Law Firm Site Review

Introduction

Tedioli is a law firm in Italy specializing in agricultural law, health general civil, sales commercial practice, insolvency and corporate law services. The website is extremely simple but communicates effectively to the end-users.

Form

The menu and layout is simple – cool. It might be a good idea to make the menu stand out more by adding background colors, more pronounced mouseover effects…etc. This is not critical because the current system is already quite functional. The display, however needs to be re-looked. The varying image widths on the right causes the entire table to stretch and contract. They author might want to work on the image sizes or even replace them by adding quick links or texts.

Function

The content of all the pages is short and sweet – good. Long stories tend to bore people easily. The images used in the site need professional help and some are inserted inappropriately. We would also like to see more images relating to customer services. The keywords in the header image could be extracted so that they are visible to the search engines. The author might therefore want to use transparent gifs instead of jpegs for the headers.

The news page should only contain news and not other things. Putting links, judgements and other sections there is not a good idea.

Because of the nature of the industry, we would expect the site to be content focus. All design elements in the site should sell the content and not distract users from reading it; We were particularly distracted by the animated gifs used in the website. As the site is not convincing in terms of its design, the company might want to consider adding a testimonial section with customer faces and quotations to boost the user confidence in the company.

Conclusion

The site is simple and is able to convey its messages easily across to the end-users. However, as a commercial law firm, we would expect some level of professionalism in their website. More work could definitely be done on the fonts, images and layout.

www.tedioli.com.1

www.tedioli.com.2

Melbourne University Website

Introduction

Over the years, nurse the University of Melbourne has established itself as one of the finest in Australia, if not the world. This website provides comprehensive information on everything you want to know about the Melbourne University.

Form

The gracious logo in the middle captured my attention when I first entered the site. The clever interplay between blue, white and multi-racial images communicates well to the end user of what the web site is trying to sell, the quality of their services. Actually, I am convinced that this school is the best simply by just visiting the home page. This is a good example of a well-designed academic site.

Function

The navigation is well organized. Extreme care is taken not to clutter the pages with too much information. However, the switch from 3-column to 2-column layout and vice versa in some pages sometimes confuses the user. I thought the mouse-over effect could be made more effective by avoiding yellow background as the hover. Some of the inner pages uses underlined red effect which I think is better….But then again, it is just me and may not work for everyone.

At times, the left menu seems to drop down a little which seems odd but most of the time, the menu is well aligned. All the information is organized and separated by using green dotted borders, making it easy for the user to read. However, I was abit confused with the sub-menus within each categories. I thought they might be easier to read by adding simple bullets or graphics. The images used are also appropriate and touched up nicely which again shows the professionalism in designing the site.

The only part that I really do not like about the site is the footer…I think too much information is given there and most of them are useless to the end user.

Conclusion

Overall the website has been well structured, consistent and precisely presented. I hope more academic sites can follow the footsteps this one.

www.unimelb.edu.au.1

www.unimelb.edu.au.2

Design and Look Taking A Back Seat

Introduction

The Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) is a non-profit society which promotes Internet development in Australia for the whole community. ISOC-AU is a chapter of the world-wide Internet Society

Function

This is a site that clearly embraces accessibility as a key concern, nurse stating right at the start that it supports international web accessibility guidelines – see http://www.w3.org/WAI/. Creating a site that is accessible is so important, not just so that disabled users can access the site, but also so that your message can get through to people no matter what computer, what browser, or what plugins they are using. The flipside of this is that accessible websites aren’t the most attractive of sites and can scream normality.

Accessible sites often means that a specific design or look has to take a back seat – text size, font, and hence layout need to be chosen by the user’s settings rather than the designer’s aesthetic sensibilities. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to create a beautiful and accessible site – it shouldn’t be an either/or situation – just that a lot more thought and flexibility needs to go into planning.

Form

So, how does ISOC-AU stand up to these challenges? Design-wise, the site does look very ‘normal’ – a very simple HTML text-driven site using simple tables and anchor points and bog-basic links. The choice of colours compliment the logo, and the few photos used add a feeling of friendliness, though hovering over images with the mouse doesn’t reveal an .alt tag – this is a very useful function for blind users as speciaised browsers can be set to read out the image descriptions.

The design, such as it is, is consistent throughout the main sections of the site, but on further browsing you find pages and documents with different looks and uses of typeface. A great deal of information and resources are available and parity seems very important – meetings are minuted and accessible to all. As the site is text-based with lots of links, Google ‘spiders’ (the little mites the search engine giant uses to index pages) will love every page and is more likely to give it a good rating. Interestingly, the Society says that a similar method is used by spammers to detect email addresses and as a result, the ISOC-AU site shows all contact addresses as ‘bill(at)hotmail.com’ rather than ‘bill@hotmail.com.’ This is all well and good, though it prevents you from simply clicking on a link to email someone.

Navigation is available throughout the main headings, but clicking for more information often leads to another page with no navigation. There isn’t much ‘flow’ to the site, and it is easy to inadvertently skip to other sections. Unfortunately, as there is no breadcrumb menu (eg. Home > About Us > Objectives of the Society) and the section being browsed is not highlighted, so remembering where you are can sometimes be difficult – especially when clicking to a link for another, very similar looking site. Other solutions to this could be using frames or opening some content in a new window, however both these options have accessibility issues.

Conclusion

Sometimes a victim of its good intentions, the site clearly communicates what it is about from the start. The main sections work well, though on further browsing things can get more labyrinthine. Adding a breadcrumb menu would really help matters, as would a clearer structure and a site map. For a society focused on the internet, it’s surprising that an enthusiast hasn’t created a more effective site.

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.