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

www.pbskids.org.1
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

www.oxfam.org.au.1
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

Wow Website

Introduction

Lego.com is a reputed online toy store and community website with very handsome traffic. The journey throughout website is exciting and I am sure many kids will be attracted by it.

Form

At a first glance, the website looks very cool, giving the user a pleasant impression. Flash animation is part of the website, although the website is still loading very fast. The logo and graphics look awesome and striking. Anyone can understand what they are trying to say and the service that they are providing.

Lego.com brand is uniform throughout the website. The top menu is consistent for each and every web pages, providing a cool surfing experience. Relevant colorful icons are used in the top menu to enhance the navigation system. The web site is designed for English and Deutsch version and it looks extra-ordinary on each and every page.

Overall, the design is clean and neat. Creative Images and colorful icons drive the theme of the site. Flash Animation on the homepage shows that the website is updated on a regular basis.

The color balance is good and very effective for catching the user’s attention especially for kids. All the images are optimized very well and the positioning of each images are planned properly.

Function

The Navigation system looks very nice, but from SEO point of view, it is not suggested to use images in the navigation system. Alt tag is not used on images. But, other than that, it is awesome.

– The Quick links enhances the navigation system. It provides all the necessary links to user with different topics like products, club, shop and legoland.

– The Powerful search facility provides easy solution for users to find stuffs on website. There are 2 search boxes, one on top and the other at the bottom section of the site.

There are 2 sections on their homepage that are reserved for product promotion. The Featured product is packaged in an attractive flash animation, which is update regularly. “What’s New” is a section that includes promotional news with images and links which is again, another good example of product promotion.

Conclusion

Lego.com is very nice and the most professional looking website I ever seen. The navigation system is easy to understand, images and flash animation is extra-ordinary, simply awesome. If I were to give a rating to it, I would say 10 out of 10!

Website With Professional Touch

Introduction

The British Council is an organization in the UK that builds mutual cultural relations with the UK and other countries, treat promoting education, ambulance art, science and culture. BritishCouncil.org is an excellent, user friendly website packed full of information and visual artistry.

Form

The British Council brand shows the prestige and interest of the organization without being presented as ‘stuffy’ or pretentious. The royal blue against a white logo is a nice contrast and sets the stage for an aesthetic theme throughout. The logo itself is simple in design yet gives the British Council a strong image.

The only brand element I would like to see, in addition to an attractive logo, is a tagline. On the home page, the words “Creating opportunity worldwide” appears to be the tagline to use, however the presentation of this may inhibit the message. (fig. 1) I specifically set out looking for a tagline and unconsciously ignored this particular header many times before finally reading it.

The design of the website, a standard 2-column throughout the website. On the home page, the addition of photos and design elements create an artistic presentation though do not distract from the purpose of the website. The balance of white space to design elements allows for proper flow of information. The user is able to visually move freely from section to section without confusion or difficulty.

The color scheme consists of royal blue and various shades thereof. As one of the most popular colors, blue is known to promote calmness and relaxation, as well as professionalism. As a branding principle, this color works very well for this genre of website.

The photos are professional and relevant to content available through the website. I would however, like to see the media component transition a little smoother. The ‘jumpiness’ of the transitions can be a little distracting.

Function

The navigation options are straightforward and contained in easy to find areas of the website. On the home page the top navigation bar is directed toward the user’s interest in the British Council opportunities and education. The bottom navigation bar is dedicated to the organizational aspect of the British Council. By separating the interests and the organizational aspects, the user can easily navigate to any desired section.

The JavaScript menus in particular are very nice and eliminate ‘link clutter’ that is found on other websites. The design is clean and the code seems to be well managed, producing a streamline, non-glitchy menu.

One element of the navigation that I particularly like is the very top text tools that give users frequently used options such as Print, Email this page, Add to favorites, etc. (fig. 2) This feature is very nice for this type of website, and the Text only option is superb – giving access to those who have dial up access, or just wish to navigate the page without being distracted.

Once the user has left the homepage, particularly through the top navigational menu (Arts, Science, Society, etc.) the website navigation changes to topic specific navigation. (fig. 3) I like the themes and variations on specific topics, however, the main navigation from the home page no longer exists, nor is there any immediately noticeable way to get back. I would like to see at least a link that specifies “Return to the British Council Home Page” or something to that effect.

The advertising and promotion on the website is predominantly found throughout. On the home page, there are four components that represent good methods of self-promotion. (fig. 4) Each of these mini-sections is effective in creating user interaction by allowing them to watch a streaming video, find out what countries are involved with the British Council, send an E-card, or other. Given the unofficial 3-second rule (the online standard of interesting the audience in 3 seconds or less), the user is immediately given something of interest to ‘click’ without feeling forced to read information.

Conclusion

Overall, the British Council website provides a clean, effective, and efficient presentation method for providing the wealth of information and opportunity they provide. The organizational structure is well managed and the entire site is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. With some minor adjustments to the navigation on interior pages (or interior sites, to be more exact) the user will have no difficulty exploring and learning.

The leader in Online Marketing

Introduction

Commission Junction is a popular online advertising company and has a number of big clients including ebay in their portfolio. This site has a strong corporate identity and a very user friendly navigation system. I usually judge a website by my first impression and this site certainly got my attention.

Identity

The corporate colors are used effectively on every page. The headers of each section are highlighted in strong green, click providing a good contrast with the white background. The faint CJ graphic embedded in the flash movie on the top right provides a subtle reminder of the brand. Looking at the CJ logo, I thought more characteristics of the circular shape or some curviness could be used throughout the pages.

Navigation

The site utilizes an easy navigation system with the top level “Solutions, Our Clients, About Us” on every page. All the links are easily visible user friendly. The client login system on the home page is very well thought of. However, the country navigation script on the top right hand corner seems to be abit slow.

Navigation trail or bread crumb is often used in many web sites to provide easeness in navigation. The bread crumb in this site is hard to see because its color does not contrast with the green background. The links below the page have the same problem.

The flash is not heavy, so it does not slows down the loading time. Overall, the site loads quite fast even on a dialup modem.

Design

All the pages in the site are very consistent in terms of typography and layout. Important headings are bolded and all the texts are easily readable. The layout is effective with dotted lines separating different sections. The spaces around the text and images makes the page neat and tidy, improving user experience when navigating the site. The orange color is well used to balance out other colors on the page.

Most important of all, the graphics used are appropriate and presentable. (Graphics can spoil a great site or makes a crappy site looks great.)

Conclusion

www.cj.com is well organized and presentable. The web site designers must have gone through a long planning process to create the site. It is all worth the effort.


Sitecritic.net award

Easy Navigation System.
Easy Navigation System.
Breadcrumb is hard to read.
Breadcrumb is hard to read.
Consistent Spacing between text and images
Consistent Spacing between text and images