Wheelbase – A high quality experience

Wheelbase is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of alloy wheels and performance tires. They have been providing the public with top quality products for over 15 years.

Upon entering the site, it is evidently clear what the purpose of the site is – to sell wheels. The layout is clean and efficient, and exactly what I expect to see on a motor based site. Design looks like a shopping cart site, but again, expected. The color scheme is pleasing, and fits well with the subject. The left side of the page is well designed offering clean images with suggestions about where to begin perusing their site.

Search Options
Fig1. Search Options

My eye is immediately drawn to the “alloy wheel search” located in the center of the page, and this is where I began browsing. The three pull down menus offer several makes of automobiles, followed by their models and finally an option to view sizes of wheels and tires. This worked efficiently with no errors. I was inclined to want to click a search button, but instead was immediately directed to a page of choices suited for my chosen car. I did note that many automobiles are not listed within their makes, as the car I currently drive, a Mercury Mountaineer, was not listed.

Search Results
Fig2. Search Results

I chose a “Ford” + “F150” + “Show all sizes” for my search. The results are displayed in order by size from the smallest to the largest. The thumbnail images are spaced nicely and are of a high quality. The prices are clearly displayed below the products in GPB, which is the default method due to the company being based in the UK. They have made it simple to change the price display option with a simple click at the page top converting the standard display to either US or Euro.

I was not looking for a specific brand of wheel, but the site has taken that into consideration by offering a concise drill down including display by brand, model, color and style. This makes it very easy for users who are comparison based on knowing exactly what they are looking for. I also found it smart that the company displays a Top 5 Wheels suggestion just to the right of the search results. I feel this is a good selling tactic for someone who does not know exactly what they are looking for.

I chose the first wheel displayed in my result listing, the Decorsa 20″ Alloy. The now larger image was of a high quality and nicely spaced to the left of the text description. The enlarged image, when you hit Zoom, is very clear and offers a detailed picture of the product. From here  you can add the product to your cart, or browse their suggested pairings for tires that fit the wheel you have chosen. They also clearly promote the ability to speak to an expert which is very smart considering that the purchase wheels and tires is a large purchase that someone would want to do right. I added this item to my cart and went through the checkout process up to where the final purchase is made. There were no issues, very simple and left me with no questions about my intended purchase.

Navigation Bar
Fig3. Clearance, Competition and The Zone

With my ordering experience final, I began going through their navigation bar. They offer a Clearance section that displays products that are discounted. When clicking on one, the system they have in place remembers your previous make and model selection and notifies you if the wheel you have chosen will not fit your car. You can continue to browse through, however they do want to get you back to the selections that are matched for your car and clicking OK in the prompt takes you back to the search results page mentioned above.

Friendly competition and targeted content makes for a sticky site:

They offer a monthly competition to win a set of tires, with the winner being selected by random draw on the last day of the month after answering a single question. I find this a very good way to engage a user, and keep the site sticky. They have a gallery of cars sporting their wheels, which would give a user a decent idea of how a specific wheel would look on their car.

My husband particularly enjoyed the site’s Wheelbase Zone, which I found to be a very good way of keeping their target market, men, entertained. They offer photos and profiles beautiful ladies, several modeling with the sites product, screensavers and news from the company.

Finally in the navigation bar, I went to the Wheels Advice section which I found a valuable asset, as it offered tips and suggestions for the care and maintenance of your wheels and tires. This is also great for the site’s organic SEO as the phrases found in the page are questions that people would search for.

Conclusion:

In closing, the point of site is clearly sales, no advertisements in sight. While I am not the person that would use this site, I do rate my experience here very high. I was not misdirected within my purchase path – it was very clear and easy. I was not offered ways that led me away from the point of my visit, to browse and possibly purchase their products. I was not offended by their display or content even though the target market is clearly men. I found this site to be rememberable and a I had good enough experience that I would refer it to others who were looking for products of this type.


Sitecritic.net award

* This is not just a typical ecommerce site. A lot of effort has been put into it to make it stand out from the crowd. Wheelbase alloy wheels fully deserves an award.

5 Star Flooring Supplies in UK

Introduction

As the url implies, flooringsupplies.co.uk supplies different types of flooring materials in UK. They are established for a long time and have had many big clients over the years. Their website looks professional, secure and very usable.

Form & Function

Upon landing on the home page, I was greeted with a slideshow of all the flooring offers. Navigation was straight forward and standard – top and left. The categories in the top menu was easily understood as well. I was naturally drawn towards the flooring offers and green flooring tabs as they were highlighted. Spacing, layout and fonts were also very consistent. The colors used throughout the website was consistent with the logo colours. It looked like the site was using a commercial CMS. Even then, the designers and developers must have put in a lot of effort to create the graphics and making the site usable with ajax.

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fig 1. Diagrams and instructions are clear.

I liked the fact that they assume that their potential customers were complete idiots to flooring. There was a lot of information on every page explaining what each product was all about. The amount of text seemed to be just right – not too long winded. As a newbie to flooring, I wanted to know more and stumbled upon the glossary page! (I have to give them credit for this one). The FAQ page was also fantastically documented. The diagrams were clear and I thought even internet newbies would not be confused (fig 1).

The contact us page looked great with the google map. Anyone could reach them via any means… skype, google talk, email, MSN…etc. Again, how many websites support instant messaging? Check out the journey times – this is what I call customer service.

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fig 2. “Click image to enlarge” doesn’t seem to enlarge the image.

One thing I did not like is the pop up image on the product page (see fig 2). Clicking on “click image to enlarge” did not enlarge the image… The “enlarged image” seemed to be the same size as the displayed image. I would actually prefer the displayed image to be smaller and clicking on the magnifying glass would enlarge it. In fact, I found navigating the site really slow even with my broadband (might not be the case in UK).

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fig 3. Cool ajax updates the total cost.

It was easy to add items to cart. Entering the total area of the floor updated the total cost straight away. The fitting instructions were clear as well. Thanks to ajax at work again!

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fig 4. The checkout is also very user friendly.

Again, I liked the checkout process. In the first step, the customer enters the user details and delivery date. I could actually specify the exact date of delivery! The mouseover tip was helpful as well. The whole checkout process did not look cluttered and was straight forward. The only improvement I can suggest is to make the field checks ajax as well. That way, customers don’t need to have their browser refreshed to see the errors.

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fig 5. The identity of the website seems to be wrong?

The identity of the website was suspicious. I could not recall “Keswick Flooring Ltd” being mentioned anywhere in the website, not even in the about us or contact us page. Perhaps it was an old trading name?

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fig 6. I get occasional javascript errors in my IE.

Firefox seemed to be fine but my IE 8 sometimes showed some annoying javascript error… no biggy because it didn’t affect my browsing experience. I would be interested to know why if I were the developer.

Conclusion

flooringsupplies.co.uk is a trusted website that should have very good online presence in UK. Every page looks cool but in exchange, the heavy graphics and javascript can slow things down – not a problem with fast internet connection though. The company has great attention to details – every single graphic and word seems to have been well thought of. I believe the way they treat their website will be the way they treat their customers.

In terms of layout and design, flooringsupplies.co.uk does look like any modern day ecommerce website out there – There was not enough buzz going on and I didn’t go “wow” after spending 5 mins on the site. However, when I tried putting myself in the shoes of someone wanting to fix my floor, I did find the website extremely user friendly and helpful. I could already feel the 5 star service even before buying anything from them.


Sitecritic.net award

* We would like to congratulate flooringsupplies for putting in so much effort to create a website that truly communicates with the customer.

A One-Way Ticket to Excellence

Barrys Tickets provides premium and hard-to-get tickets for all major worldwide, national and local events. It looks like a comprehensive site as there’s a lot to take in on the front page, with sports, concert and theatre tickets. Considering the amount of information on the site, it’s organised very well and the design implies reliability, stability and a company you’d feel comfortable doing business with.

Form

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fig 1. The shop looks as good as the rest of the site.

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fig 2. Even the ads are nice to look at!

I was impressed with the general web design of the site, which is well organised, has nice colours and an appealing look. Branding is good enough to be memorable (this site definitely looks more memorable than others), navigation is reliable and it looks like someone put a lot of work into making sure everything was proofread and checked. A professional effort. I’m also really glad that the designer had the good taste to keep carousel effects and so on as the occasional addition to the content.

The three column layout is standard but recognised by customers and helps to create familiarisation. Small touches, like neat logos, a nice phone wingding (top right) and the right blend of colours for text and links make the site easy on the eye – this helps a lot (as well as good organisation) when readers absorb a lot of content. All of the standard navigational links are in their correct places and all links appear to work.

Function

The purpose of the site is obviously to sell tickets. This much is obvious immediately, therefore the content clearly communicates its message before customers commit to search or buy. I’m sure the site statistician will be able to see exactly how many people accidently landed on the page and how much repeat traffic they receive from analysing timeframes and pages visited.

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fig 3. Whether or not you find what you are looking for..you can contact the company easily.

Coding is a mix of html, css, javascript etc., as is usual for CMS these days. The loading time is a little slow (as with a lot of CMS) but considering the volume of content, I believe the web designer took time to make sure all elements had minimal loading times without compromising quality.

Conclusion

Barrys Tickets is a pleasant website to visit and shop from and the company is not shy about posting contact details, which is the main concern to customers when dealing over the internet. Based on the design and functionality of the website (which communicates well with its audience), Barrys Tickets gives the impression of reliability, accountability and trust – qualities the company is no doubt trying to achieve. If I wanted tickets, I would buy from this website. Well done to the person (or team) who have created and edited this site!


Sitecritic.net award

* We like to congratulate barrytickets for creating a functional site that exceeds all expectations. www.barrystickets.com definitely sets a benchmark for all e-commerce sites out there.

Fit Brains

Introduction

Brain exercise is a novel idea and Fit Brains by Vivity Labs, Inc. offers “Guilt Free Fun”, with some free brain games and “brain training” for people of all ages. You can get full access to the site upon the payment of a membership fee.

Form

The Fit Brains website has a modern design look – friendly, colourful and casual. There’s no corporate atmosphere here – which is what makes it an appealing site to visit. Although using lots of rounded corners and a trendy green, orange and blue colour combination is replicated by many sites across the web today, it is still rather effective as an advertising tool and certainly appeals to a broader audience.

The home page is well organised and text is separated in such a way as to keep the reader interested (small sections of text, good font size etc). The site uses a three column layout but with headers spanning two columns it appears as a two column layout.

The most attractive parts of the design include the special attention given to interesting looking banners, icons and thumbnails. Excellent illustration is very appealing to people who are tired of the “corporate” look.

The Fit Brains logo is a nice colour and matches the website. Appropriately, it attracts the eye as secondary information while the home banner grabs the eye first. It’s a nice logo but I feel on a business card it might be a bit awkward on it’s own. The logo image is a bit vague (if the logo was aiming to reflect the company purpose pictorially, it needs more work as the image doesn’t really communicate the message). I believe that this is a logo that needs the vivid illustration near it to survive but again, for the intention of getting the company’s name across on the website it is suitable enough.

Function

Fit Brains has a blog-style layout which has been designed well in CSS and javascript, possibly with another third party software (although I couldn’t see one in the code). It loads reasonably fast with clean code and should attract a fair audience. All the links work and I couldn’t pick any errors on a brief tour.

The games seem to be Flash or similar and have great sound effects. I think that Vivity Labs have done a rather good job with their website and it’s certainly a good advertising vehicle, along with the interesting idea.

Conclusion

Overall, Fit Brains is a pleasant website to look at, fast loading and with an interesting product behind it. The design of the elements in Fit Brains are the way of the future with an escapist appeal that make people feel cheerful to wander around the site. I feel that the logo image could use some more thought but it is not detracting from the website itself. Well done to Vivity Labs – we should all aspire to know our audience as well as they do!


sitecritic.net award

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fig 1. The Fit Brains logo

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fig 2. An example of appealing illustration

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fig 3. One of the free games

Parents – Send your kids to pbskids!

Introduction

PBS Kids has a huge selection of interactive kid’s games, showcasing TV characters that kids love. The website is designed in flash and is one of the best children website out there.

This is the second review for pbskids.org. Check out the kids section.

There’s so much to look at and play with on this site, kids will be kept busy for hours! With exciting graphics and interesting things to do, the kids don’t have to know the TV characters to enjoy themselves. A lot of work has gone into this website and it shows.

Form

The pages in PBS Kids seem to be simple and well laid out, with minimal (but important) information to focus on. These aspects are especially suitable for children’s websites, where the kids need to have clear choices about where to go in the site. The main activities mostly happen in the centre of the screen (where they should be) and the buttons, pictures and text are clickable and reactive. There is sound, so make sure you turn your speakers on to hear!

I was impressed with the interesting way the designers managed to use bright colours throughout the site, while keeping the central, interactive parts the main attraction – this is the hallmark of an experienced web designer or team of designers – design is all about communicating the message and these people have done it well. Backgrounds are exciting but well thought out and general site info that wouldn’t be interesting to kids is contained in subtle, out-of-the-way places, as it should be. Graphics are cute and attractive as well as loading quickly, and anyone who has worked on this site would be proud to put it on their resume.

I’d suggest that the age group targeted would be 4-11 year olds.

I encountered a Flash message on navigating from the main page to some of the character pages and although it was necessary, it was a bit boring compared to the rest of the site. Since it was left aligned and in a standard web font it didn’t really fit with what else was on there – maybe dressing this up while keeping it fast loading would help with consistency?

Function

The website is made of html pages with CSS coding (mandatory on a huge site like this), with javascript functions for the interactivity and in some cases, flash objects. Flash movies with sound and fast loading rollover gifs (javascript) make up the bulk of the games and interactive parts.

Navigation is quite simple due to the minimalist approach where pictures say more than words. I don’t think many kids would have trouble navigating on this website as the choices are pretty obvious. All navigation appears to work and goes to the right page. PBS Kids is a great example of how a huge children’s website should be built.

I really enjoyed the lack of obvious advertising in this website, as the only advertising at all seemed to be in the fact of playing with the TV cartoon characters. As a parent who often has to stop the kids from wanting to buy everything, websites like PBS Kids mean that the most amount of work required from a parent at a later stage would possibly be to tune in to the TV shows. At the same time, I guess PBS Kids has a website in the first place to attract people to their shows!

The games within the website are excellent and will hold kid’s attention. An example of the games contained include lots of printables, lots of scenarios with interactive play such as online cooking (you click on ingredients and the character cooks a meal), click and drag items, online books and much more. Lots of fun and some new stuff here as well.

Conclusion

PBS Kids is a great website for kids – I highly recommend a visit there as it is educational and interesting. The huge variety of things to do will keep kids busy for hours and the website is reasonably fast loading, so the kids can have some fun at their pace online. To the designers of this website – pull out the champagne and give yourselves a pat on the back – you have earned it!


Sitecritic.net award

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fig 1. Central focus area on page

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fig 2. The boring Flash message

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fig 3. Online cooking game

Harry Potter Web Magic

Introduction

The latest Harry Potter movie, The Order of the Phoenix, has it’s own website, which is an interesting online experience promoting the movie. This is one of the most well-designed Harry Porter website so far.

Form and Function

When first arriving at the website, your browser will probably ask for an add-on, but I suspect this is only necessary for those of you who need to view in a language other than English, because the Flash introduction worked OK without the add-on for me. The design of the introduction was very good, a basic middle Flash container with Warner Bros. website links up the top, an opportunity to skip the movie within the container, links to different language versions (these were greyed out due to the add-on I suspect), some red “alert” text and other bits such as a privacy policy etc. I liked the design of the Flash container with the magical looking border corners, but upon further inspection, I noticed that the 4 border corners were different in size and design to each other but this took a while to notice as the whole effect was pretty good – and design-wise the border corners couldn’t have been better. Pressing the Sound On/Off button worked on the main part of the website where there was background sound but not on the intro which was interesting but quite loud.

With lots of black, wood colouring, and olde fashioned textures, the site reminded me of the old Lord of the Rings site. The main website page had a two column layout, with Harry Potter website links on the left, the main viewing screen on the right and all the links needed for Warner Bros. website on the top and bottom. The left menu had some interesting CSS for the hover functions and also some nice looking hover down menus. Olde weathered wood textures abounded and with a default creepy image of Voldemort in all his horrible glory, the home page had an excellent appearance.

Clicking on the Marauder’s Map (top right) leads to some addictive and well presented games. I had some trouble opening the Pensieve link though, I believe the add-on might have been needed for this one. Some of the items require you to sign up to the website – these involve “joining Hogwarts” or downloading webmaster materials and so on. The content and depth of the site was quite good – lots of things to look at, lots of latest updates and info and lots of things for people of all ages to enjoy.

One slight error was found on the home page left menu where the “Marauder’s Map” link was missing an apostrophe and had a default font box instead. I suspect this is due to my browser not having the right webfont. And the blue text in the same menu needed to be just a hint darker so it could be read easier.

The navigation worked fine, all the links appeared linked. Some items didn’t load because I didn’t have the add-on, but you could download it rather easily (I just wanted to see what the add-on would be needed for). The Flash movies played fine and it looked like the site had been built by people who really knew their stuff.

Coding is a mix of html, ASPX, Flash, javascript and CSS. And I must say that while the code is a bit bulky, the loading time is quite reasonable when you consider how long the Flash intro is and the elaborate set up of all the different codes in unison. Loading time is medium to fast but varies depending on which part of the site you are loading.

It was interesting to see the amount of keywords and the long description inserted into the source code, a bit of an eye opener for someone like me who does a list of 30 keywords and a couple of sentences for the metatags normally. You can certainly see why they’d get so many visitors and you could also see that they wanted to promote the website intensely.

Conclusion

The Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix website is a website worth visiting for Harry Potter fans – I am thinking about going back and having some fun on it after completing this review! Outstanding looking design, swish graphics and very minor errors make for an interesting viewer experience and promotes the movie effortlessly. I do think that most people visiting the site would have either seen the movie or read the book but since Harry Potter is so popular there is sure to be no shortage of viewers.


Sitecritic.net award

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fig 1. The Marauder’s Map

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fig 2. Issues on the left menu

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fig 3. The Daily Prophet nes & updates

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fig 4. Triwizard Challenge page

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fig 5. One of the games

Australian Oxfam Website – Colourful and friendly

Introduction

Oxfam.Org.AU the Australian website of Oxfam International is a well designed and up to date information portal combining the many services and activities across Asia and Indigenous Australia, to overcome poverty and injustice. OXFAM stands for OXford Committee for FAMine Relief founded in England in 1942.

Form

The site displays a simplistic design using soft greens with 2 or three shades variations. The design and logo are reproduced from the parent organization Oxfam.org, since it is the Australian branch. The logo is white on green, very symbolic, could resemble two hands holding food or something similar. Since this is an aid organization I did not expect grand design, and truely the minimalistic approach works well and reflects the core values of the organization – to help, and not to waste resources.

The bright colours and full smiles of the children in the main photograph reflect the objective of Oxfam, to touch people in need, and warm their souls, to light up their world. There are more images of Oxfam volunteers on site at one of the many aid projects in Asia.

The horizontal top navigation bar is followed by the feature article with the focal image and then a four column design to list current projects and future events such as the Sydney TrailWalker. Follow the link and you come to a separate fresh and attractive promotional website for the walk. It’s good to find high quality deep links backed by a wealth of information on your site. Follow another link and you get to the non-feature simple information pages containing topbar, 2 columns, left navigation, right the body with a head image then the text. The opener image helps well to break up the text flood that follows. However the following text is again broken up well with frequent subheaders in shiny light green font.

Design is nice, easy on the eyes, I would only change a few minor points:

1. The font seems to crumble a bit on my screen, even though I use a high end 1024 screen, it may be the result of a too ambitious css stylesheet scheme. It is just not very sharp.
2. Cramping the site into 780 px wide container may work for smaller screen resolutions, but with more flat screens around that use 1280 and higher, the site will look very narrow on those screens. I would either bring the fixed size up to 980 px or have it flexible adjusting up to 1100 px even.

The site holds a vast amount of information (in access of 500 pages, that’s were my sitemap crawler stopped). The pages are well catalogued, structured and navigatable. For example the first button ‘Programs’ leads to various maps and submaps, then the body of each progam in detail. As maintained through the whole site, head images help to break up lots of text and paragraphs. Other main content is ‘Campaigns’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Get Active’, just the sort of pages I am looking for when visiting a charity website.

Follow the ‘Donate Now’ link and reach an online payment gateway that accepts credit card payments. That’s convenient. My advise would be to make the ‘Donate Now’ button more prominent on the home page. Loading times are good since the content is optimised graphics, CSS colour, text and some images.

Function

4 tiered, well designed navigation structure makes it easy to find anything you need, from topbar horizontal navigation bar, (1) to left hand sub navigation menu (2), then sub-sub navigation in the head image (3) to links spread over the body text and subimages (4).

The News page is my only point of concern – it is overwhelming and confusing. Use of that larger shiny green subheader font would help the structure there.

There are lots of ‘Calls to Action’, such as ‘Make a Donation’, ‘Buy Fairtrade Coffee’, ‘Sponsor a Team’. Calls to action are one of the most thought after ingredient in online marketing.

Any website optimsation strategy needs to direct traffic onto pages that are not just plain text and information, but contain calls to do something, either buy a product, book a consultation or like here, ‘Sponsor a Team’. The copy writing team at Oxfam appears to be well aware of this. Offer information and aim at getting a result.

Conclusion

Overall we are looking at one of the better charity websites I have seen. We learn about the many facetes of charity business, have many online opportunities to get involved, and the visual experience invites you to extent your stay for more than just page one or two. If you are looking at getting involved fighting injustice and poverty, this may become your favourite portal. It certainly has for me.


Sitecritic.net award

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fig 1. Sydney TrailWalker

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fig 2. Content presentation

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fig 3. Asian Region OXFAM Groups

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fig 4. Navigation 4 tiered

A Cool Dance Website

Introduction

Dance Responsibly is a website sponsored by HI NRG (a new Vodka and Energy drink) that encourages using their energy drink to “dance responsibly”. The entire website is designed in flash and broadband is needed to have a decent navigation experience.

Form

With a variety of bright colours and aesthetic and appropriate graphics, Dance Responsibly has excellent design and is attractive to the intended audience of 18-30yo partygoers. Small detail has been well placed, such as the grey background pattern on black and the black silhouetted crowd at the bottom. Throughout the site, the “Dance Policewomen” (ie sexy looking female cops) feature with the logo and walk around in Flash animation waving their fingers in a “naughty naughty” gesture.

The entrance page contains a location and birthday selection in order to enter the site. This removes the responsibility of being of age onto the reader, but since there is no porn on the site, only information about behaviour, it is a good precaution and suitable for the purpose.

Design on the main part of the website is interesting and well thought out. The HI NRG and the Dance Party logos were excellent and a fine example of logo design. Since there were so many colours used to make this website exciting, having the logo coloured differently to the page design was not a problem. I particularly liked the red music bar down the bottom.

There was a fair bit of multimedia on the site which was also well executed in design, from pop up registration and download windows to a video player and music. All of this added to an entertaining web experience.

The loading graphic of the HI NRG drink is attractive and an ideal loading screen (using a small graphic) although at one point clicking between “Home” and “Videos” the black loading screen covered a bit more window than was needed. This was the only design issue discovered during the visit.

Function

The navigation for “Dance Responsibly” is simple and makes the most of promotion of competitions by having less pages and more links. All links from the home page worked and so did the video player, Flash animations and music. Too bad for dialup users.

The concept of “dancing responsibly” is a noble one and HI NRG have tried hard to sell the idea with an interesting and appealing website. While it is always going to be a bit contentious that an alcoholic beverage manufacturer is telling youngsters to “dance responsibly” it is preferable to do this than do nothing, especially as you can see HI NRG have put a lot more than a token effort in.

Using the concept of not dancing responsibly as being a “violation” of the law (further promoted by the Flash policewomen) is a grey area – while being a good idea it may or may not appeal to drinkers in this age group. However, the sex is selling this idea so it will probably work.

My other concern was the use of the policewomen in the site. As sex objects, the policewomen don’t do much generally for women who might want to visit the site. I am not sure if HI NRG know their intended audience to be males or bisexual females but to cover all bases, a sexy policeman might be needed to even up the gender issue.

Conclusion
“Dance Responsibly” is an interesting and efficiently executed website with outstanding design and good use of media. It was especially good to see fast loading times and less page code with well-thought out navigation and functionality. I expect HI NRG’s audience to be suitable impressed when visiting the website and that an awareness of dancing responsibly is promoted well by this website.

Comments From Reviewer 2:
danceresponsibly.com.au is a website well planned and executed. Thumbs up to the company that designs it – Kojo Interactive. There are a few subtle elements in it that is worth mentioning, the random policewomen moving in and out of screen, vibrating speakers, animating logo…etc. Though I would like to see more, I reminded myself that there might also be a danger of the website becoming too “dynamic”. The layout and concept of the site is obviously targeting at youngsters… perhaps youngsters don’t mind more movement?

Though I would love to see more content but Overall, I think the site deserves recognition in terms of design and concept. I love to know how many people actually revisited the site because I couldn’t find any good reason to other than the free competition and cool animation. Or, is it because of my age and preferences? Perhaps that next task would be how to retain its traffic and market the site?


Sitecritic.net award

www.danceresponsibly.com.au.1
fig 1. The cool “Dance Party” logo

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fig 2. One of the pop-up registration windows

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fig 3. One of the videos

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fig 4. A sexy policewoman

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fig 5. The loading screen

WRAL: A busy but competent website

Introduction

WRAL.com is an interesting name for a website and one that’s easy to remember. The website itself is easy to remember too, remedy with excellent navigation, design, layout and functionality combining to create a positive news reading experience.

Form

WRAL has absolutely packed the links into their pages while maintaining ease of navigation. With strategic use of headlines, boxes, main headings and positioning, it is very easy to find your way around the site and choose what to look at. As is usual on news websites, a lot of information needs to be passed onto the reader and it’s fortunate that WRAL managed to handle this tricky problem. A main heading at the top of each page gives a summary of what is on the page and this helps the reader to decide quickly whether to read the page or not.

The WRAL.com logo with the tagline “coverage you can count on” is a good logo for a news website as it is striking, simple and memorable. Beside the logo (in the banner) is a transparent newsy image set on a gradient background which is subtle and appropriate. The colour scheme for the site is blues, greys and whites and this is quite suitable, as attention is focused on the text and other colourful elements (such as maps and images) that need to be seen by the viewer. Layout is handled well with left and right columns that branch into more columns on the left when needed. Consistent layout, navigation and presentation make WRAL a “trustworthy” website. Additionally, the cute corner on the top right which shows temperature, a map and subscription options is interesting to look at and a good example of what can be achieved in a small space.

Function

WRAL is an immense website with a lot of helpful aspects that haven’t yet been implemented on some of the other major news sites. Traffic reports (and maps), TV Guides, weather reports, sports, business and news coverage, restaurant ratings, consumer section, horoscopes, contests, lottery results, events, health & lifestyle section and an entertainment section will no doubt keep viewers interested for hours. Advertising is usually expected on news websites (they are prime real estate) and WRAL has quite a few ads, but at least these are non-intrusive and kept to the top, right and bottom. It was pleasing to see there were no popup ads.

Loading times are fast and the pages and subdomains are organised well. The coding is a combination of xhtml, javascript and css and has no obvious issues. I am not sure where the page script came from – the words “Do not alter anything below this line!” lead me to believe the script came from somewhere else but it’s hard to tell as WRAL might have had a head webmaster code the script for the team.

Conclusion

WRAL is a fine example of how a news website should be done and I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an aspiring news website designer. The amount of work that has gone into this website is astounding and inspiring (although I suspect WRAL has a team of web people working on it) and readers can certainly look forward to a superior news experience. I had only one question about this website – call me an ignoramus, but what do the initials WRAL stand for?


Sitecritic.net award

www.wral.com.1
fig 1. Traffic Maps

www.wral.com.2
fig 2. “Cute” Corner

www.wral.com.3
fig 3. WRAL Logo

Web Design Company Knows Design

Introduction

Upon first landing on the home page for TwoSpots Web Design, one thing immediately went through my mind: “This is a website for a web and graphics design company. I really hope it measures up to standard.” Well…it did! TwoSpots definitely “gets it” when it comes to building a good website.

Form

It was easy to settle in spend some time here. Right away, I felt this would be a clean and friendly experience. Their logo is simple, catchy, and says exactly what they do. Branding is strong, as they have a common header placing their logo at the top left of every page, and their content is meaningful and well written. The picture in the header changes with each page, and placement is consistent. The site images are relevant to the content throughout. Everything is well organized and follows a standard from one page to the next. The font choices are simple and not a strain on the eye. This creates and easy, pleasant read. The random articles at the bottom left of the home page are a nice touch.

After exploring the site for some time, I was relieved to find that the pleasantries of the first few pages did indeed extend to the rest of the site. More consistency; more information; yet never an undue regurgitation of the same-old/same-old like so many other websites. I just didn’t get bored looking around here. Navigation is simple and clean – like everything else here – and is controlled through a vertical main menu system at the top right, a topic-specific submenu running horizontally just below it, and various links in the content itself that take you right where you need to go next. There is also a site search available on every page just under the menus, and I found no broken links on the site during my visit.

Function

TwoSpots offers web and graphic design, as well as a number of other related services such as photography, business printing, website hosting, and Internet marketing. In each case, they offer examples of their work, so it’s easy to feel comfortable and trusting towards this company with your web design needs.

Conclusion

This is a nice, clean website. What they do, they do well. I was impressed with everything I saw on the site, and I actually enjoyed the time I spent there. A lot of websites could learn a thing or two from twospots.com.