Efficient Business Lighting

Introduction

Businesslights.com is an e-store specialising in energy and maintenance efficient lighting for commercial and industrial facilities, indoor tennis courts and sports facilities. If you want to be green, use energy efficient lighting.

Form

The website has dull colours of slate blue, white and aqua, which assist in making the products stand out a lot, but don’t make the design especially memorable. However, the colours and style do indicate a professional web presence and are only hampered by the electric blue and orange text which do not fit into the colour scheme at all. Changing the text to another slate blue, grey or dulled aqua would help stylize the colour scheme. The logo is simple, has an image of a light bulb and some textured text. The idea for the logo is on the right track but this logo did not grab me as “The Lighting Solution Center” has too much space between it and “Businesslights.com”. Some more work with making the logo elements fitting together better and maybe some simplifying (ie a better globe image) would help this.

The traditional e-store three column layout is suitable for the business and customers know where to look due to the standard layout. Product categories, a shopping cart, bestseller list, general information and a search box work in the left and right columns. Featured products are down the bottom under the main paragraphs. If the three paragraphs under the main bolded paragraph were made into one, the featured products table could move up a bit and this would help people with smaller screen resolutions and look tidier.

The text at the bottom with the address, product index and contact details, while in the right place, should be in the same font as the rest of the page. Regarding design, the bolded first paragraph text also doesn’t quite fit in with the page and might be better in the standard font but bolded and a different colour.

Function

Product categories are in alphabetical order and clicking on these brings up a page of products to choose from. It was good to see that there are actually lots of products to look at and that pricing is included on them. By clicking repeatedly on the product, it is possible to navigate to a full description of the product. The shopping cart appeared functional but Australia is missing from the Country menu. The search box works well and so does the Manufacturers menu, although some manufacturers have no products listed. Overall, the navigation is extremely good and an additional suggestion is to put a FAQ or Help link near the “My Account | Cart Contents | Checkout” links at the top for customers who share common queries. Also, more could be made of the handy “Product Index”. Rather than having it at the bottom, why not display it in a prominent graphic or prominent text link on the left or right, so customers can go to it as soon as they see it?

The coding is php (standard for an e-store) and seems to be a modified php template that works efficiently with no errors. Loading times are fast and lots of customers will appreciate this.

Conclusion

Businesslights.com is an efficient, fast loading and average looking e-store that sells light bulbs, Fluorescent Lamps, Ballasts, Halogen lamps, light fixtures…etc. Honestly, if I was comparing Businesslights to other lighting websites out there, I would say that it is useful, but not memorable. For an example of how to make an e-store look memorable by using exciting colours and graphics, check out DVD Orchard or even Lighting.com. Using the same layout they currently have, Businesslights.com can make their business look more exciting quite easily – by putting some work into the main banner where the logo is, changing colours and even creating some ads for products to spruce it up.

www.businesslights.com.1
fig 1. Electric blue text doesn’t match colour scheme

www.businesslights.com.2
fig 2. Business Lights Logo

www.businesslights.com.3
fig 3. Nice Shopping Cart Layout

www.businesslights.com.4
fig 4. Contact Us Information

Men’s jewellery and unique cufflinks

Introduction

Homme Rock is an online store selling men’s jewellery and accessories for men, from 18 carat gold and titanium rings to designer and unique cufflinks. If you want to buy some gifts for men, this is a good place to shop.

Form

The overall impression I got when I first entered the website was good. The main banner/logo is mostly grey to match the rest of the greys on the main page and while I’d normally say this colour scheme is boring, I feel that the web designer deliberately did this in order to make the items for sale more interesting, as they are in their fabulous own colours and appear more noticeable. With main links on the left, bestselling items on the right and featured products down the middle of the page, Homme Rock’s layout is very user-friendly and what you’d expect to see. The shopping cart in yellow at the top adds a tiny splash of additional colour to the page, as do the credit cards and links down the bottom.

The logo for Homme Rock is quite basic and simple, but I felt this was suitable for the product being sold. Men don’t want girly logos (my personal opinion) and this one is no exception – it certainly gives the impression of being suave, stylish and manly with its basic white text on grey background. It is classified as a unique (if somewhat simplistic) logo because the spacing between the text gives it a difference. I particularly liked the tagline “for the adornment of man” but while I’m not sure if men will like it, I know their partners will!

Function

Clicking on the main links on the left take you where you need to go and the navigation is quite user-friendly. You can shop by designer, material or price. A javascript menu pops up if you mouse over any of the menu. The main links to the product range categories are traditional links with a hover underline. The search button appears to function OK and at all times, you can see where you are by the traditional small arrow tree breadcrumb at the top of the page. I was a bit worried to click on some of the product images and details and receive “this webpage cannot be displayed”, however, given that the site blocked IP addresses from , this might be part of that problem.

Homme Rock is structured like an online store should be and is easy to navigate. With transparent navigation, there is no need for additional sitemaps and “contact us” plus additional information is easily accessed on the bottom of each page. Loading times are a bit slow however and it took me quite long to get to the Contact Us page, which is worrying when there are no images on it. It could be the code, server load or network traffic. Many online stores have this problem and lots of customers choose to simply live with it, however there are some stores out there that have managed to make their pages load faster (the examples I find have asp, jsp css or html codes). Loading times like this could be a problem if people want to browse before they buy or are just having a quick look. It’s a real issue because these are the people who might buy from the competition.

Conclusion

This website has simplistic but effective design and good navigation. The content is good, ie it sells men’s bangles, rings, men’s jewellery, unique cufflinks, designer cufflinks, slides and many cool stuffs. The main colors of the website matches with the color of the products. However, the site can be boring at times after long hours of navigation. Injecting interesting content or extra graphics could perhaps break the monotony…

Sales is probably the most important factor for an online store. Instead of working on the look and feel, the company might also want to focus on some marketing strategies such as discounts, buy one get one free…etc.

www.homme-rock.com.1
fig 1. Manly & Suave Logo

www.homme-rock.com.2
fig 2. A touch of colour in an otherwise grey scheme

www.homme-rock.com.3
fig 3. Credit cards also add colour

More work is needed to live Gorgeously

Introduction

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

Form

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

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

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

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

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

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

Function

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

Conclusion

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

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

www.gorgeousliving.com.1

www.gorgeousliving.com.2

www.gorgeousliving.com.3

www.gorgeousliving.com.4

Usability Matters: online shopping sites

Introduction

Butterfly & Nature Gift store is an online store where you can purchase custom made framed butterfly displays and other nature related products such as shirts, cheap insect crafts and games, decease and sea monkeys.

Form and Function

My rating for this one is a 3.5. I like the products she sells here, sick which does keep me on the site, however, This site needs some color, and rethinking of its structure.

Online stores, from an information architecture standpoint, are very complex, and require a great deal of planning. When making an online purchase, it is important that the site I am buying from appear professional and trustworthy, and unfortunately this site misses that mark for me.

The layout of the front page is not too bad for me – it gets right to the point, and you know that this is an online store selling butterfly “something” immediately. I would like to see the text to introduce the site moved above the product area, giving an introduction to what can be found here, with links to internal pages. This would do well for SEO as well.

The product boxes on the front are a bit too tight and give it a cluttered feel. They also lack style. The inner product photos however are great. A perfect size, and excellent quality. The product boxes loose this layout completely when going to the internal pages, which I think is a bad idea.

The footer throughout the site remains centered and fixed, which does coincide with the content area of the inner pages, but does match the front page. I feel this area needs some definition, either a separator bar, or a block of color, so as to “enclose” the focal area above it.

There are also a few different font families in use on different pages of the site.

Conclusion

There are a great deal of pages here, and while the links are all available on the inside pages, there are entirely too many of them, making navigation an overwhelming experience.

The main level navigation links introduced on the front page are on the left sidebar, but then change horizontal navigation bar just under the header area. From a user standpoint, this is confusing.

When you use the links within the product box area those lead you into a fluid width design, and all navigation is lost, forcing me to use the back button to navigate anywhere else. Very unusable.

I find the inner pages hard to read, and the content area needs definition. This site would be more usable if they maintained the front page layout through the site, keeping all the links pertinent to the page.

Tuna Safe Website Review

Introduction

TunaSafe have come up with an incredibly amusing product called “Thongs in a Can” which I can tell would definately have a place for itself in the market. A subliminal message printed on a popular type of underwear which would definately be very popular with the younger consumers.

Form

A simple layout yet incredibly effective for the product that the web site is promoting. It took me a minute to understand exactly what it was about but in the end it was quite amusing and as you can already tell it would be a very popular product with the younger crowd right up through to the older crowd. The web site displays all the important information that consumers want to know straight away which is something I am very fond of with this web site. The product itself clearly displayed in the middle which shows a bold message to consumers and explains itself exactly what the product is, a pair of well designed thongs aligned next to a well designed can – it quickly explains exactly what the product is so consumers aren’t needing to surf through other web pages to find the product.

The author has done a good job in explaining how he came up with the idea of the product. The only problem with the site is that the grey font color used in the body does not have enough contrast with the background, making it hard to read.

Function

A definite winner keeping it simple with navigation roll overs that loaded very fast when I first opened the web site unlike some that take a second or two to load. The links displayed are also very helpful as it displays everything you need to know therefore making the consumers feel more confident while purchasing the product as they would find all the information located within the web site and wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of e-mailing them for more information.

Another point from me for keeping the navigation on the top of every page as you can tell that I am one who doesn’t like to keep clicking his “Back” button and I’m sure I’m not the only one. All up the navigation is clearly displayed with informative links which is always important when trying to sell a certain product to the public.

Conclusion

Everything about this web site is extremely positive and I would be very confident with buying such an amusing product from someone who has clearly thought of the web site traffic when developing the web site. The layout is clean and simple, displaying only relevant information and everything you need to know. The design and colour scheme are also easy on the eyes yet relevant to the product being sold and I still must comment on the navigation as well as how easy it is to navigate yourself throughout the web site, again a must when thinking of the people who may be interested in purchasing your product.

www.tunasafe.com.1

www.tunasafe.com.2

Consumer Protection Company

Introduction

Consumer Protection Company reviews websites and programs of internet businesses with the protection of consumers in mind. They rate Online Surveys, Mystery Shopping, Ebay Auctions, Real Estate Auctions and Loans and document their findings for future individuals who may be interested in participating in these online money making opportunities.

Form

This particular design is not very appealing to my eye and I do not feel I would visit it again – instead searching out a more professional source of consumer protection services. I was not exactly certain what the site was about in the first seven seconds. I like a visual clue of what the site is about – it is the first thing I look for. The “As Seen On” logos demand more attention than the big WARNING in the middle. The logos should be reduced in size, and moved to the bottom, allowing more room for more content (a third usable column). I much prefer a fluid width design vs a fixed with a repeating filler background on a left justified design, and on this one, the background just does not match or blend with anything. The overall look and feel of this site is outdated and could do with a fresh coat of paint.

The header, and the images that make it up are a bit bland. There is no logo, and with a site meant for “Consumer Protection”, I feel that should be connected to a brand. A image that connects a user with “consumer protection” would be an advantageous move – Flags are old school…

The use of images to act on behalf of text is a no-no, why? Because search engines cannot see what the images are saying – they see nothing. Furthermore, the navigation is too big and chunky. The text on the buttons is a bit fuzzy possibly making it difficult to read for some. The only thing that makes the use of these buttons “ok” is that it is a small site – too many more of these would be overload – I would have liked to seen the blue left column extended to the bottom of the page.

Function

This site makes no use of meta tags, description, or keywords – They need to think about giving an ‘alt’ attribute to all the images site wide, this way search engines can see the images as text.

The usability of this site gets a 7. The good thing about this site is it has a good amount of content – however the inside pages became very long. A bit of color blocking to draw your eye, and shorter linked pages would be better for this amount of information. I would prefer some visual elements to coincide with the information I am reading – like a call to action button or a small photo that connected me with the information.

For several years now, web development has been moving over to and CSS for layout and presentation. This site was marked up in tables, which is not a great idea in the long run. They produce messy code, are not compliant with current standards and are slow loading. This site did not validate as HTML in the W3C validation tool – there was no DOCTYPE listed in the markup – standards adherence is key to a winning site, and unfortunately this one completely misses with 38 errors.

Conclusion

I found each page on the site to download very quickly on a Cable modem, but would assume a heavier pull on 56K due to the use of so much imagery in the frame of the design.

ShopZilla – Online Shopping Website

Introduction

Straight forward comparative shopping is the main goal on Shopzilla.com. This site is all about finding your product quickly, unhealthy comparing prices among the sixty-five thousand merchants and balancing between the lowest price and best supplier before buying. The look and feel of each page is consistent throughout the site. The two different shades of orange-yellow are original and work well together. The Shopzilla.com logo reinforces the purpose of this web site.

Form

The designers of this web site had the insight to give its customers a few options when searching for goods, recipe which indexes over twenty-nine million products. Customers can search by category using a standard “run of the mill” tabbed menu at the top. There is a handy search by keyword option that can quickly lead you to your destination. The search function also automatically spell checks your keywords. This can be as bad as it is good. Some manufactures misspell product names on purpose, such as using a “z” to make a word plural. On the left-hand side there is also a long list of more specific categories to lead you toward your destination. This list also includes the more popular products that are being search for. It does make for a long list in which you may have to scroll down a good ways to find your link.

The layout of the Shopzilla.com is simple and appealing, offering more than plenty of white space between the different sections. The page widths are set to 100% of the browser window so that all available screen real estate can be taken advantage of. This is important considering the amount of information that is available. Yet popular products on the home page are featured in only one column, which again creates a lot of scrolling down. The extra white space could be used to make a second column for featured products. The price comparison page is arranged in well thought out columns and rows that make it easy to spot the best deal.

Function

Straight forward comparative shopping is the main goal on Shopzilla.com. This site is all about finding your product quickly, comparing prices among the sixty-five thousand merchants and balancing between the lowest price and best supplier before buying. The look and feel of each page is consistent throughout the site. The two different shades of orange-yellow are original and work well together. The Shopzilla.com logo reinforces the purpose of this web site.

Conclusion

Overall, Shopzilla.com is a good web site scoring 8.17 out of 10. With a little bit of tweaking it could be excellent. Most products that I was searching for was easily found. I did find that a few products that I thought would be popular items were only listed with one or two merchants. Of course this didn’t offer much of a price comparison. This is understandable though, as new products surely take a little time before they are listed adequately. Quoting their slogan, Shopzilla.com surely is “The Smarter Way to Shop.”