Saturday, September 29, 2007

Information Architecture Institute

http://www.iainstitute.org

Intended Audience:

Degreed IAs, and career-related professionals, IA students and prospective IA students.


Usefulness of the Content:

I would imagine this content is useful for the professional who wants to network with other IAs, or find out about conferences. So the site fulfills its primary function.

Students can access information about IA as a profession through "Learning IA," but this information is out-of-date and not all of the links work.

I think the institute could do more to advocate for the profession to college and graduate students. By publicizing job fairs, having up to date information on feeder programs, and hosting a live on line chat with an IA professional.


Consistency of Design:

The design team for this site chose four highlight colors (indigo, green, aqua, and gold) which is generally more than you would see in most heavily branded sites, i.e. IKEA.
I like the color combination but think it has not been used to its greatest advantage. The impact and pop-y nature of the color scheme could be enhanced with larger graphics and more dynamic menus. Since, most users of this site will have fast internet the load time of the page is not an issue.

They have incorporated color coding in to the navigation scheme of the site with each of the four global navigation labels assigned a color, e.g. gold for About us, indigo for IA networks.

Navigating away from the home page using the top navigation bar the particular color is used more in the sub sites. This is a nice way to orient the user.


Ease of Navigation:

Navigating through the this site is largely intuitive. There is no site map or index which belies the site's size. The site's global navigation includes four topic labels: About Us, IA networks, Learning IA, and Member Services. By clicking on one of these you can see the local navigation system, which uses the typical hyperlinked text. The navigation bars are in the usual places so most users are not disoriented, if they get lost there is a search bar at the top left corner.

http://www.hoddinott.com/


Intended Audience:

Those who are interested in learning how to draw or who want to enhance the drawing technique and skills

Usefulness of Content:

This is a super cool website with tons of useful contents about drawings for beginner/intermediate/advanced. As a beginner at an infantile stage of art world in general, I made an attempt to follow each step to imitate the sample drawing. Voila! As I was reading through "resource," "learn to see," "draw with lines," "squirky" "perspectives I"...etc, I found myself following the step with a better understanding on this drawing art itself. A sample drawing for each step chrystalizes what the content is intended to portray. From users' perspective, it is easier to understand the content when there is a visual aid like this website.

Consistency of Design

Well designed for its consistency. When encountering the page for the first time, users can see the overall layout of the contents for each level of drawings. For color scheme for each level of users, the web page maintains the same color indicator throughout the site. For beginner, it is green; for intermediate blue; and for advanced brown. Click the beginner menu source, and you can clearly identify the source you want to find. On the left column is located the menu for each level in accordance with its designed color scheme. Each menu is categorized into each sub section that contains the lesson titles.

Ease of Navigation

Though it is easy to navigate and utilize the web content, there's one thing I found out later that I needed to create an account to implement the site content. My drawspace, drawing lessons, gallary and forums are the top menu bar across each page of the site, which directs the users' attention to their interest area. Consistent color scheme and orderly, hierarchical arrangements of the web content are certainly a boon to easeness of navigation on this web site. The search engine was not available for my drawspace though.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Internet Public Library


Internet Public Library
www.ipl.org

The Internet Public Library developed at the University of Michigan by students in the School of Information and SI classes and currently maintained by a consortium of universities offers a wealth of authoritative information. It is the first Internet library created for users of the web.

Intended Audience:
The audience scope is extremely broad offering fun links in the Kidspace that children will enjoy and find useful to homework help for college students. The Teenspace not only offers high interest topics and links but also provides on-line community opportunities. College professors, utilizing IPL's reference question resource, find it a useful tool for training reference librarians. The University of Texas School of Information utilizes this program. Parents and teachers can locate can also fine helpful information as well. The Internet Public Library has something to offer basically anyone.

Usefulness of Content:
There are 40,000 librarian approved links grouped into broad categories full of valuable information on this site. Another service the IPL provides is their "Ask a Question Reference Service" which is a free service for anyone to use.

Consistency of Design:
The navigation categories are located on the left side of the page throughout the IPL web site except in the Teenspace; they are on the right side in that space. The format stays pretty consistent throughout the site.

Ease of Navigation:
As long as you're in IPL, navigation is straight forward. It gets clunky once you utilize the links. The only way I have found to get back to IPL's site is to use the back arrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Glasstire


Glasstire is a website devoted to Texas visual art. Visitors can click around and get a good feel for what is going on in Texas art today. There are many links to museum websites, art news in Texas and beyond, calendars of events, and picture and video galleries. Artists can create a username and login to submit artwork for inclusion on the site. Visitors can submit events to be posted on the calendar.

Intended Audience

Glasstire is informing the art-minded masses in Texas. I doubt many people stumble over this site. Visitors probably know about it through word of mouth or perhaps the articles get reposted on other sites. I checked a few link popularity sites and Glasstire is "not very popular" when it comes to popularity-by-linking measurements.

Usefulness of Content

If art is one of your interests, the site content would be very useful. For people who have a lifestyle of keeping up on art scenes and movements, they could go to this site and with a little reading, be updated on the major happenings in Texas.

Consistency of Design

Glasstire kind of reminds me of a myspace page in that there is a lot of content going on for every page and topic but everything is easily readable in that titles are all the same font and color, and the same is true for links, dates, locations. For every event, article, feature, you can easily identify the title of the piece and any vital information that has been included. So that is pretty helpful on a page where there are a lot of colors.

Ease of navigation

I wouldn't say the site is easy to navigate. I spent quite a while looking for some videos that my friend posted. General navigation is simplified due to the omnipresent menu of pages in the upper left hand corner. All the text of the sidebars is kind of small, though, so it is pretty easy to ignore.

Overall, not my favorite site but it serves it's purpose well and does it in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

A website designed to collocate movie reviews into a visual representation of rotten vs. fresh. Rotten Tomatoes’ FAQ touts that this method is an objective resource due to its amassing of the nation’s top print and online film critics and then averaging their reactions.

Target Audience:

Audience can fit in the spectrum ranging from casual movie-goers to fine* film connoisseurs.

*completely subjective

Usefulness of Content:

The website creates a pool of resources for readers to access in both quick summations via the “Tomatometer”, and through forums, discursive articles, and full-length reviews. The “Tomatometer” is the site’s barometer of a movie’s awesomosity. Besides being an aggregator of reviews the website also provides readers access to trailers, synopses, show times/tickets, DVD and video game news, and a local social networking system called “The Vine”.

Consistency of Design:

The colors are complimentary, muted, and earthy. Each section is self-contained in boxes so as to break the information into easily digested segments. When you choose a specific movie it opens to a new page which follows the same format as the main page.

Ease of Navigation:

Upon first navigating Rotten Tomatoes the overload of information might be disconcerting. Ads alongside the top and right hand side of the page are often animated and can lead to distraction if easily attracted to shiny things. On the left hand side is a box containing new releases and their status of either rotten or fresh, signaling whether the movie is a magnum opus or a dud. Each movie has its own dedicated page with a “Critic’s Tomatometer” which clearly indicates if the movie is considered “fresh” (at least 60% positive reviews) or “rotten”. Below the tomatometer are snippets of reviews enclosed in conversation bubbles with links to the full versions.

Virgin Radio

www.virginradio.co.uk

Intended Audiences
People who listen to virgin radio whether from radio, satellite radio or online.

Usefulness of Content
This site gives a lot of information regarding music especially british music since Virgin Radio is an England-based radio station. The site not only covers the radio shows but also covers all information regarding artists, music festivals, news, concerts, music events, awards, etc. The site also serves as a platform for music enthusiats to interact with each other. All in all, if you listen to Virgin Radio and like the type of music they play on the station, this site pretty much gives you everything you need to know regarding these music.

Consistency of Design
The site is divided into 5 basic topics: Music, DJS/Shows, Interact, News, and Freebies. I think these topics are really clear cut and each topic has different color so when you click any of the topic, the pages in each topic will also have the same color as the topic itself. The format of each of the topic's main page is the same so everything is very consistent throughout the site.

Ease of Navigation
I found that navigating this site is confusing sometimes since they have a lot of information on each page and it just seemed really overwhelming sometimes. Eventhough the site tries to group everything into the 5 main topics and signify each topic by different color, the information and content in each topic is still so much. There are basically too many things going on in each page that I find it very distracting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

THOMAS - Legislative Information (Library of Congress)

Site: thomas.congress.gov

Intended Audience: Anyone seeking legislative information from the Library of Congress

Usefulness of content:

Pros: One stop shop for Congressional Activities/Info
Extremely useful in gaining up to date Congressional actions; including, but not limited to:
Bills, Resolutions
Activity in Congress
Congressional Record
Schedules, Calendars
Committee Information
Presidential Nominations
Treaties
Government Resources
Info for Teachers

Users can browse for Bills with filters by Representative/Sentator (Sponsors), date of legislation, etc.

The user is provided a free-text search-box for Bills on most pages.

Offers a learning section to allow users to learn more about the Congress & its processes. Additionally, information is provided specifically for school teachers to use as tools in educational institutions.

It maintains 'breadcrumbs' atop the page, so the user knows where he's delved into.

Cons:

Sponsors are not sorted by state, to make it easier for users who do not know their rep's name; however they do provide a state annotation for those willing to dig through the list for their own state.

Though it has a local Navigation area on the left, the site does NOT have a Global Navigation area across the top. Instead external links are included in the left (typically local) navigation area. This can confuse users when one is clicked and the entire site changes.


Consistency of design
Font properties, layout, and overall look is consistent throughout. It has internal links in a distinctly shaded box. These links share the same template. Links not in the shaded box lead to different government sites, outside the Library of Congress control.

Ease of navigation
Very simple.
The template's consistency ensures that options always remain the same.
The breadcrumbs make it easy to determine where you are within the site.

Penny Arcade!

www.penny-arcade.com

Intended Audience
Geeks. People who play video games and/or are into video game culture. Internet-savvy people with a certain sense of humor. True, sometimes I have to get my husband to explain why certain things are funny or who someone is, but it's pretty accessible (says me).

Usefulness of Content
Well, I guess that depends. If you're my mom, it's not useful or funny at all, but if you're interested or invested in tech, geek, or game culture, it's really useful. The creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, post under their online handles, Tycho and Gabe, three times a week about news and events mostly related to the video game world. Or, sometimes, completely unrelated.

Consistency of Design
This is pretty good. They've made something of a bold choice to have a navy blue-based site, in these days of black, gray, and beige on white seeming so ubiquitous, but it's looked the same since I started reading it, and I will say this: you will definitely know if, following a link, you've left the site.

Ease of Use
This is good. Main components are linked prominently: Home, Archive, Comic, and Forum are all clearly across the top, as well as links to other Penny Arcade projects. The only traditional website component missing, really, is an About section, but it's easy to find info on these guys and this site around the web, and their multiple searching options make up for the loss.

3rd post: IKEA.com

Intended audience: Mostly young women who are just getting their first home. They don't have a lot of money, but they want to decorate their home stylishly.

Usefulness of content: The information is pretty useful. It allows you to first pick what region your in and then it takes you to that main page where you can choose what room you want to decorate. It allows you to see what products the store carries and gives you pictures of sample rooms all decorated with IKEA furniture. This is a great page for amateurs looking to decorate their home.

Consistency of design: The design is very consistent. The page is mostly white with the orange-yellow headings. The menu at the top which breaks the site down into rooms is always there no matter where you go within the site. Then once you click on the room you want to work on, a menu comes up on the left listing all of the possible furnishings you might need in that particular room.

Ease of Use: This site is very easy to use. The navigation is intuitive because I would naturally want to look at the part of their website that corresponds to the room I want to decorate. Then I would want a list of all the possible things that could go in that room. It is also easy to spot the search bar, contact information, how to locate a store, and where to go to sign in to your account.

www.flaminglips.com

Intended Audience: Fans of Oklahoma City's weirdest sons, The Flaming Lips! This site is an excellent resource for both long time fans and everyday folks just slightly interested. It provides in depth history and information for those willing to spend the time looking, but also offers brief sound clips and videos for those stimulated by the multimedias.

Usefulness of Content: While some band websites are basically a front for the webstore, flaminglips.com actually offers quite a bit of useful and interesting content. The band time line/biography (of seven parts, no less!) is an excellent chronicle of all the sonic twists and turns the lips have taken through the years, and the news posts come pretty frequently as well. There is a webstore, and despite my earlier comments, it does offer a wide variety of the basics: shirts, posters, etc.

Consistency of Design: Relatively impeccable, actually! This is a very slick site, all hot pinks, large colorful graphics, and neat looking navigation tabs. One thing that may have bothered me at first was the complete lack of black text- always white on pink, pink on darker pink, etc- but I've gotten used to it by now. One music nerd note: this current incarnation of the site has been in existence since the band released "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" in 2002 (hence, the pinkness). While they did add a few new banner images with the release of their last album, the site still looks very much the same. It's nice, but a bit stale.

Ease of Use: The tabs at the top of the site make navigation breezy, and the content found beneath is usually kept simple and easy to follow without much clutter. My only qualm would be that while you can click around most parts of the site and stay in the same browser window, going to the store takes you to another one. It doesn't bother me that much, but it is something.

Value Based Management

http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/

Intended audience
Ostensibly, anyone seeking information regarding management theories, methods, and models. However, the organization of the web site and the use of key phrases make me think that they specifically want people to come from search engines so that they can sell ads.

Usefulness of content
This web site seems to contain every imaginable management buzzword. For each topic, it gives a short overview, possibly a picture, links to related topics, links to related books on Amazon, and about a dozen text-based ads. For someone who has heard a management phrase and just needs a quick explanation, this content is actually quite useful in its brevity and accuracy. If you wanted more details, this site would not provide enough depth for you, and if you wanted to buy something, you'd really be in luck.

Consistency of design
The design is very consistent. On the main page, there are five columns of links, which do double-duty as topic descriptions. The links are organized by topic at the column level and alphabetically within each column. The font is consistently small throughout the site. The design is also consistent between pages for specific topics. The title, description, links, and ads for each topic appear in the same place, although the placement of the picture varies. This is not distracting, however, as the design is very basic. Actually, the design is so plain that it's clear the designers were not concerned with aesthetics here, which leads me to believe that they were focused on content.

Ease of navigation
The thing that really struck me about this website was the difficulty of finding anything on the main page. The font is tiny, and I estimate that there are roughly 350 links off of this single page. Also, the major topics on the page (for example, "Strategy - Value Creation", "Valuation - Decision Making", and "Organization - Change - Culture") appear broad and overlapping. Some topics appear in multiple columns. The main page links to specific topics, but those topics do not have subtopics, so this site is 350 links wide and 1 link deep, making it more of a web than a hierarchy. Even if you were browsing, there are such an overwhelming number of links that I would have little confidence in discovering a topic which is especially important because all topics are given the same treatment.

So why would the designers put together a web site with useful content, a plain design, and a main page which is impossible to navigate? My guess is that they're depending on people to come to this site through search engines so that they can sell ads, based on the following:
  • The content is good enough so that people will find it useful and will linger at least for a little while.
  • The main page is not navigable because there's no intention that anyone will use it for browsing. Instead, they'll come through search engines.
  • There are lots of ads throughout the site.
  • If you type "management theories" into Google, this is the first link that comes up.

Freescale

Freescale.com

Intended Audience
This is pirmarly a business to business site. Freescale manufactures microchips for other businesses to use in building their products. As such, the primary purchase of the site is to be useful to their customers and potential customers. Secondarily, it is to provide information to investors, the press and those seeking employment with the company.

Usefulness of Content
I have to say that they make it very easy to locate a particular part, allowing searching and the narrowing of a search on many criteria (some of which I am sure you would have to be an engineer to understand why they are important). Easily 90% of their site (and the front page) are aimed at their products and making it easy to find particular ones (out of thousands) and help with deciding on which might best fit your needs. They provide easy links to products by type and by application (what industry uses them). They also put their technical support/documentation front and center, again searchable many ways. Although less prominent, links to the investor and press areas lead to press releases, investment reports, etc.

Consistency of Design
As you would expect with any large corporation, evidently a lot of work went into this site. The theme of the site is consistent throughout, even on the country specific/foreign language areas. After leaving the front page the same primary menus appear at the top and bottom of every page. The content is all on a white background with a muted color palette of greys and blue with color being presented primarily in splash images. I found the grey/light blue text on the white background very easy to read and easy on the eyes.

Ease of Navigation
They have made searching for products very simple and straightforward. Your searches can go directly to a part or narrow it down by its characteristics, the list getting shorter each time you choose another characteristic. I found links obvious, menus straightforward and the top/bottom menus to jump directly to major areas always present (including the typical click on the company name to return to the hope page).

One of the more intersting things is that since Freescale is a global company they have made it simple to locate regional/country specific content with links at the top by country (with seperate links for China/Japan/Korea in their own languanges). Each country site is consistent with the main site and text almost always translated into the native language (with the exception of text in some graphic images and that are the names of products/parts). I have to say I was impressed. It was one of the best and most consistent handlings of having a site in multiple languages that I have seen.

I used to work for Freescale when it was part of Motorola and I have to say I was expecting much worse based on what I ahd seen while I was there. The importance placed on allowing customers to easily find product information is obvious.

Retrievr

Retrievr

Intended Audience:
Internet users searching for images, sometimes of a particular color, design or shape.
People interested in experimental search methods.
People interested in Flickr.



Usefulness of Content:
This is really a matter of how you answer two questions:


Q1. how much value this alternative search method to a Internet full of search engines?
Q2. Does the search actually work?

A1&2: I did a search on Flickr for "tree" which returned over 3,000,000 results. That is too much but by narrowing my search I still don't have alot of control on the arrangement of shapes within the image frames.
Conversly, I made a sketch on Retrievr for a image with two lines, which resembled a horizon line.
For this very simple sketch I was pleased at my results.

However, I next tried to find images using Retrievr image search. I uploaded a jpeg of a Matisse work and the search results were not very similar. This is primarily because of the complexity of color and shape in the image and Retrievr doesn't recognize, many shapes together very well.

Consistency of Design:

The has a consistent design because it is really just a search engine. Besides searching for a image you can really only navigate away from the site via 12 global hyper links. Once, you have entered a search then the results have hyper links to the images' locations on Flickr.


Ease of Navigation:

With so few places to go from the homepage and global navigation bars this site is hard to get lost in.

Austin 360

http://www.austin360.com/

Intended Audience:
  • People living in, visiting, or thinking of visiting Austin, Texas

Usefulness of Content:

  • Extremely useful-events, movies, restaurants, news, radio, classifieds-Basically anything you want to know about Austin
  • Problem is there is too much content-unless you are looking for something specific you could easily get lost in the site
  • Also contains TV listings, blogs about favorite shows, latest celebrity gossip-Not sure I like this as these can basically be found anywhere-There is already too much information-no need to add more

Consistency of Design:

  • Fairly consistent: Throughout most of the site there is a gray background with the common header and tab system across the top of the page
  • Negative Aspect: When loading, the page is dark grey with black lettering until fully loaded-Doesn't allow the page to be read until it is fully loaded
  • Negative Aspect: Many of the advertisements pop out over the website's content forcing you to deal with it

Ease of Navigation:

  • Fairly easy throughout-when there are pages with a lot of information they present you with drop-down menus so you don't have to scroll forever-However this appeals only to people who exactly what they are looking for-If someone is new to Austin (like me) and simply wants to see what is there it is much harder to get a general picture

Museo de Arte Moderno (Mexico Museum of Modern Art)

http://www.conaculta.gob.mx/mam/mam.html

Intended Audience
The target audience of this website is anybody interested in the Museo de Arte Moderno specifically, or those interested in modern art in Mexico or modern art in general. However, since it is written in Spanish, it will only appeal to those who can read Spanish, and therefore it seems the site is not intended for potential foreign visitors.

Usefulness of Content
The content of this site does appear to be useful. However, I must confess that my ability to read Spanish is limited, so I may be missing important information. That said, the site has information regarding directions to the museum, the hours of operation, contact information, public service programs, information on the museum's permanent holdings, and the history of the museum.

Consistency of Design
The site does have some significant consistency of design issues. While it does have a unified appearance to it, different links that appear similar have very different results, with some opening boxes that can be moved around and closed, others opening tabs, and still others that open flash pages that cover the central site and require you to click on the museum's logo to return to the main screen.

Ease of Navigation
The navigation on this site is, to put it bluntly, terrible. The site is flash-based so you cannot use your browser's navigation buttons. What a link leads to is hidden unless you mouse over it, thereby forcing you to explore multiple links until you can find what you're looking for. The links that open tabs sometimes require scrolling, but the design of the scrolling buttons isn't very obvious. Also, as stated in the consistency of design section, certain sections require different actions to return to the main screen.

Twinings of London

www.twinings.com

Intended Audience: Twinings customers and potential customers worldwide, as well as tea enthusiasts and those interested in the tea growing and blending processes.

Usefulness of Content: This is an enjoyable and interesting corporate site for people who want to learn about the company, types of teas and where they are grown, or tea making establishments in London. However, the content on the site is limited and the information is kept extremely simple, so anyone who wants any sort of in-depth information would have to look elsewhere. The interactive elements are enjoyable and well-designed. For example, viewers can scroll through a visual timeline of corporate history, click through a world map showing tea varieties produced in different regions, and interact with a “Which tea?” animation that selects a tea based on user input.

Consistency of Design: The site presents a visually appealing layout that is colorful but streamlined and simple throughout. The header bar maintains a standard structure and logo in each section, but the large photograph changes to match the content of the section. The site designers use green as a base color for tabs, text headings, links within text and some borders, promoting a natural, organic image. When the interactive panels are loading, they display a beige background with a steeping cup of tea in the center, the steam lightly rising as the panel loads. This is an example of how the designers focus and unify the graphics of the whole site. Also, many of the photos on the site are presented in photo corners, suggesting a photo album or scrapbook.

Ease of Navigation: This site uses a fairly standard system of tabs located just underneath the header bar, with sub-categories listed in a row underneath the tabs. Occasionally there is also a menu bar on the left side of the page. Because the content of the site is so limited, navigation is very simple. The designers use expanding menus in several locations – to list varieties of tea, for example – which allow the user to access further information without leaving the current page. There is also a footer containing contact information and a graphic divider that is consistent throughout the site.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

10x10

Website: http://tenbyten.org

Intended audience:
· Individuals who want to stay up-to-date on current world events in a creative way
· Individuals interested in documenting history and events through photographs
· Individuals interested in the ability to combine RSS feeds, linguistic analysis of websites, and website design to create something that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful.

Usefulness of content:
· The content of the website is very useful. Each hour the website scans RSS feeds from Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and the New York Times International News. From such scans, the website determines the most important 100 words used in the current news stories and 100 photographs that correspond thereto. It then presents the photographs in a 10 x 10 grid next to a vertical listing of the 100 words. Users can literally “see” the most widely published current world news. Users can also access the corresponding news stories by clicking on a photograph or a word in the listing.

· The website also provides archives of the top 100 words and photographs for each hour, day, month and year dating back to November of 2004. The availability of this historical data is a very nice feature of the website.

· It would be great if the website scanned more than three periodicals and if it provided a link to a local “10x10” website in Austin.

· I also noticed that the time stated at the bottom of the grid sometimes reflects a time several hours from the current time, which is somewhat disconcerting if you are utilizing the site as a type of historical index.

Consistency of design:
· The website’s consistency of design is its greatest strength. The design is very clean, consistent, and minimal in its style, which focuses the user on the 10x10 grid in the center of every page. The only items that change on the website are the photographs and the listing of words, which create a different visual collage each hour.

· The most impressive visual design aspect of the website is the way each word on the word listing increases significantly in font whenever a mouse is moved over it.

· My only critique of the design is that, because of its minimal style, the exact purpose and features of the website may not be readily apparent to someone who simply stumbles upon the website.

Ease of navigation:
· The website is very easy to navigate, especially when the simple “rules” of the site are explained to you or you read the helpful “How it Works” link. The menus are clearly marked and generally self-explanatory.

· The current homepage does little to enhance the website’s effectiveness and may actually detract from it. The only information it provides is that 10x10 is “100 Words and Pictures that Define the Time.” This lack of information is not problematic for one who knows the website’s purpose, but a user coming to the website for the first time may not be sufficiently enticed to click on the “This is Now” link which launches the 10x10 experience.

· Navigating the sight could also potentially be frustrating for users who do not have internet connections of the highest speed. I noticed that even with a cable modem the website appeared to load slowly at times and sometimes did not load all 100 pictures. At times, the corresponding articles in Reuters or the other publications were not available, as well.

· Overall, however, I like the creative concept and design of 10x10. Hopefully the designers will continue to build upon the website’s features.

The Hideout Theater

www.hideouttheather.com

Target audience: People in Austin interested in seeing a show, taking improv classes, or renting theater space.

Usefulness of content: All the information you need is there. The homepage clearly presents the address and phone number of the theater and gives information about all the upcoming shows. There are also links to pages about buying tickets or registering for a class. The pages about renting the theater space have all of the information you would need to know: prices, size, times, the equipment available, etc.

Consistency of design: The site doesn’t really utilize a lot of design elements, but what’s there is fairly consistent. The Hideout Theater logo is featured on every page, and the links on both the left and the right of the page are consistent throughout. It’s clear not a lot of effort went into developing this site. The colors are sort of offensive together (particularly on the calendar page), and the link to the site map seems randomly placed (and I’m not sure why that bright blue color was chosen to be used against a maroon background). One part of the site that is strangely inconsistent is how the details about the shows are presented when you click on them. Most of them are arranged in a box with a picture on the left and information about the show on the right, but some are arranged differently. One in particular that I clicked on was just text, and it didn’t fit on the screen, so I had to scroll horizontally to read all of it.


Ease of navigation: In spite of all the complaints I can make about the design of this site, I can’t deny that navigating it is simple. All of the links are on the homepage in clear view, and those links provide you with all the information you need. The only complaint I can make about this is that I went to the calendar page to find the show I was looking for, even though it was listed directly underneath the calendar in the “latest events” column on the homepage. I didn’t even look there, though, because I really thought they were advertisements.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Discover Card

http://www.discovercard.com/

Intended Audience:
· Discover card users, who want to manage their account online
· Those interested in signing up for a Discover card and want more information about the company and its policies

Usefulness of Content:
· Since the site is designed for its clients and its potential clients, Discover has made sure that the main content of the site is focused on what Discover offers as services. While the content of the main page consists almost entirely of advertisements for several of Discover’s new services, once one has gotten further into the website, the content has more value .
· For the most Discover does not clutter up its content with images – the site depends on text to effectively describe the sometimes confusing technicalities of the services Discover offers. Some companies, like Visa, rely on videos to explain features of Visa and the Visa website. I think it’s more useful to have important information available in a format that requires the fewest number of hardware and software components.
· While the site does include information for prospective customers, it is also a way for current Discover card members to access and manage their account. Discover card allows members to edit basic account information, order new card designs, pay their bills online, and redeem their Cashback Bonus online, as well as many other activities.

Consistency of Design:
· The website uses a strong orange color to make the main navigation bar stand out to the user, and this element is available from any of the interior pages. The navigation bar is always on the left side of the browser window.
· When logged in, the account name and address (both mailing address and email address) is visible at the top right corner of the website. This is a wonderful way to check that the account information is correct at a glance. Once or twice my information has been wrong, and I’ve been able to catch it because I saw it at the top of my window.
· The website is very easy to read. The text is black on white, which is very easy to read and understand. The Discover website also manages to keep each page fairly clean and orderly – there are no pages that are littered with links. Links are placed in an order that makes it easy (and fairly intuitive) to find any needed answers to questions. The Mastercard.com website’s homepage has too many links – it’s hard to see the hierarchy the different pages are placed in.

Ease of Navigation:
· Users should be able to find the answers (or the appropriate path to the answer) to most of their questions through the homepage, or the user’s homepage upon logging in. This page lists most of the needs of the average user: “Make a payment,” “View latest statement,” “Edit your personal information,” “Redeem your Cashback Bonus,” among many others.
· As the user moves within the site, Discovercard.com is careful to display the name of the specific page the user is visiting, as well as where the site is in the hierarchy of the website by highlighting the levels in the left-hand navigation system. This helps keep the user oriented while moving through the site. The other benefit to this is that the levels that are coordinate with the specific page being visited are displayed (in plain text) along with the highlighted level under a high level in the hierarchy.
· All of the hyperlinks in the website are linked through text phrases, rather than through linked icons (or images). This makes for clarity and ease when choosing which hyperlinks to pick – there is little room for ambiguity or confusion about the destination of the link.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas

http://www.drafthouse.com

Target Audience
  • fans of dinner & a movie
  • moviegoers willing to pay a little more to go to a theater where disruptions are not tolerated
  • moviegoers who not only want to see new releases, but also the other events including sing-a-longs, Master Pancake Theater, etc.
  • people wanting to support local Austin business versus huge national theater chains

Usefulness of Content

  • links to each of the Alamo Drafthouse locations & gives information on each location
  • lists showtimes for movies and the other events
  • menu of what food & drink are served at each location - know what you want before you get there
  • detailed write-up about their unfamiliar events so people know exactly what they are going to
  • can buy tickets online - beneficial because they are smaller theaters & sell out quicker
  • links to witty news articles about events at the Drafthouse

Consistency of Design
  • different site designs for different locations - updated the websites for only the most popular locations
  • those updated pages for the popular Drafthouse locations are easier on the eye than the other locations' pages - pages look cleaner & not as cluttered
  • use the same color scheme for all locations - maroon, gold & white

Ease of Navigation
  • don't have a link to the Downtown location from the main page, but can get to it by clicking on another location
  • difficult to click between locations easily except between the popular locations
  • navigation bar on left side makes it easy to click anywhere no matter where you are on the site (for the most popular locations' sites)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The A.V. Club

www.avclub.com

Intended Audience:

-Consumers of pop culture in all its forms: movies, TV, music, video games, and literature. The site includes reviews of current releases in all these areas, interesting and well-informed interviews with artists, quirky features, and hilarious blogs. The site also contains archives of reviews, features, and interviews, going back about 10 years.

-Readers of the AV Club's sister (parent?) site, The Onion.

-Snarky hipsters and snarkier anti-hipsters.

Usefulness of Content:

How useful the content might be to someone varies depending on audience and use. I've consulted the movie reviews to decide which film I'd rather pay $10 to see (pretty useful), but I've also spent countless hours that would probably have been better spent working poking around the various archives (not useful at all; in fact, counter-productive). If you're looking to get informed, professionally written, and very well contextualized music and movie reviews, this is a great site. If you're looking to spend some time zoning out and laughing uproariously at "The Hater," "Savage Love," or "Commentary Tracks of the Damned," it's also pretty great for that. In a larger sense, though, the content is probably not very useful for a wide audience.

Consistency of Design:

The site received a major design overhaul sometime in the last two years, and I notice that there are frequent tweaks to layout and design every couple of months or so. The site is mostly done on a cream background with green lettering for content and title headings, with some black and orange accents here and there, a combo I really like. These colors and AV Club logo are consistent throughout all the pages. The articles are usually highlighted by interesting photographs of musical acts or actors (not your typical magazine fare) that add to the experience. My only gripe (constant, both with this site and with The Onion), are the number of rolling/scrolling/moving/incredibly disruptive advertisements around the whole site. Sometimes you have to click through an ad before getting to the actual page (this may be a navigation thing), and the advertisers on this site seem to love those ads that pop out in the middle of the page, obscuring what you're reading, and making the "close" button as elusive as it could possible be. It may not be the AV Club's fault since it relies on the ad revenue, but it's damned annoying and totally disruptive to my enjoyment of the site.

Ease of Navigation:

This site is pretty easy to navigate around, though the various placement of menus and links to other features can be a little overwhelming. From the main page there are links across the top leading to the major categories (DVD, Music, Words, etc), links on the left to blogs, main features in the middle, and links to current reviews with letter grades on the right. Below this, there's a list of recent features, and to the right of this, links once again to the various divisions of entertainment. It's a lot to take in. Additionally, from each article, there are links on the right to: articles by the same author, articles within the same category, or simply recent articles spanning many categories. I guess it depends on what kind of article it is for which types of links show up on the right, but I have not figured it out yet. In any case, the links on the left stay constant throughout the articles you visit, so you can always navigate back to a category or the main page easily. The archive feature works pretty well - I especially like that within "Features" and "Interviews," you can search for subcategories of Cinema/Music/TV/Literature/Games features and interviews. Overall, while the navigation may appear convoluted at first, once you've visited the site a few (hundred) times, it's very efficient to navigate from the menu bar on the left between articles and categories.



fargostuff.com - HOME



fargostuff.com - HOME

I love the idea of this site, but hate its layout. The idea was to sell art by local Fargo artists (yes, there really is an arts community in Fargo, you betcha) and other Fargo-related items, but the design of the website has lagged significantly behind its content.

INTENDED AUDIENCE

• People who live in Fargo, North Dakota

• People who used to live in Fargo, North Dakota

• People interested in local arts communities


USEFULNESS OF CONTENT

I stumbled across this website when I was searching to see if I could buy “Four Cities” cards online (see image). This site sells “Four Cities” items and works by other Fargo artists and musicians, as well as tickets for local events and now, apparently, a plot of land in Fargo.

There is a variety of items for sale--jewelry and other accessories, cards, clothing, music, etc. Unfortunately, the homepage reflects the range of items available in a disorganized way, making it hard to get at the site's content.

CONSISTENCY OF DESIGN

The website is unattractive and poorly designed, both in terms of visuals and navigability. There seems to be a desire to use color to mark out categories, but ultimately the color is used to randomly to be really useful, except for the green used to delineate “Land” sale in the headers (who sells land on this kind of website? Coldwell Banker, apparently).

EASE OF NAVIGATION

The home page is utterly disorganized. The main section is attempting to function as a kind of community billboard and as a way of highlighting items described on other pages. The categorization in the left-hand column items is awkward and inconsistent, and color is used too randomly to be useful — it’s not clear why some items are yellow or red. “Love from Fargo” refers to a series of gift packages including items from a range of artists. Clicking “Four-Cities” takes you to various Four Cities items (T-shirts, sweatshirts, magnets) but not to the Four Cities cards, which are available under “Cards.” Clicking “Music” on the left brings you to a list of CDs available for sale, including a link for “Barking Dog Records”… which brings you to many of the same CDs, and is the same link you can get to from “Barking Dog Records” in the homepage’s left-hand column. The inconsistency of that column makes the website hard to navigate.

Typing “four cities” into the “Search” box and clicking on the question mark turns up a lot of things that aren’t “Four Cities” items, including a set of North Dakota charm-bracelet charms, with no image, that isn’t listed under “Jewelry.”

CONCLUSION

Overall, I love the idea of this site (and I want one of those “I used to live in Fargo. Really.” sweatshirts). But the poor design of this particular website is not serving the artists represented well

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yellow Pages

http://www.yellowpages.com/
http://www.yellowpages.com/Austin-TX(Austin Yellow Pages)

Intended audience

People who look for some business or service they need in the city which they reside.

Usefulness of content

Pros: many listings link to maps and if any, to websites. Some listings, such as new car dealers, have functions to call you with one-click.
Cons: Comparing YellowPage telephone book (hard copy), this web version has listings far less than the paper version. I assume viewers expect YellowPage.com is identical to YellowPage telephone book. On the other hand, “Austin (city name) Yellow Pages” under Local Yellow Pages includes unnecessary information such as “weather” “top business (it seems to another name of advertising; You click the no.1 Wal-Mart then the page jumps to Wal-Mart telephone number listing)”

Consistency of design

Generally consistent. Simple design, yellow and black color header and text. After all, it is a (web-based) telephone book.

Ease of navigation

Quite bad. Not always easy to reach the telephone number listing viewers are looking for. If they need a service listed in “popular categories (e.g., “automotive” then “car rental”), maybe OK. If not, then it may take time to reach. Viewers have to enter business name or category into the FIND field, but sometimes the system does not recognize the name. Moreover, this “popular categories” are quite rough. Viewers have to dig into the sub categories. Moreover, “most popular search” list is included in the same page of “popular categories.” It will make viewers confused. For example, both sections include “Attorneys.” However, the link page from Attorneys is different each other.

http://www.herbsguide.net/

Intended Audience

  • Those who are interested in the properties and medicinal effects of herbs
  • Those who want to make a quick reference to each herbal attributes and possible medicinal remedies
  • Those who are curious of herbs and their characteristics

Usefulness of Content
  • I find it very useful. Coming from the Asian cultural background, I am used to the popular herbal remedial treatment instead of taking pills in light sickness. I mean anyone who's interested in non-violent way of treating some sickness will find this website very informative. Let's say you have a cold and want to use something of non-artificial nature of medicinal properties. In such a case, ginger is all-purpose medicine for a cold symptom. You want to ascertain that ginger has a certain medicinal property. Then, click ginger index on this blog and you will see very descriptive information on it. According to the web info, part of its uses : "Ginger Tea is a hot infusion, very useful to cold. It helps in indigestion and in alcoholic gastritis also." Apart from its uses, each indexing of a herb contains info on its name, family name, botanical name, parts used, habitat, description, etc.

Consistency of Design

  • You can see the fixed pattern of layout throughout the blog. When you first blog into the main web page, you might feel a bit overwhelmed because of its congestive manner of listing hundreds and hundreds of herbs indexing category.
  • Clicking each herb directs users to its own link that contains the information germane to the herb you chose. And then on the left column, there appears the list of herbs in alphabetical order, which renders browsing easier. Users can find the descriptive info of the herb on the 2/3 of the page from the right upon each click.
  • Color scheme is consistent throughout the blog; herb being green, each indexing is designed as green.

Ease of navigation

  • First, I found this site a bit overwhelming when first encountering it. All the exhaustive indexing right below a domain photo design on top came across a bit too congestive. However, when clicking each herb, I found it quite easy to navigate around the web since its alphabetical indexing (i.e., clicking ginger, you will see "G" indexing on the left), is located conveniently on the left side. However, regrettably, there was no search engine. In order to find ginger, I had to find G indexing to see ginger. With search engine, you could just type the name of herb; it will be not a few seconds before you see the search outcome.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Austin Farmer's Market

http://www.austinfarmersmarket.org/

Intended Audience

Those who interest in local produces in Austin ranging from vendors, non-profit organizations to Austin residents and residents of other towns and cities around here who interest in buying fresh local produces or supporting local businesses.

Usefulness of Content

The site covers various aspects of farmer's market from the purchesers' point regarding information about the market including time and location, information about crops and cooking demonstrations available in the market, vendors' information, what's going on around town regarding organic food and local produces, sponsors' info, eNewsletter, and even organic products for sell like Farmer's Market's T-shirt or bag. The site also provides contact info and procedures for vendors or organizations that wish to support the market. I think the site covers everything pretty well especially from the purchasers' point. What I think the site might add might be some kind of interactive function like a blog or forum.

Consistency of Design
The site is very consistent. All pages in the site has the same header and navigation bar. The site is also consistent in its use of color with the use of of pale blue and brown of the market's logo throughout the site. However, I do think that the tab on the top right of the page regarding eNewsletter is quite out of place since it has a bright yellow highlight on it and the size of the tab does not correspond with other elements on the page. Apart from the site, the eNewsletter's page, which has a different format from the site, also has the same theme as the site itself with the use of the same two main colors. So I think overall the site did pretty well in keeping the consistency of design throughout. Nevertheless, I think the site should have more graphic on it for instance when I first looked at this site, I wanted to know about the atmosphere of the market; I wanted to see pictures of the markets and what's going on in it; instead, the site only shows pictures of the park which the market takes place.

Ease of Navigation
I don't think that the site does a good job in naming each header for instance in the "About Food" section, the topics range from chefs who's going to cook during the market each week, to the crops, to farms' standards to community support programs. I don't think that all these topics should be include in "About Food." Another issue is I'm not sure I understand why some topics are put on the horizontal headers while others are put in the vertical headers since I don't see that any of these topics are less important that the others.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

Poets.org is the website for the American Academy of Poets, a large quasi-professional organization for poets (if poets can be considered to have a professional association, something that poets themselves would probably debate). This is an ambitious site that attempts to survey the national poetry scene, with a fairly strong bias toward traditional poetry and poets.

Intended Audience

• Poets

• People who identify themselves as poetry lovers

• Teachers interested in using poetry in the classroom

• People who need a pithy quote

Usefulness of Content

• Poets.org includes links to the full text of individual poems, to individual poet pages (which include biographies and links to poems). You can search by poet or by poem, which can be confusing, since a poet may have a poem included in their database but not be included in the general list of poets whose names you can click on. Author biographies are not necessarily up to date, making this website not especially reliable for author information. Their database also includes essays and interviews by or about significant poets, information about the AAP and their events, ways to donate, and a section featuring poetry recommendations for teaching. There is a limited amount of craft information on how to publish which is clearly intended for would-be poets and not experienced writers.

• You can subscribe to poets.org and save poems, biographies, essays etc. in a “notebook” or multiple notebooks, allowing you to personalize the site in a way. You can also listen to audio recordings of poets reading their poems, many of which can be purchased on CD. The site also has a section called “Life Lines,” where people are able to contribute poems they find particularly meaningful along with explanations for their choices. This section includes links to the AAP’s related podcast.

• One interesting feature is their “For Educators” column, where poetry suggestions for teaching are divided into two areas: poems whose texts are available on this website and poems available elsewhere. The poems offered are not especially challenging, and it’s unclear who the intended audience of teachers are: schoolteachers? Teachers of creative writing? English professors?

• The site also includes the AAP’s National Poetry Map (a clickable map) and invited users to contribute event listings on the state and local level, names of poetry-friendly bookstores in each state etc. These pages look nice, and each state features a list of “most popular” poets in each state, based on hits on their site from that state. This tells you almost nothing, though, since the lists are tend to be pretty similar from state to state (the lists from Hawaii and North Dakota are remarkably alike). The site doesn’t function well as an event listing site, but the state sites do include useful information about journals and creative writing programs in each state.

Consistency of Design

The design is very consistent. It could be more striking, but in some ways its understated design matches the poetry it is promoting—the AAP is going for a kind of genteel populist stance toward poetry (think Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac) and this design reflects that.

Ease of Navigation

The site contains a lot of information and multiple ways of searching, but the design generally doesn’t feel overly cluttered. It is confusing sometimes to understand what you are searching for and where, but generally the AAP seems to have created a number of usable interfaces for their poetry/poets database information.

Time Cube

http://timecube.com/

Intended Audience
Anyone who wishes to view the universe in alternative manners. This website might also be a cry for help.

Usefulness of Content
This is awful beyond belief.
  • It's really hard to follow anything that "Dr." Gene Ray has to say because his writing is incoherent, although he proclaims himself the greatest philosopher and mathematician to ever live.
  • He calls his detractors stupid and evil, not a great way to facilitate meaningful dialogue.
  • He makes various racial insults.
  • He tells his own audience that they deserve to be killed unless they subscribe to his theories.

Consistency of Design
The best thing about this site is that there is not much to it, just a single page containing the rantings of a man I would judge to have a few marbles loose.
  • On a positive note, the background paper with the distorted grid fits nicely with the author's distorted view of time and reality.
  • He sticks to four primary colors in his text, but I don't think the color used actually has any meaning.
  • He varies font sizes, all caps, bold font, italics and underlining, ostensibly to stress his point. This is annoying, especially as a comprehensible point likely does not exist.

Ease of Navigation
  • Because there is only one long page, it's a difficult site to navigate. I would recommend breaking his timecube philosophy into multiple facets that actually make some sense, and organizing the text in a manner which would support his point.
  • On the other hand, one could refer to this organizational approach as "straightforward." And let's face it, the worst problem here is definitely the content.

US Constitution.net

US Constitution.net website

Intended Audience
The website is intended as a resource for those who want information about or the text of the US Constitution and a variety of other historical documents pertaining to the United States. It is meant as a teaching tool as well - providing seperate areas for different age groups to explore the US Constitution as well as an area with suggestions for teachers who are teaching about it.

Usefulness of Content
The site contains a huge amount of information on the subject, including as mentioned before, the complete text of the Constitution and other documents, and teaching. It contains a set of Frequently Asked Questions (a FAQ), a historical timeline, articles on various contitutuional subjects, as well as a discussion area that seems fairly active. For someone wanting a collected source of information and discussion on the US Constitution and related documents (from the Magna Carta to Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech") the site is a treasure trove.

Consistency of design
The site design is very consistent. All black text, lots of text, on a light blue background. The same header bar with links to major portions of the site remains at the top in all but the "Kids" part of the site. It is hard to present this much text in an attractive way and it is obvious that this site is the creation of an individual and maintained by an individual. There is little in the way of design so much as organization. Sometimes the lists can be overwhelming - such as in the FAQ. There are 154 questions in a list. There are links embedded in the text to group the questions by categories or section of the Constitution. For a free site, that obviously pays for itself with some adds, they have minimized their impact by placing them all in a group at the bottom of each page.

Ease of navigation
The site is extremely easy to navigate. This is in part because it is so simple. It is limited in some cases by the simplicity (see above comments on the FAQ), where a more complex/interactive design would allow fewer clicks/user effort than opening a section then reading text about the section and clicking on an option. A lot of work has obviously been done to cross-link the documents so if two documents are somehow related historically, the discussion portion of that page will link to the other documents on the site.

The site is very deep in information and you can delve many pages in, however returning to the start is always simple by the uniform header on all pages.

Overall I think its a great resource for someone wanting to learn more about the US Constitution and history. It is a very simple site but that is not always bad. You never feel lost in it. Sure it could be prettier but slick presentation is not one of its goals. To be a resource is its main goal.

Hornfans.com

http://www.hornfans.com


Target Audience
  • University of Texas sports fans, mainly UT students, UT alumni, and the general public that are fans of university
  • anyone who wants to talk about UT sports or any of the other topics that are designated on specific forums

Usefulness of Content
  • message board where you can discuss a variety of topics based on the specific forum
  • can get information from others and hear differing opinions
  • always new posts and topics so content is constantly changing and updated
  • mainly for UT sports, but has other forums that have nothing to do with sports - somewhat of a deviation from the name of the website
  • have links to articles about UT sports teams on the homepage that haven't been updated in awhile

Consistency of Design
  • consists of white, black, and burnt orange colors which fit with the name of the website
  • same format for posting and same look of posts on every forum
  • can get information on what topics are allowed to be discussed on each forum
  • switch colors for each post so they are easier to distinguish between
  • because the site generates a lot of traffic, especially during games, it sometimes takes awhile to load pages

Ease of Navigation
  • easy to move around the site and not get lost
  • can go to each of the different forums with the links on the left no matter what part of the site you are in
  • have a limited number of topics posted on each page of the forum so you don't have to scroll too far - instead click to another page of topics
  • allows you to click to different pages of a topic so does not force you to see every post every time
  • can search for past topics instead of having to scroll through page after page

Flight of the Concords


http://www.hbo.com/conchords/

Targeted Audience:
  • Fans of the band
  • curious people who've heard about the show
  • Kiwis (people from New Zealand)
  • HBO customers 18-36
  • Potential HBO customers
Usefulness of Content& Ease of Navigation:

People mainly visit this site for entertainment purposes, the content is useful in so far as you are entertained and informed by the site. I think that the music however from the show should be downloadable and should play once when you arrive at the homepage. Though, this might get people in trouble at work.

I would venture to say that fans visit the site for primarily two reasons, one to find out what their coworkers or friends are talking about or two to interact with the show in between episodes. Die hard fans want previews of the next episode, or just interaction in the days between episodes.

The site's designers have incorporated both of these desires on the homepage.
I like that you don't have to come back to the homepage to use the navigation bar instead the bar in the upper right hand corner is on every page. To look at video of the show past and present use the video hyper link. To interact with other fans, use the community hyper link. The controlled vocabulary here is pretty good but not completely intuitive which my lead to some users wandering for the things they want.

Consistency of Design:

Overall the site is consistent, a lot of big horizontal pictures, not a lot of text as you navigate through the site. I've noticed a typo on the homepage "Mel's Vlog" but once you get to the linked site, "Vlog" turns to "blog"

The homepage is driven by the images which are quite large and horizontally oriented, I think this under emphasizes the link in the top right hand corner. The navigation bar for the show could be larger. Also the horizontal orientation influences me to not scroll for more content.


Shades of blue and accents of yellow are the primary site colors, the combination is based on graphics that are also used in the show credits.



The Getty

www.getty.edu

My first visit to the Getty Villa was in the 5th grade (think obnoxious children giggling at the nudes), back before the new Getty Center was built. I’ve been back many times since, happily in better company, but never having seen the Getty website, I wanted to find out how they’re reaching out to the community via the Web.

Intended audience: The website targets several specific audiences, with content appropriate to each one.

- Local Residents/Visitors: The Event Calendar and Exhibitions sections of the website provide easy-to-read listings of on-site lectures, concerts, etc.

- Educators: A prominent link on the opening page points to a fairly extensive selection of materials for teachers, who regularly bring groups to visit.

- Researchers/Scholars: Material is provided for those interested in studying Getty artifacts and those who want to learn about conservation and archival practices.

- Children: Though not an obvious link on the opening page, there is a well-designed selection of art-related games for children.

Usefulness of content: The site is useful because the designers identified their target audiences and have created content specific to each group’s needs. They have also incorporated multimedia files, such as audio guides describing exhibitions, images of art and manuscripts, and animated graphics for children.

One thing I expected to find on the site and didn’t was a virtual tour of the museum locations using digital video. Both are well-known for their architecture and gardens, and I think many visitors would be interested in “seeing” the museums in this way.

Consistency of design: The site is very consistent throughout, except for an intentional design change to create a kid-friendly game section. The general layout consists of a white background with a gray header bar and logo at the top of the page, and a gray footer with additional links at the bottom. A useful site search function is always located on the top header bar, while internal section links are usually along the left margin.

Ease of navigation: The site uses a tab structure to help users navigate. Within each main tab (Visit, Museum, Research Institute, etc.), there are sub-topics to choose from. These are highlighted with a white background when selected, so the user always knows which tab and sub-section he/she is viewing. The designers solved the problem of having to display information about both the main museum and the villa (different exhibitions, hours, parking, etc.) by dividing some pages vertically with different background colors.

The design and “feel” of the Getty website, especially the simple and clean white/gray color scheme, certainly reflect my impressions of the Getty Center. I found this to be an informative and well-designed site.

thebestlife.com

The Bestlife.com website is a spin off of Bob Greene's fitness books and programs. He was made popular on the Oprah Winfrey show. I had looked over some of Bob Greene's books and was curious about signing up for an online account. My attempt to sign up was quickly halted when asked for a credit card number to pay for my member fees. I had naively believed that this would be a free account like some other fitness websites I'm a member of (i. e. sparkpeople.com).

Intended Audience:

The website is for health conscious individuals, or those looking to lose weight through an overall lifestyle change. I suppose this site is also for die hard Oprah fans who support all causes mentioned on her show.

Usefullness of Content:

If you know absolutely nothing about Bob Greene and his "methods," then this website is a good starting place to just investigate a little further. There are videos of him introducing the program and the website--he's not exactly going to win an oscar for his performance in these ads, but their fun to watch, and I feel videos always draw an audience in more on the internet. If you don't have an account and want to get a better idea of what's offered before signing up, this website gives you a SMALL taste of the recipes offered and some other things you can expect to reap the benefits of after plunking down some money. Beyond that, unless you have an account the website isn't particularly usefull as more than anything but an advertisement.

Consistency of Design:

The deisgn is consistent througout and very pleasant to look at. All parts of the website are labeled clearly and are good indicators of the information you'll be linking in to. I have no complaints about the design.

Ease of Navigation:

The advertisements don't get in the way too much, and right at the top, nice and obvious, they have the Login feature for those guests that are already members.

If you're not a member, but want to sign up, you start the process by first putting in your Weight! A bit intimidating for some perhaps, might help to just ask for an email address FIRST before asking viewers to divulge such a personal detail.

The other features for nonmembers are easy to navigate through and look over, although again, there's not much to look at if you're a nonmember. I went to the shopping section to see if nonmembers were able purchase products at a discounted price. You can indeed purchase a product w/o being a member, but you still have to set up a User Id and password.

Blakeney Manor

http://www.blakeneymanor.com/
Blakeney
Manor is run by, and designed for, people who enjoy reading the Scarlet Pimpernel series by Baroness Orczy. The first book, The Scarlet Pimpernel, was written in 1905, and there are 19 stories and books in the entire series. The stories mainly take place during the French Revolution, and the Scarlet Pimpernel is an Englishman who is trying to rescue people from the death by the guillotine.

Intended Audience:

  • Fans of the Scarlet Pimpernel books and their movie adaptations.
  • A part of their audience may be drawn to the site because the site hosts the complete text of the entire series, and many of the books are out of print or extremely different to locate physically.

Usefulness of Content:

  • Besides hosting the entire book series, the site provides tons of useful information about the series itself and the time setting the books are placed in. There are pages on the clothing and fashion of the time, a detailed analysis of the historical accuracy of the series, information on the historical figures of the books who were real players in the French Revolution, newspaper coverage of the French Revolution, and much, much more.
  • Each book in the series comes with an introduction, including its placement in the series chronologically, and a brief summary. Most pages also mention who typed up the text of the book to make it available to the public.

Consistency of Design:

  • Despite the wonderfully useful content, the design of the site is very bad. Many of the internal pages do not contain a navigation bar or a link back to the home page. Some of the pages lack a title or any identification of which level or layer the user is at in the website.
  • Each of the first level pages (the ones listed on the homepage, or in the navigation bar), has a different design or template. The "Books" and "Links" pages look completely different from the rest of the first level pages, each lacking a navigation bar.
  • Some pages contain full text links, for example this page which contains information about Baroness Orczy. However, many of the pages contain links that are only "clickable" through an adjacent icon or image, such as this page on the history of the series. It's very frustrating that there is no consistency to the linking of outside websites or internal pages.

Ease of Navigation

  • Many of the internal pages display the site name and logo at the top of the screen, but the logo is not itself a link back to the home page. When one does get lost inside the site, there is no easy way back to home except punching the "Back" button of the browser several times.
  • On the "Links" page, there seems to be a problem with the code itself. The hyperlinks at the top of the page seem to be anchor links, tagged for somewhere further down on the page. However, none of the links work.
  • The site map is a wonderfully detailed explanation of the site itself, and all of its content. This is my preferred way of interacting with the site. When I tried to navigate my own way around the site, I had no idea just how much information the authors had created - many of the pages I had so much difficulty in navigating that I never learned some content existed, such as the page of free downloads.
  • Too many of the links are animated icons, which I find frustrating because I don't want to wait for the icon to load to know where it links to (sometimes the site is slow and this is a problem). Some of the icons that are designed this way do not include a link description, which makes them even worse, if a screen reader was needed to describe the page and help a user select a link that they need.

It sounds like I don't like this site, which isn't true. The creators have done a wonderful job providing access to, and information about, one of my favorite series of books. However, I feel that it is hard for the users of the site to find all the information that is available, because of the site's underlying structure and navigation issues.

Multi-TouchScreen.com

Website: http://www.multi-touchscreen.com/

Intended audience: The website is designed to provide information to individuals interested in (i) multi-touch screen technology and (ii) Jeff Han, a consulting research scientist at NYU's Department of Computer Science, who has played a major role in advancing such technology.

Usefulness of content: Individuals seeking general background information on multi-touch screens and their development can find some potentially useful content on this website. The greatest strength of the website is its collection of videos demonstrating the amazing possibilities of multi-touch screen technology. The website also contains some interesting information on the technologies utilized by Apple in its iPhone and Microsoft in its Surface computer. Unfortunately, visitors to the website will have to look past the painful design flaws of the website (discussed below) and do some digging in order to locate any of the useful content. This definitely detracts from the overall usefulness of the website. There are also two additional factors that bring the reliability and authority of the website’s content into question: (i) the website does not appear to have been updated since May 30, 2007, so its information is potentially outdated, and (ii) the website does not identify the designer or provider of the website’s information, so it is difficult to discern whether some of the information is fabricated or derived from an unreliable source.

Consistency of design: Maintaining a consistent design is clearly not a concern or priority for the designer of this website. This is unfortunate and ironic in light of the website’s subject -- cutting edge, expertly-designed and user-friendly technologies. Text and graphics are pasted on the webpage haphazardly. Some text is centered, some is left-justified, some is large, some is small, some is red, some is turquoise. Text that is important and should be featured appears in a position on the page that is secondary to the Google ads that are prominently displayed. The most consistent design element is also the most distracting and unpleasant feature of the website: Each time the words “Jeff Han” or “Multi Touch” appear, they are highlighted in alternating yellow and blue text boxes. There may be a good reason for this design choice, but I am not aware of one. Overall, this website is one of the most poorly designed websites I have seen.

Ease of navigation: The only thing saving this website from being completely impossible to navigate is its overall lack of complexity and few number of pages. Most information can be located by scrolling down the website’s homepage. The information on the homepage is generally in date order with the most recent entries toward the top of the page, but otherwise, the designer has not inserted menus, indexes, or search features that would enable users to quickly locate specific information on the website. On a positive note, the designer has inserted hyperlinks in multiple places so that it is possible to access some of the same information by taking different paths on the website.

Family Watchdog

http://www.familywatchdog.us/

Intended Audience:

  • Basically everyone in the United States-Anyone who is worried about safety in their neighborhood
  • Also aimed at parents-so they can better protect their children
  • Maybe aimed at people who are moving to a new neighborhood

Usefulness of Content

  • Extremely useful for everyone-Helps to identify sex offenders in neighborhoods throughout the U.S.-Where they live, what crimes they have committed, a picture of them etc.
  • Negative Aspect: Pictures of the offenders is probably the most useful part of the site but a lot of times the picture is not available

Consistency of Design

  • Very consistent-blue and grey throughout
  • Banner across the top remains the same
  • Few advertisements to take away from the content
  • Same tone throughout-No joking, Just facts that highlight the importance of the subject

Ease of Navigation

  • Extremely user-friendly
  • Tabs at the top very clearly state their purpose
  • Not a lot of links embedded to allow the user to wander off
  • Even provides directions on how to set up a link to it from another website or how to email the website to a friend

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Achewood!

www.achewood.com

Intended audience:

People with a slightly demented sense of humor. Achewood is a webcomic featuring Calvin and Hobbes style talking stuffed animals, but with more swearing. (Very reductive, but also the quickest way to explain it) Probably skews to a slightly younger audience, as some of the pop culture references that come up every once and a while are definitely aimed at the 20-30 year old demographic. Over time, Chris Onstad (Author/Artist) has developed an extremely unique and hilarious comic voice.

Usefulness of Content: Well, the site is very funny, and every comic from the last six years is archived. You can spend some serious time reading through these things, though they don't add much utility in the traditional sense. Oddly enough, the most "useful" material might come from the character blogs. Onstad also writes faux-blogs for the strips cast of characters, and cooking tips/recipes seem to come up quite often. So, if you enjoy laughter and need to learn how to cook, Achewood may be for you.

Consistency of Design: Very consistent, with a few exceptions that I will explain. The front page of the site is dominated, naturally, by the strip itself. It's placed on a white background just under a green banner add for the site's store (another neat thing about achewood- it only advertises itself!). Just above the banner is a darker green navigation bar, with links to shop, strip archives, discussion boards, etc. Below the strip is more green, and links to the various blogs and interviews with Chris Onstad written by various publications.

The white/green theme is carried over to the rest of the site, as well as Onstad's blog. The only major variations that occur happen in the context of the character blogs: each one has a unique layout and color scheme, suited to the character's own distinct voice and personality. So while it does break up the uniform look established by the rest of the site, it also adds a unique spin to each individual blog. I think it works!

Ease of Navigation: Besides the already mentioned navigation bar at the top of the site, Achewood also features several helpful ways of searching through the strip archives. Go to the archive itself and you'll be presented with several ways of ordering the strips (found to the left on your browser): by most viewed, highest rated (readers can rate strips from a scale of 1-5), and most commented on. The bottom of the front page also features a pull down scroll bar that allows you to jump to a particular story arc, and a search bar that lets you find a particular strip from a line of dialogue. All of this is very helpful in navigating the site.

This, by the way, is my favorite:

2nd post: TimeWarnerCable.com

Audience: Current customers or those people who want to purchase cable, Internet, and/or phone services.

Useful information: There is a ton of useful information on this site! You can pay your bill online, research the different products they offer, find out about packages, learn about programming, and you can figure out the best way to contact a customer service representative. This all directly appeals to the audience it is intended for.

Consistent design: The site is very consistent, it sticks to the theme of blue headings and black writing on white background. There is a very useful main menu at the top which stays there always no matter what part of the site you are in, so you always have access to: About Us, Products, Programming, Customer Service, Business Customers, and In the Community. Then, within subcategories there is usually a menu on the left that caters to the subcategory you clicked on.

Ease of Navigation: This website is very easy to navigate and find what you want. As an example, if you put your mouse on Programming in the main menu at the top and you can click on the subcategory My NFL, it takes you to information about that program and it has a sub menu going down the left side of the page so you can easily look at some of the other programming options. All the while, you still have the main menu at the top. You can pretty much always find what your looking for no matter where you are in the site.