Astrology online

On the first look, the site looked quite interesting. As I navigated the pages more, I noticed some title of the internal pages looked a bit over overwhelmed for me and I didn’t know more than half of it – for example “Manglik Shanti Yagna, Affliction of Mars, Yagna performed by a Manglik, Prayer to Lord Hanuman, Astrological yagnas, astrological remedies, personal yagna, personalized yagna, stotra, paath, Astrologers in India, Astrology Online, Vedic Astrology, Ask Astrology Question”. I also noticed stuffed keywords and meta tags. Was this a sign of over seo? Actually, I didn’t have a problem with that but perhaps they could define the terms to newbies like me so that my stay at the site would be more enjoyable. The width of the body was 820px and I thought they could make it bigger as most people today use much higher resolution screens. Better still, make it responsive.

As I looked at the header, I saw a logo on the left and some small links here and there. There was also a tick scroller and a flashing “click here to join facebook”. These were all outdated technologies. Modern websites today focus on conveying messages quickly and taking out all the fancy stuff. The “contact us” was a popup window, another big no no for modern day websites.

I saw quite a lot of content in all pages which was a good thing. Almost every page included a custom header image which was interesting as well. The verisign secure logo was good but the navigation on the left was confusing. They needed a user journey plan for different users. Say I am someone interested in astrology, love, horoscope or yoga, how can you make the website idiot proof for me? Don’t give me too many choices. Put a few big and obvious links and guide me through the site.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cyberastro.com is a good domain name with really interesting content and pics. As someone who loves astrology, I found myself lost in the site easily. Many astrology sites are flashy and confusing to navigate and this one is no exception.

Eastern Wisdom and True Happiness

www.happymonkeyz.com is a blog dedicated to people who wish to find true happiness and meaning in life. The blog tries to answer the question of How Can I Be Happy with articles on religion, click eastern wisdom, seek philosophies and life in general. The website looks stylish and bright when I first saw it.

The homepage looks clean with a big tag line “How Can I Be Happy?” in the header. I also saw the colorful logo with a monkey sitting in a meditation posture. The site definitely looks like a typical blog with the sidebar on the right and main content in the center. The homepage has 8 postings, a lot to scroll for a typical user like me. There was also a lot of space on the right. How about filling them up with some content? some adverts?

As I scrolled down, I finally reached the footer. There was a thick blue ribbon with nothing in it… perhaps it was a place holder for something else.

I would imagine as time grows, the article base would get bigger. I would love to see some categories such as “Inspirational quotes”, “Wisdom”, “Spiritual Text”…etc so that I could find the articles more easily. However having said that, there was the tag cloud on the right as well.

The single pages were also well designed and consistent with the look and feel of the main site. On the Wisdom and Intelligence article, I saw a nice content image followed by a quote. The quote was also pinterest compatible – nice! I also like the floating toolbar on the left. The space on the sidebar really needed some work.

In conclusion, happymonkeyz is a nice blog with valuable content on wisdom, eastern philosophies and spirituality. Although the site is new, I could already see some potential of it growing into something bigger. The author should start focusing on building up the content and think of how to fill up the empty spaces on the sidebar. Perhaps another objective is to try to get more comments and followers with social media campaigns so as to make the site look busier.

Money Clips and Credit Card Holders

As the domain name says, smartmoneyclip.co.uk is a website that sells money and card holder. The website looked slick on the first glance. The graphics were professional and the thumbnails seemed to be optimised as well. I thought the color combination of the text and graphics blended well on the black background.

My eyes was drawn to the slider on the header. Unlike other sliders, this one seemed to be moving too fast for me and there was no way to stop it upon mouseover. However after playing it for a while, I noticed that I could stop and navigate the slider with the small navigation on the top right of the slider. It wasn’t as usable as I thought.

On the homepage, I also saw the words “Money clips and Credit card holders for him and her”. They were black text on black background (see fig 1). The words didn’t stand out, perhaps changing the text to white might be an idea.

fig 1. Spacing issues

Throughout the site, I noticed some text didn’t have enough left padding (see fig 1). I wasn’t sure if it was browser related (I was using firefox). The Facebook widget on the right column didn’t seemed to have enough spacing around them as well.

fig 2. Cool video on product page.

The highlight of the site seemed to the exentri section. EXENTRI™ is a lightweight credit card holder invented by their company. I thought the “Facebook Like” and “Google Plus” link could be grouped together and more prominent. The YouTube video could be moved lower down so there wouldn’t be so much empty space under the “more views”.

Fig 3. Need to configure meta headers for all the pages

As shown in fig 3, looked like the author forgot to configure the meta headers for some pages.

I also thought the footer could be trimmed better since a lot of links linked to the same “customer service” page. Perhaps they could also be centralised. The paypal logo seemed to be a bit off, not sure why it was separated from the rest of the payment logos.

Conclusion

money clip is reasonably well designed site. There were some spacing and formatting issues that could be fixed easily with css. Perhaps the next thing to do is to run some marketing campaigns and create more buzz. Even thought the site is available in different languages, they all looked quite quiet at the moment.

Everything Open Source

azhowto.com is a blog on open source technologies. The site focuses on the php, hospital mysql, wordpress, linux, apache and so on. At a first glance, the site seems to be quite rich in content but looks boring to the layman. The wordpress backend makes the layout consistent across all the pages.


fig1?Targeted topics

The wordpress studiopress theme seems to work well with many blogs and this is true for azhowto.com as well. The main navigation consist of "home", "about us", and a "php calendar" that the author wants to promote in his site. The categories, tag cloud, archive, adverts and blog roll are on the right sidebar. The skyscraper and medium rectangle google ads look good in their position. There is nothing under the blog roll, why leave it there? The meta section also looks quite out of place.

I would also suggest the author to limit the number of months in the archive section on the sidebar as the archive can go on forever… The height of the sidebar looks a bit awkard for very short posts such as a recent post on parsing html


fig2?Some css problems

The author tends to put code into his blog posts as well and I would suggest that he re-check at the way they are being formatted. A plugin to handle the code might help. Fig 2 shows some text that goes beyond the width of the page. This happens quite often across all the pages in the site. Not a big problem but can be annoying for the reader.


fig3?CSS problems on the footer as well.

The previous entries and next page can be re-adjusted so that they are more centralised. The footer looks good except that the date needs to be updated to 2011 instead of 2007.

I believe the author also uses plugins to handle the social media link beneath each post. The links look ok except for the TwitThis link which links back to the homepage.

There is also a "Watch the latest video on Youtube.com" link at the bottom of each post. I am not sure whether there is a need for that or some misconfiguration with some plugin.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, azhowto.com looks really plain (this might be typical for a developer… I am sure a designer would be different?) but has a lot of references to php, linux, mysql, networking and so on. Web developers or open source professionals might find the website useful though. Even then, I would suggest the author to spice up the site a bit and this can be easily achieved by adding simple graphics or videos. If I am the owner of this blog, I would add a picture of myself under "about me".

The Journey of a Beetle

The baobab tree is a website promoting a story about an african beetle that sets out on a long journey in search of a seed. The design of the site is clean and simple. There is minimal graphics except a beetle that crawls everywhere on in the flash pages.

The website is very simple with minimal content. The layout is straight forward as well and I do think that the use of flash is an overkill for this purpose. It looks like the author is trying to use the site as a lead in to sell the kindle version of the story in amazon.

Form and Function

The tree on the top right looks like a gif and I think much improvement can be made to the headers. Even though the header is consistent, it is quite boring. With the small amount of content in the site, I think scrolling can be made unnecessary if empty spaces can be better utilised.

The text is quite small on the home page but the text under “about us” appears to be bigger in size. In fact, the size and color of the text appears to be quite different in all pages – so we do have a consistency issue here.


Fig 1. most of the pages are boring

I hope there can be more exciting content and graphics. The only interesting thing about the site at the moment is the beetle that crawls around the pages – actually, I find that a bit annoying as well when I am reading. I like to see more graphics on the characters page (fig 1). Perhaps the book doesn’t come with images but it is still interesting to have some images of the characters. People relate better to images than to text.


Fig 2. The footer doesn’t tell us anything new

The footer is also quite boring (see fig 2). At the moment, there is no way for me to know the company or author a bit more. The “contact us” page doesn’t provide any extra information as well. People like to know about the author. A short bio on the author or even a pic would be great.

Conclusion
No matter how good a product is, it needs some sort of packaging. If thebaobabtree.co.za is the packaging, then a lot more work is needed to bring in sales or to even make visitors stay longer. The author needs to consider adding stronger graphics and relook at the layout and content. Since the site is using flash, then I would love to see more animation.

Life in the Past Lane

Introduction

Life in the Past Line is a genealogical and photographic glimpse of the South African branch of the Goodway family and a very interesting idea for a website it is too. Not only is the name exciting and apt but the website itself is of interest to not only Goodway family members but those who need an idea of how to go about publishing their own family website on the net.

Form

The layout of the website is a two column affair, and with good content in both the main left and right columns (usually it’s mostly advertising in the right column so this is a refreshing change). Loading time is adequate and navigation is consistent and easy to follow. It was good to note the website strived to conform to W3C standards and was classified as a “safe surfing website”. This would open the door to advertising on family friendly websites and assist in generating traffic.

Design for the site is a mixed package – the simplicity of the colours and images works well for family friendly viewing and also to impart an olde worlde style (especially the use of old black and white family portraiture). The design also works well in that the reader can see what to read and where to read it easily and the text is very readable. However, help I felt that the colours could be made just a little more exciting – maybe a background colour (deep crimson + pattern) on the left and right sides of the page could add to the design, and the text logo of “Life in the Past Line” could be a bit fancier so it is not a standard-looking text. Curlier, but still legible text would help the olde worlde genealogical aspect of it.

The photo galleries were sweet and had nice photos in them and the comments were helpful. The site map was also very helpful and useful for browsing with. Content was well researched, helpful and very useful.

Function

In reviewing this site, most items appeared to be functional (including the css and html code) and overall there were no major issues, so I would like to make a few suggestions for extending the site in the future:

– A family forum could help people communicate to other members of the family (officially). There could always be a password to help with security issues so that members of the public could be barred (you could make the forum a subtle element that only members of the family would locate.

– A list of the family’s email addresses and/or links to myspace profiles etc.

– A bigger library of past photos.

Conclusion

Life in the Past Lane is a very pleasant site to visit and is likely to be of interest to quite a number of people, both family and those into genealogical and historical research. Creating a family website for the reading of all generations is a good concept and in this case was well executed. With a few more design elements (background, logo and images) this will be a shining example of what can be done with your family tree. A well designed website with nice content indeed.

www.agoodway.co.za.1
fig 1. A photo gallery

www.agoodway.co.za.2
fig 2. Nice old photos

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fig 3. Example of a different background

Portfolio Of A Talented Designer Created With WordPress

Introduction

WordPress is the most popular blogging software today. The homepage of wordpress.com itself has a high Google ranking of 9 and an Alexa ranking of 222 as at the time of writing. I must admit that WordPress is fantastic for blogging, but if we try to use it as a portfolio to showcase our work, we may encounter some problems.

Form

nikoladjurovic.com is the website of a talented young designer, Nikola Djurovic. He chose wordpress as a template to showcase some of the work that he had done for his client. While the contents are interesting and the colors are soothing, I feel that he failed his chance to impress his audience because of wordpress.

From his introduction, I think that he wants to impress people with the projects that he had done and possibly, able to attract some high profile clients. The lay out of his wordpress template does not allow alot of room for creativity. Most wordpress will have links with main sections like ‘Pages’, ‘Categories’, ‘Archives’..etc. Personally, I don’t like the term ‘Pages’ because it is does not provide any information on the sub headers. Maybe the subheaders such as ‘Identity’, ‘Print’, ‘Video’ and ‘Web’ should be made the headers so that they are more obvious. Unless the author wants to go through the complicated process of redesigning the template and re-arranging the sections, it is hard to customise the look and feel of wordpress.

Function

The page header looks empty to me and I almost missed the 2 important hyperlinks on top. Perhaps the author might want to add some images or words to let people know what this website is about when they first enter the site. Unless nikola tells Mr. A of the website, it might not be easy for Mr. A to know what is happening by merely looking at the index page. Fig C shows that the title also does not provide enough information on the page. The author might want to work harder on the title because titles are very important in Search Engine Optimisation.

A blogging website can only be effective if the content is interesting. A portfolio website is the exact opposite, you need graphics and detail description of projects that you have done. To me, nikoladjurovic.com should be a portfolio instead of a blogging website. What do you want to achieve at the end of the day? Do you want people to keep returning to your site for new content? If so, then you need to update your blog everyday with interesting topics. If you want to impress your potential client with your design skills, then you need to play around with more design elements in the site.

Fig D is a snapshot of a website done by the author. If I am a client, I would want to know how he goes about designing it, his objectives and design philosophy for that project…etc. Upon clicking the image, It might be a better idea to open a new page with the details of the project instead of just enlarging the image in the new page.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I feel that the author has more to show but is limited by the way wordpress is being templated. WordPress is great, easy to install and update but there is a great price to pay if you want to use it to showcase your web skills. Basically your can’t unless you want to do the dirty work of digging into the code. The author has shown the world that he is a definitely a creative talent. With his graphic and web design skills, I feel that he should create a website of his own using his own design approach and detailing all the work that he has done.

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Spiritualism, Transformation, Enlightenment

Introduction

This is a personal website of Michaela Scherr, a personal transformation coach. Her goal is to help others to achieve inner peace in their lives. The author is a great writer and has alot of cool content to share.

Form

Initially, I was really confused of what the website was trying to say. To be truthful, it took me quite a while to figure out what was going on. My observation is that there are 3 forces competing for attention in the site. The author wrote alot of content, trying to tell the reader what “transformation” is all about. There are also 3rd party advertisements and Pay-Per-Click Ads, meaning that the author is into online advertising and business. Lastly, the author is also trying to promote her own e-book and services. The author needs to rethink what she wants to achieve with the website and concentrate on building a theme.

The colors, fonts, graphics and layout need to gel together to express a common idea. At the moment, things are flying all over the place and I do not experience any peace at all!. If I am the website designer, I might probably work on 2 concepts, “spiritual growth” and “inner peace”. Light colors are probably the way to go. Simple layout with lesser text and alot of space might work better than the current system. If the site is about selling the author’s services, it needs to be more convincing. Perhaps more images of the author conducting classes or pics of the author might be a good idea.

I believe any layout can be effective if information is well organized. There are too many empty spaces at the moment and it makes the website looks awkard. One example is the newsletter page where the reader just keep scrolling without anything to read. Most of the graphics used in the site are clip arts. Clip arts convey a message of “playfulness” and when used in web design, gives people an impression that the website is not serious in what it is trying to say.

There are tonnes of advertisements all over the place. The adsense advertisement on top of many webpages gives people an impression that the site is more interested in marketing rather than have something serious to sell. Promoting adsense too strongly can kill a website. People today are intelligent and they see adsense everyday. Everybody wants to earn extra advertising income but the question is how can we make people click on the ads comfortably…To do that, we must first make people feel comfortable with our site.

Function

I think the top banner is taking up too much space, considering the amount of information it is conveying to the reader. The top menu is consistent but the left menu is confusing. It will be a big bonus if the left menu has lesser items so that the reader need not scroll so much. The author might also consider using shorter texts with coloured background for each in the menus. Menus in a website should only contain important links to different sections of the site.

There are signs that the site is trying to be optimized for search engines. The problem is that the opitimization work is done at the expense of the user experience. I am not so worried about the codes at the moment because I believe there are much more important things to be done. I would fix up the aesthetics and user experience issue before looking at the code. Frontpage can produce crappy codes but I believe it can be a good tool for people without programming experience. Frontpage can also produce nice websites and it is just about understanding the software better.

Conclusion

I am a personally fan of philosophy and spiritualism and I believe that michaelascherr.com has a great content to sell. The website needs to undergo a great revamp to communicate more effectively to the end-user. The author has to rethink in what she wants to achieve with the site and set her priority. For example, if she wants good search engine traffic, she will go in the SEO direction and so on…

www.michaelascherr.com.1

www.michaelascherr.com.2

Serge Winck’s Digital Art

Introduction

SWART is an online portfolio of Serge Winck’s Digital Art. The site includes a multitude of designs including logos, typestyles, promotional ads and more. Unfortunately due to the layout, designs and loading times, the site actually degrades Serge artistically.

Form

There is no branding in Serge’s imagery or web design, which makes the site feel more like the work of an amateur then a professional. It seems that Serge wishes to use his talents for clients looking for his type of work, yet he doesn’t make this clear to the site visitors and doesn’t include an easy way to get in contact with him.

Serge’s art style is very colorful, which is quite the opposite of the colors he decided to use for the over all design. The backgrounds are black, dark grey or a texture of a rock type material and are complimented with grey and red text. This design choice creates the illusion that the site is dark and cold. Serge includes samples of his artwork in the form of thumbnails which is really the only colorful imagery on the site.

Function

The opening splash page to welcome visitors is very large for no apparent reason, creating large amounts of blank space between areas of interest. Upon entering the main index, the site is pulled together more closely and items are organized into categories.

The main navigation system is either at the top or bottom of every page, however due to the color choice of a dark red, this makes the words hard to read, especially on the textured background. The buttons are also hard to read until you mouse-over them making navigation a bit tricky to the first time visitor.

The artwork itself is listed in thumbnails on the left and right hand side, and clicking on them makes a larger version in the middle. There is no flash and the artwork is quite small even when enlarged, though the loading times of the site and images are slow.

Conclusion

Though Serge may have artistic talent, web design is not his strong area. The site is cluttered, dark and hard to navigate making the over-all experience unpleasant.

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