. That’s what buying those accessories is for isn’t it? By implementing a open source Coppermine Gallery, users are able to login and upload photos of their beloved Blythe dolls for all to see.

The traffic began to come especially towards the photo gallery section. Many others browse through the catalogues and pick up their favorite clothes or shoes to beautify their dolls.

It was pretty successful. Another simple implementation was a Tell Your Friend section, which allows satisfied customers to tell their fellow Blythe lover friends about NiftyBlythe.Com. Words spread easily with this simple feature.

Most comments on the guestbook were good and positive. This was really a good motivation by seeing all this satisfied users of the website.

From all this, we can see that with an effective marketing strategy implemented, it can really generate good results and exposure to even a small pushcart business. I learnt through this that having a effective marketing strategy can really determine the life and death of your website. Whether there’s traffic or it’s a ghost town all depends heavily on how you market it out.

Many times, websites are done and expect it to be shown readily on Search Engines and people will eventually bump into the site. This is a purely wrong concept that many developers this days are trying to correct their thinking. In this world, its not really much about creating something, but how to market it in order to make it successful.

Perhaps right now, with more marketing techniques implemented on NiftyBlythe.Com, it may become one of the successful Blythe Dolls website. Sadly, after some time, costs began an issue as push cart overhead was quite high, the owner got into debts and slowly, began to give up the business. That’s where it all ended with a wonderful land of Blythe .

As the business is already down, the website can still be viewed at an alternative url: http://www.dejuicestudio.net/niftyblythe

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Verbal Assurance is never enough as a Web Design Firm

Introduction

Shackelford Web Design is a web design firm based in New York & New Jersey. The things that spice up my curiousity is that they have totally no visual marketing features in their website. Things like the usual portfolio of works, client listing are all missing. However, we can see a lot of written assurance in the whole website promising this and that. Is that really effective? We shall take a look.

Function and Function

Have you came across a Web Design firm that does not promote their quality of works and have totally no samples of their previously successful clients? I bet you haven’t seen one or maybe, not that often.

Shackelford Web Design’s company website had their focuses on writing how well they can provide their service to the clients. With a clean and direct layout, they attempt to convince potential clients to trust in their capabilities without showing any previous samples openly on their website. Perhaps this is one way of protecting their previous clients or it has been restricted to do so by their clients.

The Good:
On first entrance to the website, I was presented with a fast loading clean site, and easy to read content. Indeed, the site design has a perfect layout and usage of CSS and colors. Its professional and it presents everything so clear that you feel so comfortable to navigate on their site.

Relevant information like services is being linked from within the body text. The links design and naming conventions are perfectly clear. Each section is separated by a small thin line of color code, e.g. Services are in green, Pricing is in Yellow. Subtle enhancements like this are pleasing to the users eyes. Also, a simple header graphic was used to differentiate each section.

On rollover of each links, you notice a slight hover effect of increasing the text size. This is one of the ways to show the site being responsive to the user’s mouse interaction, and also a good usage of CSS.

There is also a clear footer links that adds to site usability In all the section, I can noticed one obvious tactic they used is to be as DIRECT as possible. Most of their contents are in short, simple paragraphs that talks straight to the point. This is a good example of copy writing for the web.

Can Be Better:
Under the category of “Successful Design”, Shackelford should have added some successful samples done by them. It should not have just text on how successful their works can be. Quality assurance should include visual assurance too.

At the very top of the website, there is no need for the words “New Jersey Web Design and New York Web Design”. It seems unneccessary but it could be there for seo purposes. The logo on the top left, should also be linked to the home page as most users tend to click on the logo to return back to the index.

Conclusion

Overall, as a consumer, I will not be attracted to the verbal assurance given by Shackelford. Although the website is done pretty well, it does not have any marketing value to their services. Maybe the website is quite new and I believe only as time goes by, they will show more samples of what they can do.

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Well structured Information Architecture, Thunderbolt Tea

Introduction

The internet is an information rich environment where people research and find information for almost every thing. To create a content rich website, thumb it takes a lot of time and very careful planning on how to organize the contents and structure of the whole website. Here at Thunderbolt Tea website, prostate we will see how they have made their information neatly categorized and sorted out.

Form

To deal with websites with very rich information like Thunderbolt Tea’s website, the web master must place extra attention and ultimate thoughts on the planning of its Information Architecture. Let us take a look at how Thunderbolt Tea presents their website to its fans.

On first visit to the website, I was more or less turn off by the amount of text in the main page. Its just like the feeling of being thrown into a sea of information. But after some clicking around, I began to understand how the site works and what is it for. It may take much longer to many others. I believe people will stumble to Thunderbolttea.com only because they wanted to find out more about the tea. I believe if the target audience who wanted to know more about this tea, they will endure through and find their way out.

Colors and layout are being done in a nothing will go wrong layout. Everything is pretty much standards of how most websites are done. There is nothing special to comment about in this area.

On first visit to the website, I was more or less turn off by the amount of text in the main page. Its just like the feeling of being thrown into a sea of information. But after some clicking around, I began to understand how the site works and what is it for. It may take much longer to many others. I believe people will stumble to Thunderbolttea.com only because they wanted to find out more about the tea. I believe if the target audience who wanted to know more about this tea, they will endure through and find their way out.

Colors and layout are being done in a nothing will go wrong layout. Everything is pretty much standards of how most websites are done. There is nothing special to comment about in this area.

On the site front, is actually the website’s sitemap with short information of what each section and its sub category are about. I believe they wanted the users to immediately find out what they want base on the sitemap. This method also helps in Search Engine Optimization. But negatively, it has cluttered the front index which is the first impression for users to decide whether they want to stay or leave the website.

However, layout of the site map can be improved by making good use of CSS in the formatting of the paragraphs. By adding extra pixels between the line height and padding in between the columns, it will greatly improve readability. Additional colors can also be used to separate the contents of each section. As of now, its only using blue and orange. Color separation can also enhance the readability. Small adjustments like this will help in making users wanting to stay longer and not close the website window in less than 10 seconds.

Function

The contents are being neatly separated into 5 key areas serving different purpose. By targeting on the common actions that user will do when they visit their website, contents are being placed at the right section and category. The naming conventions are also clearly name and easily understood by most users. By making use of drop down menus, users can easily navigate to other sections.

Side bar:
Some extra links are placed at the side bar which is consistent at every page of the website. Those links there are quick links which the web master wanted their users to view and use. Example is the “Tea Photos & Ecards” link which lets user to interact with the website by sending Ecards and view photos. Having fun activities placed prominently on the side bar increases interactivity between the users and the website. This allows returned and gained traffic.

They have also placed useful links like subscription to mailing list, site search, quick links to contact us, their tea shop. All of this links are traffic gaining sections which allow the overall Thunderbolt Tea’s website to be fun and interesting.

Conclusion

You never expect a tea information website to include fun activities and interesting information like photos and Tea Shop. These interactions allow user to feel fulfilled than bored down by the tea information. Thunderbolt Tea’s website has carefully planned their information architecture in a clear and effective way. Also, note that Thunderbolttea.com is so huge that not every single detail can be fully evaluated. But in overall, the user experience is good and they have done a good job in the information architecture of the whole website.

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A Comprehensive Resource for Webmasters

Introduction

Webmasters Directory is a site that focuses seriously in providing good resources to people who want to learn how to become a Web Master and the necessary skills for the position. You do not see fanciful graphics in this site except for quality links and resources providing you wisdom and knowledge.

Form

In a generation when web industry is booming, here everyone wants to have a share of the big web pie. Webmasters Directory provides such people with the necessary resources for self-learning. It focuses on key skills like PHP, case CMS, find Forum Software, Website Add-On, Tutorials links grabbed from other websites.

It may seem a little messy with Google Ads just right after the main header of the website. This caused the Google Ads to be the central attraction instead of the main contents. As all ads are on the right side bar, they should consolidate the Google Ads on the side as well. So perhaps shifting it away to the side would be more pleasant.

As a user, you will find yourself browsing this website just like a telephone book, where you look for the specific area of knowledge you want to know more about. Resources are separated into clear and easy understandable titles. You can easily find the information you need.

One may immediately pin point on Webmasters Directory’s site design and overall look and feel. As the whole site is based on a blue and white color tone, you may find that it’s a little boring and dull. What the directory seems to focus is to provide quality resources to the users.

Overall, the navigation is clear and straightforward. You will never get lost in this kind of site. It is the kind of industry standard website where you may have seen or used a thousands times.

Function

Every webmaster should have their own list of resources for their own learning and reference. If one does not have such resources, Webmasters Directory is a good one to start with. The contents provided are good enough for beginners to advanced Webmasters. You can find a good listing of informative resources that can help in making your website better and you being more knowledgeable.

Conclusion

Webmasters Directory, although not well designed in terms of look and feel, it provides a straightforward approach to the user just like how a phone directory would. After all, the contents score the points here rather than how well or fanciful the site was designed. As long as the standards are there, in terms of functionality, Webmasters Directory passes the green light.

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Prolify.Com: A Typical but Effective Corporate Website

Introduction

When it comes to corporate websites, for sale many find them dull and boring. But do you know that designing a corporate website is one of the toughest as the layout and contents are the ones that keeps a user continuing to browse the rest of the pages. Prolify does this pretty well with its clean and professional corporate site. Lets see how it works for a user.

Form

Prolify, patient a company that specializes on providing Dynamic Process Management solutions that enables the enterprise to achieve unprecedented levels of control, doctor efficiency and compliance – rapidly and cost effectively.

With their target audiences being other corporate companies and government, their website has to be clear and concise focusing on explaining how their solutions work. This requires careful planning of the navigation, CSS and overall layout.

Upon entering their site URL, Prolify loads up pretty fast due to its good optimization of graphics and clear-cut layout. A quick simple animation in flash introducing the companies features appeared almost immediately. The overall look and feel is very easy on the eyes. Prolify immediately tells the user “Look, I’m serious about this, we’re professional guys” which is a very good match to their company’s image.

The overall layout is simple yet attractive. This is one of those layout that never goes wrong. Logo on the top left, navigation, images, body text, side navigation. Almost everyone Is used to this kind of sites so there is no problem in finding out way in the website.

At different sections, the body is separated into 3 columns. The side navigation that shows other links within the section, the main body text with the bread crump at the top, followed by additional links or downloads that is relevant to the section. The website definite make good use of spaces and yet doesn’t look cluttered. With sufficient white spaces, the website looks clean without being over filled with contents.

Prolify’s website uses minimal graphics and focused a lot on contents. However, at every section, header image summarizes what the company can do in a short tagline with accompanying image. Graphics are done in a simple manner without much fancy stuffs, thus may not leave any deep impression in the users mind.

Function

A good thing about usability here is that there are links for user to print the page or email the page. Icons for downloadable files like PDF are easily recognizable by most people too. Rollover links also have hover CSS applied on it. Headers and contents text are separated very clearly for the user to read. Bread crump links showing which sections the user is in are also a good usability usage.

Conclusion

In overall, Prolify has successfully presented its corporate image to its target audience. With good use of CSS and site layout, users can easily surf Prolify’s website with ultimate ease. Probably only one problem that everyone will have is that the impression doesn’t last as much because it’s a corporate website. If you ask me say 1 day after I surf Prolify’s website, I’ll probably tell you I forgot how it looks except knowing its blue and white.

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More work is needed to live Gorgeously

Introduction

Creating a website for new amateurs is getting easier. With tools from www.doyourownsite.co.uk, one can easily create an account and start designing their website immediately and view immediately just like editting a word document. You do not need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get the job done and thats the attractive part of such websites. Gorgeous Living is just one of those site and we will analyse how well does it fair with such tools.

Form

I typed in the link and I loaded the website. Gorgeous living screams at you in handwritten font type to show personality against a maroon background. However, after my precious first 10 seconds was up, I still could not define what this site was so gorgeous about. It captions “come in and browse around our online department store…” and I saw pictures of people with links like “Gorgeous Guys” and “Gorgeous Kids”. Surely, they aren’t selling escort and adoption services are they? Only after a few minutes did I managed to find out their objectives and services. Other than the ‘boxy’ overall design, there was not much to look at in the first page.

To have everything women of a certain age could possibly want all in one place to shop from online without the sore feet from shopping.

The flower background was a nice touch to the site layout, but basically it added some form of flavor to the whole concept of the site because without it there was not much personality maybe a bit less feminine.

Now let us talk about personality and eye candy to the targeted audience. I admire the efforts of these women to open up such a site all by themselves but there isn’t much credibility if one uses a template helper or a step by step site creator such as www.doyourownsite.co.uk. By having said that, personal style is minimal and creativity is restricted. Nevertheless, admirable.

Too much headroom was allotted to the personal message and top header. By reducing the extra space, it allows the user to click on all 12 links available at first sight without scrolling to see the other half of the second set of 6 links below. There is not an initial visual contact point of interest when the user looks at the page. It is good though that they didn’t use “mystery meat”(you needed to rollover the interesting boxy pictures to see what they are) because they would have reduced the whole rating of the site further.

‘Gorgeous Living’ and its fonts seem to look like the whole logo and style of the site. It should not be used as a “sign-off” after the personal message given by Kathryn and Laura. It dulls the specialty of the font.

Function

One thing good about using tools from doyourownsite.co.uk is that they get to input good functionality features like contact form and tell a friend forms. As well as having a search function on the site. They do not need to know much about the codes portion and is able to present common features like this to users. This is a plus point to compliment on.

Conclusion

Overall needs much improvement if the intention is to draw women of that age group to continue browsing the site. They cannot know what to look for by just looking at links like “Just Gorgeous” and “Still Gorgeous”. The rest are self-explanatory.

More colors can be used to “add life” to the site, because now it looks pretty much faded and unappetizing to the eye. A search engine for recommended brands and services, it basically does the job but more can be done, time to make it look as “Gorgeous” as it should.

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A Joomla Experience with Jenerate Limited

Introduction

The web design scene has changed a lot during the recent years. Nowadays, sovaldi even a normal person without a web design background can create a website easily. Just a few clicks and typing, a full fledge website is up and running on the internet. All this is possible with a Content Management System, or in short, CMS.

Form

Setting up a website is never the same again with tools like Joomla, a popular open source Content Management System (CMS) previously known as Mambo. A website foundation is up in few minutes and all the user need is to write their site’s contents, create images etc. Joomla’s powerful feature lies with the ability to allow users to maintain their website content easily and more efficiently without having to bother too much on the design and scripting part of a website.

Jenerate Limited is an internet solutions company providing services like domain and web hosting, web design, graphic design, internet marketing and content management systems. Like many other companies on the internet, Jenerate has adopted Joomla to create their website and maintain their contents with the CMS.

Immediately when I reached their site, the first impression was “Oh, another CMS site”. Very standard, like you can probably see 100 other similar designs out there. Professional, clean, straightforward are the words I can relate to Jenerate’s website. First impression does not last because it does not have any key highlight that catches my attention. As we humans always say this person has a common face, this website has a common design.

Joomla uses a template to define how the whole website looks. Therefore, a good Joomla website starts with a good design template that defines everything from the font, navigation bar, images and CSS styles. By using a template, the whole website appears more consistent.

As we can see, all the elements like information, main navigation, side navigation and banners are arranged in a clear and presentable manner. This prevents the user’s mouse from losing its way in the browser. Content font size is also at a readable size. Headers and contents also separated neatly by color and size.

Layout of contents lacks a few prominent dividers to separate recurrent contents especially under the Portfolio and Solutions sections. An added line or header with color should do the trick. Color usage is pretty generic with red as prominent headers, black for contents and white as base. These colors work well for any professional websites like Jenerate Limited.

The whole website has more text contents than graphic elements. This is probably due to the usage of Joomla. But I still want to highlight 2 of the interesting ones:

The site keeps itself lively by creating subtle movement using a banner that fades in and out of different images with taglines. This is useful for CMS sites, as many tend to feel that CMS sites are boring and stagnant.

Under their portfolio section, they included small thumbnails of their works bounded in a photo frame-alike border. This is a good effort in beautifying the site design as they visually enhance the portfolio thumbnails on a white background. However a point to note, even though there are text links to the portfolio works, they should add the links on the thumbnail images as well. Most users tend to click on images than text links.

Function

The problem with usability is that not everyone notices it until they truly test their website. For Jenerate, there are many sections where necessary links should be underlined or changed into the standard blue color underline link.

A website usability analysis shows that most internet users immediately recognize an underline blue color text is a link, as compared to links with different text formatting. For example, one of the links actually situated within the paragraphs, which I do not even know unless I rolled over them. User will miss out such information unless they thoroughly read the paragraphs of text. (We all know that users only skim through contents most of the time on a website) Even if the links are not important, it should still follow the standard rules of usability.

Other than this, all pages have a form on the side bar, for users to sign up to Jenerate’s mailing list if they are interested. Under the contact section, they have also included a form for users to key in their message. Forms are common features in Joomla CMS, which are widely used to improve the user experience.

Conclusion

Jenerate Limited has made good use of a Content Management System like Joomla to organize their information and present it in a clear and professional manner to the users who are viewing their website. By fixing the minor glitches as stated in this review, it will benefit the users who are considering their internet solutions.

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