Anton Paar – Professional Measuring Instruments

Anton Paar GmbH produces high quality measuring and instruments for industry and research. The company is big with many branches worldwide. Their official website looks professional as well with lots of technical content.

Form and Function

The homepage looked simple enough when I first saw it. Mouse hovering the top and middle menu implied that the website itself must be very rich in content. For example, there were so many links when I mouse over the “product” link. All the links worked (the web team must be doing their job well). However, the top and middle menu wasn’t that attractive. I was drawn to the media gallery link on the right side.

The “Product highlights” and “News” sub sections in the homepage looked quite plain. I suggest using some thumbnails beside the text to make the homepage more lively.


Fig 1. Impressive media popup

The videos in the media gallery looked pretty impressive. The 3d animations were fantastic. There were even games to be played. The only complain I had was that the video streaming was too slow for me. Perhaps they should give users an option to choose between different video quality. Popups can be annoying. Having one separate media section within the main site might be another possibility.


Fig 2. Detail product pages

The product pages had the “products”, “industries” and “service/support” menu moved to the top as secondary navigation. Take three products for example, the Refractometer, Rheometer and Oxygen Meter, one could see that these pages were pretty consistent in terms of design and layout. The right column looked a bit empty though. If the idea was to promote certain cutting-edge equipment such as the MCR rheometer, oxygen meter or any other high end R & D instruments, then having them as banners on the right side might help. I also noticed the news section occasionally appeared on the right side – There should be thumbnails accompanying the news to lure more clicks.

What actually impressed me most was that the website actually supports different languages. Users can click on the language link on the top right to chose their preferred language (and it wasn’t using a translation software).

Conclusion

The site was professional in terms of design and content but looked a bit “robotic” to me. Even though the company could be producing measuring instruments, their website could be more lively. Perhaps having more human in pictures might bring more life to the site. Adding a bit of social media buzz might also help to engage users a bit more. A company like Anton Paar should have their own Facebook and Twitter page?

Automotive news and car reviews

thatsauto.com is a website designed to provide news on automobiles. There are also sections in the site that provides tips on buying and selling cars. The website looked relatively new to me and I am sure the author would want to add more content to the site to attract more people.

Form and Function

Upon arrival at the site, I was greeted by big “fast company” image (as seen on the screen shot). The rest of the images seemed to be 425 x 283 px. I thought the author should consider using smaller thumbnails and also be more consistent with image sizes especially on the homepage. The first impression is important.

The headers seemed to be a bit messed up. Slicing up the header banner up into tables is not a good idea today. I also thought that “News – Reviews – Recalls – Advice” were clickable but didn’t turned out to be so. The homepage also had a lot of empty spaces especially on the right. The footer seemed to be quite out of place and the w3c link linked to a page full of errors.

Clicking on the links in the homepage brought me to the blogs. The blogs was running on wordpress and obviously had better space management. Like the homepage, the blogs didn’t have a proper and consistent header banner as well. After looking at the homepage and the blog, I was wondering why the author didn’t run the whole website in wordpress but rather chose to have a blog running separately within the site. The picture gallery was again linked to a page with a different look and feel. Having separate apps running different parts of the site might be quick and easy to set up but poses usability issues.

Aestehtically, the site was plain and boring. There was not enough news and images to keep me entertained.

Conclusion

The domain name is good. The author should consider using a central cms (possibly wordpress) for the whole site and put in more effort to build up credible content with quality images. There are a lot of people interested in cars and I am sure that with enough effort, the site can gain more fans.

Divination, Astrology and Spirituality

findyourfate.com is an online portal on divination, astrology, horoscope and a wide range of esoteric practices. There is a good chance that a spiritual person or someone into divination would find what they want in there.

The homepage was packed with information. I was drawn to the mid section of the page displaying a wide range of clickable topics like Astrology, Horoscopes, Numerology, Prophecy, Planets…etc. Comparatively, the top menu didn’t seem to be that obvious.


fig 1. Table design needs to be relooked

I thought the table borders looked ancient. There were no consistency in table design. In fig1, the width of the bottom table was smaller than the top table. There were also nested tables with different border colours. Perhaps it is time to re-look at the layout and go for tableless design?


fig 2. The footer in the homepage


fig 3. The footer in the subpage

Looking at fig 2 and fig 3, I could see that they were designed differently without proper templates. The footer needs to be more consistent across different pages of the site. The frontpage seemed to be promoting subdomains more than the sub pages. The subdomains again looked very different from the main site. Perhaps the website was undergoing an overhaul and the webmaster was trying out some new things.

The Pisces Horoscope sub-domain looked more modernised but the header was equally inconsistent. Clicking on different links within the sub-domain brought me to a different world again. I felt like I was alice lost in the wonderland.


fig 4. A brand new modelling website

It looked like findyourfate branched out into modelling as well. I was not sure whether it was a good idea because I could not relate divination and astrology to modelling. My mood was changing so rapidly on every pages that I clicked and I was starting to get more and more confused.

A quote from http://www.findyourfate.com/model/

“findyourfate.com is not just a fashion portal.Its realms extend much beyond its presence on the networked world.”

I also saw many other interesting sections like matrimonials, and even dating. Perhaps findyourfate.com moved too far away from their primary business?

Conclusion

findyourfate.com scores very highly in content and I am sure spiritual people would find the “main site” interesting.

The problem I had was the lack of focus in the topics. When venturing into not so related business like dating, modelling and gem shopping, it might be better to branch them out as a different business (different domain names) and not try to relate them to findyourfate. I was totally lost with the different navigation system and layout of the subsites eventhough some of the subsites looked much better than the findyourfate.com main site.

Just like some of the subpages, findyourfate should use a modern content management system to provide more consistency in terms of layout which would also improve usability.

Enjoy Your Life in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

berksandbucks is an online lifestyle magazine about everything in berkshire and buckinghamshire. The portal has many great articles on food, events, properties and competitions – You name it, you get it. The website is a subsite of greatbritishlife.co.uk and share the same layout and colors.


fig1. blurry logo?

upon first visit, I was struck by the logo on the top left corner. The words "Buckinghamshire Life" on the logo was hard to read. The homepage looked really busy with a lot of events happening. I could not control myself not to look at the pictures in the content area which seemed to be interesting.

The general layout looked quite standard and professional. I couldn’t find any broken links and all urls were nicely structured. Adverts were nicely placed on the top, right column and footer. The cms seemed to be doing its job well quite well.

Although the navigation menu was well structured, the content was quite overwhelming. The top navigation was 2-tier and there was also the left menu to look at. Where should I start? I thought there were some redundant sections. For example, there was a "blogs" and "forum" in every top category like property, style, family, magazine…etc and also a "community blog" and a "community forum" on the left menu. How about removing blogs and forum from the top menu?


fig 2. About us in a weird category

I wanted to find out what the website was about but couldn’t find "about us". I eventually found it under magazine. I thought that was a weird category to be in as I expected it to be a category by itself. Putting it in the footer might be a better idea?


fig 3. Is she Mary, Tessa or Sara?

The about us page was informational. The was a blurry picture of a lady (Is she the owner?) which was great but I didn’t have a clue who she might be until I moused over a "get in touch" link. I eventually saw a link "click here to view the full list of contacts" which led me to nowhere as well. A bit more information or clearer picture of the team behind the website would be great.


fig 4. Language translation

I particularly liked the "translate" feature although I don’t believe there are any real good translators out there. The translation was slow (probably using a third party system). Nevertheless, it was a good effort to be multi-lingual.


fig 5. firebug showed that top flash banner didn’t stop loading

It looked like the top banner was keeping the page busy by constantly downloading new flash images. It might be interesting to keep the user busy with changing top banner – an interesting concept but I was not sure I liked that.


fig6. Nice detail article page

Most of the articles were all laid out nicely. I was impressed at the quality of images with the main content. The Bershire Food and Drink category looked really cool and interesting. Looking at the rating and comments, there didn’t seem to be a lot of user participation. This might be another area for the author to look at – how to engage their users in their website activities? How about running a competition that get people to use the website?

Conclusion

Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life is a website very rich in content. Most images looked great and all content seemed to be carefully edited. This is all well and good but I still feel that it is too overwhelming for most people and that the content could be better categorised to improve usability.

The editors might want to sit down and re-plan the site navigational structure, possibly streamlining the number categories in the website. I would start looking at some popular news portal bbc.co.uk and wn.com as a start.

Search Engine Optimisation Company In UK

Upon visiting the website, sale I was greeted with a nice header image and a clear message in front of me – “Search Engine Optimisation, sovaldi Increase your sales, Revenue and ROI” and “Get higher Search Engine Rankings”. Although the homepage was still full of text, I got the message of what the website was conveying. Users would know immediately if they were in the right site or not. I also liked the “Call Us” text at the header. It showed that they were willing to talk to their customers.


fig1. Nice image to break text monotony

Like a typical seo website, all the pages were full of text. The challenge is to have enough text for seo purposes and yet not make the site boring. I thought SEOladder did quite well in this aspect. The colours and images blended in well with the content. The injection of nice graphics in appropriate places broke the monotony of the text. The placing of the lady image in the “about” section is a great example (fig 1). As a designer, I would still love the website to be more exciting with more images and lesser text. Oh yes, bigger font size would also be a good idea.

To make the website more interesting, the author might consider rotating the header image for different sections of the website. I would love to see some real pictures of the the people behind the scenes. So perhaps having some pictures of the authors under “About Us” or “Contact Us” might be a good idea?


fig 2. Newsletter subscription box could be sidewide?

The right column seemed cool with the Facebook and Twitter images. However, in the homepage, there were some empty spacing towards the footer of the page. Perhaps the newsletter subscription box could be on the right column just below to submit button instead of putting it near the footer in the homepage. The newsletter box could also be placed sidewide.

The Twitter link actually linked to the buyblogreviews account. This account could be a sister site to SEOladder but I still thought it is a good idea to have a separate Twitter account for branding purpose.

Conclusion

The website is a good place to visit if you are looking for seo in london. As a search engine optimisation company, SEOladder is definitely heading in the right direction of not over “seoing” the site. To improve the website credibility, I would suggest the author to proof read all the content again and perhaps insert some testimonials if any.

FaceFlow – A Web-Based Video Website

Upon entering the site, sales I questioned exactly what it was. The graphics and introduction text indicated that it had something to do with video, patient but did not offer enough information above the fold as to why I would want to use it since I already use a video conferencing program.

The look and feel is a clean web2.0 layout, there however, there is no navigation menu, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly what is being offered. The main focus area flips through three informational bits that tell you that you can use FaceFlow for video conferencing, group chat and to meet people. However, it does not state clearly enough that you do not have to download any software to use the program. This would be nice to know immediately.

Fig1: Focus Area - Needs a clearer message

The graphics in the focal area are of a decent quality, but to me, they are not clear enough to sell a user into signing up for the service. I would totally redesign this focal area, stating clearly that FaceFlow is a free web-based video conferencing service that requires no software download. I would design a single graphic that details this versus the three screens they currently rotate.

Also within the focus area, there is a link for a faceflow youtube video and the quality is good, but that still does not give enough information about what it is or why I would want to use it. The video immediately states that “FaceFlow is easy to use, sign up for free”. This is not what I expect in an introduction video. I instead expected, more details about what it is, why I should use it, how I can use it, THEN show me the sign up process.

Scrolling down the page offers some resolve to the question of what the capabilities of the program are but again does not offer enough information about what FaceFlow IS, or why I would want to use it.

The focus is obviously on getting a user to sign up for the service, but I personally do not just sign up for things that I am unsure of. It would need to be useful to me, and I just do not get that message within the main page of the site. As mentioned above, I feel that the main page content needs to be rethought out.

Fig2: "Why" is finally answered

I decided to click on the link under the instant messaging heading and was taken to a page that offered more details on the IM portion of their service. At the top of the page, I finally got what I was looking for on the front page – text that states why I would want to use FaceFlow. However, past that I was stuck… again, the lack of navigation was an issue. There was also a features link at the footer but that seems to come in a bit late.

Fig3: Navigation with SEO (not users) in mind

There is no Home button, so I usually click on a logo to go home, but it was not click-able. Scrolling to the bottom offers a navigation menu (mind you that it is different than the one offered on the home page) that did get me back to the home page, but did NOT offer me any clear idea of navigating around the site for information. The menu instead is created for SEO purposes and not for users.

I did click from link to link within the text areas of each page so I was able to view all of the pages in the site, but an average user would not think to do this. They would be confused and just leave. Also noted in my perusing the pages, the fonts used in the sign up buttons change three times, the visited link are the standard purple and do not fit within the scheme of the design, and the spacing of the footer navigation needs some attention – should be laid out as it is on the home page throughout the site.

Conclusion
I would guess that faceflow could be a good product to connect with friends using only a browser, but cannot sense that this would be a useful business tool.  However, with some attention to the details of their message mentioned in this review, FaceFlow could rebrand itself as an application that speaks to businesses as well as average users.

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".

Wheelbase – A high quality experience

Wheelbase is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of alloy wheels and performance tires. They have been providing the public with top quality products for over 15 years.

Upon entering the site, it is evidently clear what the purpose of the site is – to sell wheels. The layout is clean and efficient, and exactly what I expect to see on a motor based site. Design looks like a shopping cart site, but again, expected. The color scheme is pleasing, and fits well with the subject. The left side of the page is well designed offering clean images with suggestions about where to begin perusing their site.

Search Options
Fig1. Search Options

My eye is immediately drawn to the “alloy wheel search” located in the center of the page, and this is where I began browsing. The three pull down menus offer several makes of automobiles, followed by their models and finally an option to view sizes of wheels and tires. This worked efficiently with no errors. I was inclined to want to click a search button, but instead was immediately directed to a page of choices suited for my chosen car. I did note that many automobiles are not listed within their makes, as the car I currently drive, a Mercury Mountaineer, was not listed.

Search Results
Fig2. Search Results

I chose a “Ford” + “F150” + “Show all sizes” for my search. The results are displayed in order by size from the smallest to the largest. The thumbnail images are spaced nicely and are of a high quality. The prices are clearly displayed below the products in GPB, which is the default method due to the company being based in the UK. They have made it simple to change the price display option with a simple click at the page top converting the standard display to either US or Euro.

I was not looking for a specific brand of wheel, but the site has taken that into consideration by offering a concise drill down including display by brand, model, color and style. This makes it very easy for users who are comparison based on knowing exactly what they are looking for. I also found it smart that the company displays a Top 5 Wheels suggestion just to the right of the search results. I feel this is a good selling tactic for someone who does not know exactly what they are looking for.

I chose the first wheel displayed in my result listing, the Decorsa 20″ Alloy. The now larger image was of a high quality and nicely spaced to the left of the text description. The enlarged image, when you hit Zoom, is very clear and offers a detailed picture of the product. From here  you can add the product to your cart, or browse their suggested pairings for tires that fit the wheel you have chosen. They also clearly promote the ability to speak to an expert which is very smart considering that the purchase wheels and tires is a large purchase that someone would want to do right. I added this item to my cart and went through the checkout process up to where the final purchase is made. There were no issues, very simple and left me with no questions about my intended purchase.

Navigation Bar
Fig3. Clearance, Competition and The Zone

With my ordering experience final, I began going through their navigation bar. They offer a Clearance section that displays products that are discounted. When clicking on one, the system they have in place remembers your previous make and model selection and notifies you if the wheel you have chosen will not fit your car. You can continue to browse through, however they do want to get you back to the selections that are matched for your car and clicking OK in the prompt takes you back to the search results page mentioned above.

Friendly competition and targeted content makes for a sticky site:

They offer a monthly competition to win a set of tires, with the winner being selected by random draw on the last day of the month after answering a single question. I find this a very good way to engage a user, and keep the site sticky. They have a gallery of cars sporting their wheels, which would give a user a decent idea of how a specific wheel would look on their car.

My husband particularly enjoyed the site’s Wheelbase Zone, which I found to be a very good way of keeping their target market, men, entertained. They offer photos and profiles beautiful ladies, several modeling with the sites product, screensavers and news from the company.

Finally in the navigation bar, I went to the Wheels Advice section which I found a valuable asset, as it offered tips and suggestions for the care and maintenance of your wheels and tires. This is also great for the site’s organic SEO as the phrases found in the page are questions that people would search for.

Conclusion:

In closing, the point of site is clearly sales, no advertisements in sight. While I am not the person that would use this site, I do rate my experience here very high. I was not misdirected within my purchase path – it was very clear and easy. I was not offered ways that led me away from the point of my visit, to browse and possibly purchase their products. I was not offended by their display or content even though the target market is clearly men. I found this site to be rememberable and a I had good enough experience that I would refer it to others who were looking for products of this type.


Sitecritic.net award

* This is not just a typical ecommerce site. A lot of effort has been put into it to make it stand out from the crowd. Wheelbase alloy wheels fully deserves an award.

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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Antique Books

Golden Books Group is a UK company that buys and sells antique or rare leather bound books. goldentbooksgroup.co.uk is their online platform to showcase their company and sell their books to the world.

Form and Function

As compared to other modern day e-commerce websites, goldenbooksgroup.co.uk appeared to be a bit boring although this could be due to the nature of the business. The standard 3 column layout was pretty consistent throughout all the pages. I noticed the left and right menu had fixed width with the centre column stretchable. This might look OK if users are on 800 x 600 resolution but nowadays, people with high resolution screen might not find the layout appealing, ie there would be too much white space in the centre column.

From the usability point of view, it took me a few clicks to browse to the products I want. Unless people know what they want, trying to navigate via the categories can be confusing. I suggest less words but more visuals. Having the categories as graphics in the centre content area in the home page might help navigation – or perhaps showcase some books directly on the home page so that user can have a one click checkout.


fig 1. Category landing page is a bit confusing.

I found the category header image in the products page a bit confusing. Say I wanted to order the angela brazil collection (see fig 1), why give me the option to enlarge the header image? How is that image related to the brazil collection? It took me a few seconds to see the “add to shopping cart” button mainly because the button and the quantity box was in a different location.


fig 2. Books detail page looks better.

Clicking on the Angela Brazil collection of 30 Decorative Girls Book Library led me to another detail page (fig 2) which was making more sense. I was now able to view a larger image of the product I want, change the quantity and add the library to the shopping cart or wish list.


fig 3. Why show off the accreditations in the headers?

I was not sure why the author chose to include logos of various memberships in the page header. Perhaps they were there to give users some confidence when purchasing from the site? Putting them under about us should be enough?

Conclusion

In conclusion, goldenbooksgroup.co.uk has great content but lacks the “black hole effect”. As such, people who know what they are looking for may stay but passerbys may not stay for long. I believed another reason why the whole site looked a bit plain was because there wasn’t much activity going on. I would suggest running some marketing campaigns, promotions, discount vouchers, mailing lists..etc. Although the graphics had been optimised, most of them looked a bit low quality and dark to me. Perhaps someone could take pictures of all the books again with better lighting.

I am sure there are many ways to make the site more interesting and usable and I looked forward to see some great change. One good example of a site that runs a similar business is http://www.baumanrarebooks.com