Fitness Business Radio Media Kit

Throughout my seven years in the design industry, I’ve worked with many clients who directed me through every facet of a project from typesize to colors used. So when a client places their 100% trust in me and my abilities, and gives me creative carte blanche, it’s always special. This was the case for my recent collaboration with Fitness Business Radio.

Fitness Business Radio launched in the Fall of 2005. It is a weekly podcast (which can be downloaded at www.fitnessbusinessradio.com) that focuses on all aspects of the fitness industry, from management to PR. They were in need of a complete media kit, as well as a stationary set (business card, letterhead, mailing label & envelope). When researching the competition, I not only focused on other businesses in the same sector, but also educated myself on what other people were doing to promote their podcasts in general, as the technology is relatively new. After reviewing everything and taking into consideration the audience, I decided to incorporate bold hues and dynamic shapes & graphics to not only emphasize the fitness aspect, but also to hint that listening to Fitness Business Radio can add new energy to any pre-existing business plan. The topics discussed and ideas presented on the program are definitely lively and beneficial in that sense. Each insert page in the Media Kit was stacked and color-coordinated so that when opened, information was easy to find. Pull-quotes and large taglines were also added for visual interest to those just skimming the pages (which is more common than people actually reading every word). The stationary set borrows design elements from the Media Kit, and the end result is a coordinated, consistent piece that has garnered high reviews from everyone who receives it. Fitness Business Radio is consistently rated the number one podcast in it’s field and is now on it’s way to reaching over 40,000 listeners each week.

About The Author

Deborah is an award winning designer who has seen her personal work featured in gallery exhibits around the world, as well as in coffee-table art tomes. She currently operates Oblada Creative (www.oblada.com), a creative boutique that caters to many well-known international clients. Her focus is on providing unique solutions for unique individuals, coupled with “white glove” service.

Do not forget Branding in Web Design

Introduction

HomepageSeek.com is a search engine and directory service that caters to smaller websites. Unfortunately, no rx this website is in dire need of help. Any service offered has the potential to succeed, try and in this case, the presentation is less-than-acceptable and puts a huge damper on prospective success.

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Though HomepageSeek does have the name of the website consistently shown at the top of each page, this is in no way a brand – or even a logo for that matter. (fig. 1) In my opinion, HomepageSeek should invest in a logo – one that is professionally designed, that they can grow with. Presentation is of the utmost importance and with the lack of identity (a logo or brand) the idea being presented is one of poor quality and lack of self-respect.

The design of this website is just as good as the brand, and that’s not saying much. For any type of search engine interface or directory, there must be a level of professionalism involved. This professionalism comes from a design scheme, color combinations, and tasteful graphics – none of which appear on this website.

I would like to see, in addition to a proper element of identity, directory listings contained in the body on a white background with a color scheme appropriated by the identity and logo. The yellow and red color scheme that is in existence now is difficult to read, not to mention the fact that most links are presented in all caps, which makes it even more difficult to interpret. (fig. 2) The search element should be contained in an area, separate from the logo – as this is what most users will be utilizing. The alternate navigation contained in the “What would you like to do?” dropdown should be located conveniently at the top or bottom of the page and transformed into text links.

As it stands now, this website has no form – a two column design is barely evident, however, enhancing the separation would make a huge difference. With the addition of professional-grade graphics to replace the animated gifs, the interface could easily rival that of the competition. Furthermore, utilizing CSS for color and font allocation would save time and energy on updates and additions.

On another note, I would like to see the “recently added” links as part of a right-hand menu with some design element drawing attention to them, followed by the “smart shopping links”.

Function

Though it is easy to navigate through the directory, there is no real navigation. The links present at the bottom of the page seem arbitrarily placed, (fig. 3) and the dropdown at the top would serve better as text links in a space dedicated primarily to those options. The “Hot Spots” should also have more attention directed toward them, as they are user “special interest” tools. (fig. 4) I would also like to see the “Hot Spots” occupy a section devoted to it alone.

I do like the idea of the easy to use directory, but without a proper page design, I am reminded of MLM (multi-level marketing) internet pages that lead a user into a sea of ads, pop-ups and more pages without giving any direction.

As for advertising and promotion, there are no methods exhibited here. I would like to see more emphasis and calls to action on URL additions. These calls to action should be placed above the fold, aesthetically pleasing and attention drawing in design.

I do see many advertisements from outside sources in typical ad format, or text links, however, more attention should be given to HomepageSeek and its services than to outside companies.

Conclusion

This website needs a great deal of help all around. I would suggest starting with a proper identity and researching the competition in order to gain a perspective on what is acceptable throughout the web in terms of design and advertising. From there, I would re-analyze the current website and bring in more form, contrast, and overall aesthetics.

In my opinion, the service offered is unique and has the potential to make HomepageSeek an asset to many users, however, without the presentation this service will not be taken seriously.

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Too Many Ads

Introduction

When I first visited the site, I felt I understood exactly what the company did just by looking at their logo. Their name and slogan says it all. The line graph was a good choice to reinforce to the visitor that they’re a statistics company above all else.

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Their home page design is clean for the most part, if not very exciting. Colors and fonts are consistent in their look and feel, however the bulk ads, annoying pop-ups, and links to external sites such as “Adult DVD Movies Download” gets to be a little much after a few visits. I started to wonder if these people even knew who their advertisers where or cared what kind of image and standards they projected.

As for the internal pages, things get a little ugly, especially if you have log-in problems. There is absolutely no continuity in design or font choice on the error page.

The functional pages such as Profile are a bit better looking, and tend to be more consistent in look and feel.

Function

Once you’re logged-in, there is a simple menu to your left with all of your options for the site. Of course, the expectedly simple act of logging-in is rather difficult if you have a new account, since you can’t use their main log-in screen right away and have to click a link on the failed log-in screen to go to another page to enter your username and password again.

While the internal features of the site are fairly straight forward, it was a bit of a chore to figure out exactly what to do next. Ads, A topic and the fields in which to enter data are all that greet the user on most pages. There are no additional descriptions of the pages’ functionality or help text of any kind. Ease of use rates so-so at best.

Their core service is simple enough and useful enough for most small websites needing a counter and statistical tracking. Their downloadable toolbar, which offers up instant access to your sites’ hits data, is an option for some, but isn’t feasible for those that don’t like extras installed on their computer.

Conclusion

I was not impressed with gostats.com. There are too many ads. There was a lot of amateur design errors throughout their site, it was not very user friendly, and their service just doesn’t compete with the statistical tracking available with most website hosting packages available at many quality ISPs.

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B & Q – diy.com Website

Introduction

Located in the UK, hospital B&Q is a DIY (do-it-yourself) home improvement and garden store. The B&Q website is a good example of what a retailer should strive for on the Internet.

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The B & Q brand is exceptional. It is evident that this company has taken a great deal of time to create an effective color scheme and image for, case not only the company, but the website as well. Overall, this type of branding works well for the home improvement and do-it-yourself retailer.

The design of diy.com is very clean and effective. Categories are nicely placed with complimenting design elements and separated into respective areas. (fig. 1) The color scheme, predominantly shades of orange and white, is enhanced by the addition of color such as green and blue. These color additions bring in and attract interest to a variety of products and areas throughout the website.

The three-column design of this website works well and divides information in a way that the user can easily navigate beyond the home page. In general, the form of this design gives the user the image of professionalism and comfort needed in an online environment.

Function

The navigation of this website is very clean and concise. At first glance, I was impressed at the amount of navigational options presented. The tactful use of multiple navigational elements caters to many different types of users. These elements display products and links in many different ways to attain user interest, whether the user migrates naturally to the search area, the left or top navigation, or straight to the body. (fig. 2)

In addition to the multiple options, the navigational categories are also divided up into sections – those relevant to products and services, and those relevant to the company. This makes it extremely easy for the user to find his or her way around without having to hunt down what is needed.

The advertisements and promotions on this website are definitely noticeable and, above all, they are not offensive. Tactfully, diy.com has placed most advertising elements in the right hand column while various color deviations bring the offers the attention they need. (fig. 3)

The top navigation also includes a “Special Offers” section that leads to a page dedicated to discounted merchandise, making it convenient for the user to view current deals. (fig. 4)

Conclusion

Overall, this website has been well planned and organized. B&Q has successfully given the user an easy to use and aesthetically pleasing interface. As an online presence, diy.com shows strong branding, design – both layout and navigational, and really knows how to indulge the user.

Survey Scout Website Review

Introduction

Survey Scout is a subscription-based service that maintains and provides access to a database of paid survey companies and opportunities. Though Survey Scout does a great job explaining their service, they have forgotten their most important assets.

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The Survey Scout brand is consistent throughout the entire site. The logo, located at the top of each web page, is attractive and relevant to the business image they wish to present. The tag line, “Where your “2 cents” are worth more than you think!” is clever and also relative to the service that is offered.

Though the branding is attractive and consistent, I did find myself completely ignoring it when maneuvering through the website. Since it is pushed to the very top of the browser, for me, it gets lost between the browser tools and the website navigation area. I think if the layout of the web site were reconsidered, a more suitable spot for the logo and tagline could be found.

The design of the website takes a very straightforward position to convey information. On each page there is the logo and tagline, navigation bar, and a large area of informative text that includes calls to action. At the bottom of each page, a simple text navigation area and legal information links are contained inconspicuously and provide the user with another area of standard navigation.

The layout of the website is a standard body layout with no columns and centered within the browser. Considering the scope of information provided, a two or three column design may better suit this type of website. The color scheme consists of a pleasant green, gray, and white combination (the color green psychologically gives the impression of money – something the website is promoting) and works well for this genre of business.

The testimonials are buried at the bottom of the text, and are contained in a gray area, written in green type with a not-so-standard typeface – this makes the text difficult to read (fig. 1). This display of testimonials, an important marketing tool, should be in an easy to read typeface and color, since these are major selling assets for the service. I would like to see Arial or Verdana font, similar to the remainder of the text and highlighted in a white box with a green border or moved to another column and taken completely out of the information body.

In addition, throughout the website, there are very few graphics. On a web site such as this one, I would like to see professional photos of people. Bottom line – ‘people’ sell. When a photo is presented with a testimonial, for instance, it draws attention to the testimonial and gives the user a genuine impression and the idea of sincerity.

Overall, the aesthetic design of the website could use some work. The color scheme works, however the introduction of another color (such as orange) would do more to interest the user and, if used correctly, could make the site pop. Aside from the color scheme, I think the most important issue to re-evaluate is the layout in general. To create a successful flow of information, design elements can be used to break up large, often daunting, areas of text and give the reader information in a tactful manner. Too much text can overwhelm a potential member, causing them to abandon the site early – design elements can help to fix this problem.

Function

The top navigation on the site is easy to use, to the point and relatively attractive. The tabbed format makes it easy for users to navigate and know at all times where they are on the site. (fig. 2) It is consistent throughout the website and is typical in format. Users can easily locate and understand the navigational options.

In addition to the top navigation bar, the text links on the bottom of each page are common and standard in design. The area they are located in is familiar to the individual user and provides easy access to the legalities portion of the site, as well as simple navigation to deter the need to scroll to the top of a page to move throughout the web site.

There seem to be two main aspects of advertising and promotion on this site. First, the testimonials (fig. 1) are located throughout the website where they are positioned within body text or at the very end of a page. As stated in the Design portion of this review, I would like to see more attention directed toward the testimonials. The separation of testimonial and informative text are important for the user to get a clear picture of what the site is about and how the service can benefit the user. More specifically, I would like to see photos and testimonials in a right hand column, implementing design elements to grab attention. People in general are more comfortable reading or listening to other people’s experiences than they are reading ‘convincing’ marketing text.

The second element, which is the most important is actually the call(s) to action located throughout the website. On the homepage, which gives the first impression of the site to the view, contains a call to action at the bottom of the page. (fig. 3) It is buried and users, given the amount of text they must read in order to get to the call to action, may never see it. I would suggest placing it within designated areas throughout the page, and follow the same discipline throughout the remainder of the web site. The call to action should be one of the first elements that the user sees. I would like to see this contained on the left, right under the logo and navigation bar in a three-column layout with appropriate design elements and directive. There is an identifiable lack of attention to the prospect of conversion. The only noticeable element relevant to the call to action is an animated gif located above the fold (fig. 4) with one major mistake – it is not user interactive and it is the only thing, other than the menu that the user may want to click on.

I would like to add that the personal letter on the home page is a nice touch, though it took me many times looking at it to realize it was indeed a personal message. I think I would like a photo to accompany that section as well.

Conclusion

In general this website has good potential. The logo is nice, the color scheme is pleasing aesthetically (though I would add another color to the mix), and the information is useful and to the point. Having said this, I think Survey Scout should pay attention to overall design and try to up the ante with design elements to make their site more appealing and less daunting to the user – ultimately making the website work hard instead of the user.

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SEO Company Website Review

Introduction

Ineedhits.com is a popular SEO company on the internet and has done alot of advertising. As a SEO company, online they have good Google PR and Alexa ranking. I heard alot of stories about the company and decided to visit their website and try out their service.

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I thought the logo is well designed. The dot on top of the “i” looks like a target and the word “hits” in red sort of emphasizes the idea of “bringing hits” for your website. By looking at the logo alone, cialis you feel that the company has the capability to achieve great SEO result for you. The blue is also used consistently on every pages. The gradient on the navigation menu and header gives people a smooth feeling.

The navigation is very simple and easy to use. The 2 tier navigation system is effective and loads quite fast on my modem. On closer look, medicine you will find that all the url are optimized for keywords. For example, The link for “online advertising” is http://ineedhits.com/advertising/online-advertising.aspx and so on.

Red is used effectively to highlight important news such as sales or advertisements. It is not overwhelming and does blends in well with most of the pages. The title and meta-tags for every page is also very well optimized for all the pages.

Function

They have a live chat service which is very useful if you want to find out more about their products. I asked the operator many SEO questions and it seems to me that they are more eager to sell me their products rather than telling me the details. Even their emails contain alot of links asking me to buy this and that…

I decided to sign up their Traffic Trifecta package just to test out their service. I also paid for premium submit which cost $100 in total. After a few days, the optimization was completed and I found out that only 1 of my pages is optimized for title and meta tag. I was also told later that only 1 page is optimized every month with a monthly recurring fee. I wanted to quit the the plan immediately but was persisted to stay for 3 months by their operator. The operator keeps copying and pasting her answers on the screen and that puts me off completely.

Conclusion

Overall, the site is well designed and easy to navigate. It has great appeal for people to use their services. On further investigation, I found that there were too much emphasis on marketing…you see discounts everywhere. A good website should gain the trust of the end-user and therefore should not boost or maket too much but should instead give more details of their products. (Too much advertisement is the problem with most web sites). This is only my experience, it may be different for you.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

Hyperkit Graphic Design

Introduction

IHyperkit are young London-based graphic designers Tim Balaam and Kate Sclater who create websites and print work for art, sales design and architecture firms.

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Hyperkit. Graphic designers for artists, there designers and architects. With a name and a client base like that you somewhat expect their homepage to be aching to impress with Flash effects, grand manifestos and an arched eyebrow. How refreshing it is to arrive and find a simple, well laid-out site that is impossible not to want to root through – which makes a lot of sense as you discover that they love flea markets and have a penchant for high Modernism. Hyperkit obviously put a lot of themselves into the site, even including excellent colour photography from their visits to places that inform their work. If you can contain your jealously for their jetsetting, it is easy to get wrapped up in their headspace and forget that you are essentially looking at a piece of self-promotion.

Navigation is surprisingly simple and visible on all pages – big buttons at the top for the main sections, a bar of projects, and click on an arrow to see more. Finding their clients’ websites is even easier – just a pull-down menu list in the Work section opens the site in a new window. This no-frills approach is not out of laziness – it allows you to concentrate on the work rather than the fluff. The site is well laid-out, but it may annoy some visitors that they can’t see all the content on one screen – a fair bit of scrolling is required, though I feel it adds to the impression of rooting through an interesting range of work.

Function

The site contains a surprising amount of content which, and this is key to a good site, is updated regularly. Laid out much like a journal, each project is put into a Polaroid-like box with a small, quickly-loading image and a brief description. Most of these link to further details about the work or the client’s shiny new website – however, they do seem to be falling off their high horse and seem to be adding less detail with each new project.

Conclusion

Conclude your review. You may also suggest some final tips to improve if any. There are no hard and fast rules in the conclusion (even in the different sections of the review). Be professional. Be honest but not rude.

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