Famouswhy – all things famous

famouswhy.com is a user generated content site that provides information to a very wide range of “famous” things. Whether it be celebrities, or internationally known cities, famouswhy.com makes privy almost every known Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How facit of famousness.

My first reaction on entrance to the site is that it is a bit ‘tight’, giving me the feeling of information overload. The website does well taking up page space, but not necessarily at presenting it. It is not clear exactly what the site is, how to use it, or even where to begin. I was immediately turned off by the bouncing banner at the masthead of the page, but even more so with the over abundance of advertising links within the text of the page.

One of the most important areas of a website is the navigation system, and the system laid out on this site is very unclear. The only one that I was sure of was the “People” tab, but the others were not an immediate connection, and even upon clicking each one, I had to scroll down well past the advertisements to even see what the page was about. Further, there is no “Home” button. Additionally, the “Forum” tab completely disconnects the user from the famouswhy.com branding as it has a completely different design and layout.

Through the entire site, the font size is very small and would be much more readable with some attention to leading in the text. There are also many misspellings in the site. For the main entry page, the three column layout for the top of the page, does not work as well for the subject presented as a simpler two column layout would. I would have preferred to see the “News” section taking up both the area it is located in currently, along with the area to its left where the “What is…” is found. I also do not feel it is necessary to use so much important web real estate for the “Famous People born on…”. One column would suffice for this, and a link to more – this is better represented on the “Born Today” page.

Going further down the page, it is a bit more clear what information that you can acquire here on “Famous Celebrities”. However, same as above, it is a bit cluttered, and there is a little too much information leaving the user overwhelmed on where he/she should begin clicking.

3 ads - prime placement

Fig 1. The four ads get prime placement over content

As mentioned above, navigating through the menu, and choosing “People” lands me on pages that offer first 3 huge advertisements (Fig 1.), along with the mast head banner, leaving me to have to scroll down the page to find out exactly what the page is about. While this may be a great way for them to sell their product, which is what I found the site attempting to most often do, it is not the best way to capture users. Ad’s are necessary but intricate planning and placement so as to do its job, but not be in the users face.

In “Regions” (Fig 2.) , it does offer a clear indication above the fold that this page is about “Famous Regions, Cities, Countries and Places of the World”. And when choosing a Region, the information is offered where it is expected to be, before an advertisement, though they are there, both in blocks and strewn throughout the text. The content is pretty standard, giving facts and details about the area. I would have liked to seen more photos, and maybe some conversations/reviews from users about the chosen region.

Regions

Fig 2. Regions Main Page

The “Articles” and “Software” sections did not really make much sense to me within the subject of this site. I understand that there are obviously very famous Articles, but I did not see anything like that here. As well, the Software section did not offer famous software, but rather just a collection of no-name software and even more ads. In saying that, they do have a separate section selling the famous questions software – not sure if that is the software that drives their site.

famouswhy.com creators definitely need to work on organization in each main category. In Famous People, it might be beneficial to introduce their People Categories (including artists, writers, presidents, etc.) at the top of the page, rather than in the haze of random people and advertisements. Considering the TMZ style of celebrity gossip, the moderators might do well to lay out all major categories of fame (i.e Persons, Places, and Things), and then add sub-categories where fit.

Conclusion

shockstats

Fig 3. Shockstats – or lack there of

In closing, it is clear that the creators are trying to cover a vast variety of so-called “famous” things, but seem to weigh more importance on their advertising, and the pushing of their CMS over content. It is evident (Fig 3.) that there is little to no user ship here, with the lack of any reviews, likes, tweets or the like. This is the case in the entire site, with the only small exception being the forum where there are a handful of users that continually post and comment on each others posts.

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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

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

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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

A Unique Taste Of Tuscany

Introduction

Tuscany Holidays is a website offering local tours, guides, cooks, chauffeurs, teachers, other “friends” and assistance in order to discover “off the beaten track” areas of Tuscany. It’s a great idea for a site and looks like it would be a really personal and delightful touring experience.

Form

Design is quirky, cute and interesting to a web audience. Well done to the designer in creating a unique and attractive website. There are a few pointers with the design which would make it even more attractive by simplifying some parts of the design that are a bit “busy”. The right menu contains links in boxes with a background behind them. By removing the background and making the boxes a solid border (not a dashed border) the menu will stand out more and make the main page look a lot neater. The flashing text for “Find Accommodation In Tuscany” was a bit annoying after some time spent on the site – maybe a different coloured box or text could highlight this better? No animation is needed to make Arianna & Friends look like a personalised and exciting website. The left menu bar with the text/graphic combinations is terrific and a great example of an exciting and aesthetic menu. One issue I would like to highlight though is the heavy header gif which is 26KB.

The three column layout on the home page becomes a two column layout on other pages, but since the right navigational menu stays consistent throughout, this is fine. The navigational text has drop shadows underneath it which can somewhat impair reading of the text, however, as it adds to the elegance of the design the drop shadows are acceptable. Colours are green, blue, brown and yellow and reflect an “earthy” and landscape theme. The white background is hardly noticed as the eye is drawn to the images and text in the layout. Fonts are readable and the bolded text, while frequent, is used effectively.

Function

Loading times are average, probably a bit slower because of the graphics, but viewers should be able to load the page easily enough. The navigational links work well and everything seems to be in order, with some text links at the bottom of the page like “Privacy Policy” etc. There are a lot of links but at all times the visitor is aware of where they are and where they can go. Coding is standard html with some javascript inserted. There are no CSS (cascading style sheets) used for the text and if this were to be used, it might speed up the loading time of the pages.

The Tuscan Accommodation section of the website is easy to follow and contains a useful map of the area with colour coded regions which is very much appreciated by viewers on travel websites. Selecting a region displays the top tourist farms, holiday houses and properties for a special holiday. I found this section to be very useful as it contained all the information for travel for the particular region, without the traveller having to work it out themselves (such as the time from airports, pricing, realistic looking photos, peak/off peak times and everything else you would want to know about the accommodation).

The Wine & Food Tours In Tuscany page is enough to whet anyone’s palate, with wine, olive oil, cheese, pasta and chocolate tasting tours that visit interesting places (such as a medieval castle) for reasonable prices. The Services & Activities page also has a lot of activities from horse riding to natural park treks.

Conclusion

Arianna & Friends is a unique website with fantastic content that made me want to pack my bags and go to Tuscany. With the use of CSS and slight graphic improvements, this website will appeal to anyone who enjoys fine food, personalised tours and local region exploring.

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fig 1. Some solid borders and no background image would make this menu even better

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fig 2. Attractive looking activities

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fig 3. Accommodation info page has links to detailed information

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fig 4. Graphically aesthetic navigational menu

Free Ringtones

Introduction

That Frog, health eh? Brrrrr Brrrrummmm Brumm Brrr… I’m feeling the rage rising already… When I had my old phone with a simple buzz, salve I cringed at the sound of novelty ringtones, treat and vowed never to have one. Fast forward a year, and every time my phone rings, it pipes out one of my favourite tracks – ah, what a hypocrite I’ve become!

Form and Function

So now I’ve finally succumbed to the world of musical ringtones, sites such as http://ringtones.msnemotions.org suddenly have an appeal – much easier than my first attempts of clipping parts of my mp3 collection.

Unlike a number of ringtones sites, you can download the clips for free, which is a fantastic bonus. I suppose that the giant MSN can afford to be a little generous, and I expect that the advertising revenue more than covers their costs – and there’s plenty of third-party advertising on the site (but that’s the price you pay for ‘free’ things). This isn’t too much of an issue, unless there is an advert with sound – every so often I would get an ad with a mosquito which would then be buzzing away while I tried to listen to the tracks. Now, because I’m based in the UK, I couldn’t make use of the ‘Download Ringtone to your Phone’ feature – it automatically redirects you to another site that ‘better matches your Geographic Location’.

However, if you hit the ‘Click to Listen’ button, you can download the clip to your computer, and then easily transfer it to your phone. The site’s layout is as generic as you can get, but I like the fact that you can start downloading free Ringtones right from the first page and you can usually find something that you like from the Latest Ringtones section. Rating the tracks is easy through just a click, so seeing and influencing a track’s popularity is really simple. The Request Stuff option has a great deal of potential, but currently this is a dead link. Searching for tracks by keyword is very simple, but many users prefer to browse through the lists of what’s available. There are options to list by artists and various genres, but bizarrely, although the results are listed in alphabetical order, you have to browse by page number, which makes it very tricky to get to, say, the M’s. Themes is a misleading title – Soundtrack or Theme tunes would make more sense to users.

Conclusion

The content isn’t expansive, but there are enough choices to appeal to most tastes, and it’s a quick and easy way to get some good quality fre Ringtones onto your phone, and although there are alot of advertisements, I didn’t come across too many popups, etc. This is always going to be the payoff for free things, and it’s a sacrifice most are happy to make. However, I think that MSN should be more careful about the content of this advertising – clearly, the ringtones, smileys, etc. is a predominantly (young) teenager phenomenon, and it’s far too easy to click on links to inappropriate content from this page. Overall, I would not say that the design is great but I would still like to give a thumbs up to http://ringtones.msnemotions.org for offering 100% Ringtones to download with no charge.

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Free hip hop ringtones

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Some of the smiley ads look cool

Fast Muscle Cars

Introduction

Dragtimes.com is an online database for fast cars and motorcycles. There are alot of technical jargons used in the site and it seems the only people who are into car racing knows what the site is about.

Form

The entire website is trying very hard to optimize many keywords related to drag racing. As such, viagra sale there are many text links in the content (see figure 1). Though technically it is not wrong but graphically, case it can be intimidating for first time visitors especially if they know nothing about drag racing. To be truthful, decease I was acually abit put off when I first looked at the index page… but having said that, if I am a car racing enthusiast, I might be happily scrolling the page down or navigating the site to see more of the car statistics.

There are many graphics used in the site but many of them have funny dimensions and not very clear. This might be the result of “copy and paste”. Some graphics are very large. An example is the 2005 Chevrolet Corvette C6 Coupe jpeg in the home page (See figure 3). That image is only 225 x 155 pix but has a file size of 27kb! I really think the author needs to work harder to optimize all the graphics in the site.

Function

The author has provided some statistics for each of racing car (see figure 2). In the page of the muscle cars, the author also organizes each car nicely in a table. Everything looks good but I feel that more could be done. Perhaps, a short description for each car might also be interesting.

Another point worth mentioning is that the site has covered everything about drag racing very well. From vehicle parts to events and classified ads, the author managed to put some content in all the sections. There is even a tools section for the user to calculate the horsepower and torque of the car.

Conclusion

The website is established with strong links from dmoz, yahoo directory and many other authority sites. Although there are already some unique content in it, many parts are still quite empty. I guessed the challenge is the update it with fresh content. From the way it looks, it seems that the author wants people to advertise in the site – The classified ads section is quite empty… So, maybe an advertising campaign for the fast cars website might help?

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fig 1. Too many links?

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Fig 2. Nice stats of the car

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Fig 3. Large image file size

Popular Harry Potter Site

Introduction

Let go of the day to day troubles and step back to when you were a teenager. This site is for frantic Harry Potter fans and offers everything under the sun for viewers. The target market is clearly for kids and teenagers. After spending a while on the site, you will learn that its creators are also teenagers. This has both positives and negatives.

Form

After having a quick browse on the homepage, I was still none the wiser to what this website was truly about. I figured the ‘About Us’ link could provide a general overview of the sites core functions and some quick answers but instead, i came out of that one knowing nothing more about the site but a whole lot more about the site creators (They enjoy watching The Simpsons, listening to ‘random music’ and ‘eating cereal’………….).

This confirmed to me that the site was not run by commercial professionals. Perhaps if I were their target market, I would be none the wiser. Mugglenet.com offers a million and one functions such as reviews, links, competitions, newsletter, quotes, job openings…the list goes on. It’s a great factory for pumping out anything and everything for Harry Potter and all of his freinds.

The magic of Harry Potter in the movies really pulls you in… it would have been nice if the design of the site replicates that.

Function

The visual links are displayed on the left hand side and are consistent with the overall design. It is also easy to navigate around the site without getting lost. Though the graphics looks cool, the design is a little bit crowded and overloaded with content, banners and links. The colour scheme could also have been a little bit more friendly. The white bulky text against the stark black background is to much for my poor eyes. It seems that this is a reason for me to de-credited the site. There are a few little extra surprises such as being able to choose your own Harry Potter wall paper on the homepage.

When I visited the site, Harry Potter’s traffic seems to be standard with its most recent posts added 15 hours ago. However, the webmasters claim that they have 125,000 hits per day. The average time spent on the site is 14 minutes and the average visitor only view 2 pages.

Conclusion

If i consider myself as a teenagers who is a major Harry Potter fan, I would probably not notice the little faults above and may think mugglenet.com is a groovy and informative site. The design, aesthetics, advertising and content could be a little more constructive and less invasive. However, having said that, I have to admit that mugglenet.com certainly has loads of content, great links and fun for Harry Potter lovers with some extra special touches.

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Experience a pleasant Cruise

Introduction

ITrue Cruise caters to provide information about ship cruise and ship details. The website further provides industry news, advice cruise tips, packing lists and general information about things to keep in mind while preparing for a cruise. Target audience of the site are people browsing to find information on cruise.

Form

My first impression of truecruise.com was pleasant and the website says something about ships and cruise. Home Page looks professional and in terms of design, the site has a pleasant blend of blue.

Layout of the Home Page is rather long and in some cases visitors may get distracted with many advertisements and lose focus as to what the website is about. Usually people say, “you only have few seconds to impress your visitors before they go to other sites”. Keeping the above philosophy in mind, the website will aid its visitors better if advertisements were reduced or placed in certain sections rather then letting it scatter.

Function

The website is balanced in terms of functionalities. Poll result, random cruise tip and click on the picture for answer section makes the website interactive. Search feature on the site is dependent on other website and leads to different website all together.

Navigating the site is fairly straight forward. Links for main content are visible from all pages. Main links for “contact” and “news” could be added.

Conclusion

– shorten the length of Home Page
– currently there are Google Adsense on the left, right and bottom of the page. This would be better at a single location.
– banner advertisements could be reduced.
– contact button can be added as a main link instead of having contact on the about us page.
– information on “about us” page should be expanded.
– featured news on the Home Page can be reduced. Better to keep two of the latest on the Home Page and have additional links as news for all other news.

Overall the website is rich in content and with few changes the website will service its target audience with better a cruise. The philosophy is “keep it simple”.

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Argentina Travel Tourism

Introduction

Argentinen Erleben (Enjoy Argentina) is essentially a tour operator working with other travel operators and building you a customized vacation based on your needs.

Form

At first glance the website comes across as a charity organization with the sterile look and feel. I was waiting for a paypal donation pop-up window. They should focus on using more earthy colors with vibrant greens and display more animal life, sovaldi people, site places etc. The majority of tourists go to other countries to experience other cultures. There’s a .pdf link hidden at the bottom of the page, which should be more prominent with an Acrobat icon. The menu transitions should be faster and visitors must have the option to mute the mouse-over click noises.

The layout is nicely done and the page transitions are smooth. The gallery has got some nice photos and the website has two language options.

The font used throughout the website is difficult to read and almost impossible to scan. The default language is German, which is not the best choice even if their majority of clients are German. English is the web standard and visitors will expect the pages to be English. If they choose to view the website in another language then the visitor can make the decision. There are no introductory text which could loose the website potential clients. Few visitors will give the website a second thought because they are looking at a big cold mountain instead of reading what the company can give them.

Some of the graphics are not rendered correctly and have a bitmapped effect on the edges. The images in the tourism section can be better optimized. The images are overlapping each other to what I suspect give a Polaroid photo album look. This can be better achieved with square photos and white frames. One of the photos is also overlapping one of the menu links. Some of the tourism section photos are not displaying. Some of the tourism sections are missing the correct page titles and some images aren’t loading.

Function

Flash really subtracts from search engine positioning and there is a lack of keyword rich body text. The title tag may be to long. The rest of the meta-tags are correct but may need some revision.

Conclusion

My original impression of the site wasn’t very good but I liked the overall website once I got used to the thought that it wasn’t a charity organization. Argentinen Erleben can generate a lot of potential leads once their website and marketing is focused on their visitors’ wants and needs. A complete Flash website may penalize them and they should reconsider using a dynamic website with flash elements.

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Counter Strike Website Review

Introduction

Navycs.com is a website about CounterStrike, rx a popular network game. I am not a CS fan, there so I probably cannot comment on the content. From the web design perspective, prostate alot of improvements could be done on its graphics and navigation.

Form and Function

The author needs to talk more about themselves and what the website is about. At the moment, unless the author is only targeting at experienced CounterStrike players, visitors with no prior knowledge of CounterStrike will not know what the website is about.

The home page content looks OK but the images are abit dark for me. The main navigation on top could have been better organised. Some links could be regrouped under a new menu item. Looking at the home page, I also realised the “Navy Information” section itself could be categorised under the sub-menu of another menu. Alot of work could be done in re-organising the links.

One very obvious issue with the website is the consistency of its layout. The gallery section for example, is no longer “800 x 600” and the main menu has a different look and feel as compared to the index page. The header image appears squashed as well.

Conclusion

The information presented in the website gives me an impression that the author is a CS addict. I cannot comment on the content but I would definitely recommend the author to work harder on the design. Perhaps using standard CSS for all the pages is a good start. He might also consider using a template to generate the layout so that the webpages are consistent – less confusion for the user. At the moment, I feel that things are flying all over the place.

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