[thelist] design critique (long)

aardvark roselli at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 8 14:54:28 CST 2001

trimmed as much as i could, folks...

> From: Madhu Menon <webguru at vsnl.net>
> Algonquin Studios that could do it for me :P (it's a tongue twister,
> aard)

yes it is...

> First visit: home page
> 1) Nice colour scheme. Subdued, but then I like grey. Wish the text
> wasn't right aligned though. :)

grrr.... i'm still hedging on this one...

> 2) Hmmm... "Enterprise solutions experts", eh? Wonder if they can
> integrate my COBOL-based inventory management system running on OS/400
> and DB2 with my new Win2000 and SQL-Server based setup.

yes... in fact, we've done stuff very similar... most recently was 
getting a terradata database to chat real-time with a SQL database 
over a VPN to feed into a CMS based on SQL and XML... actually, 
it's a bit more than that, but that's the short-short... oh, and i don't 
do that stuff, the other guys do... it was the city of buffalo online 
parking ticket payment system... with more coming...

> done. I don't mean to sound like an arsehole, but you should probably
> change  it to something like "Web solutions experts". I might be
> wrong. I'm just telling you what I figured out from the site.

no, good point... i think we should push our enterprise solutions, 
because we have a bunch, many of which never see the web...

> 3) What's this funny graphic? Oh, it's a warped screenshot. Cool.

yeah, left it in the over too long... little tip, resizinb screenshots by 
printing them full-size on Shrinky-Dinks(r) and then baking them 
and re-scanning them at the target size just does *not* work...

> 4) The copy is useful, but it jumps out at me without setting a
> context. What you need to do is have a title like "Featured case
> study" before your intro. Otherwise, I expect it to be something about
> your company.

point taken... i still like the lack of context, though...

> Designer notes:
> 1) I run 1024*768 on a 17" monitor. But I have a bookmarklet that lets
> me switch the site to 800*600. Could you tighten up the spacing a bit
> so that it fits completely into a 800*600 screen? Perhaps reduce the
> space between your company name and the tag line?

er, it does... down to 640x480, in fact... browser/OS?  the specific 
page you're seeing?  what's cut off?

> 2) Are the IE toolbars in the screenshot required? They add an
> unnecessary "grey-ness"  to the otherwise colourful graphic. Cropping
> it would give you a bit more space for your screenshot too.

wanted to show the sites in various browsers, to show we're not 
just IE/win-centric... lots of caps in NN as well as on MacOS, too...

> 3) Screenshot is clickable. URL is non-intuitive so it needs an ALT
> tag to tell me a bit more about where I'm going. Not essential, but
> nice to have.

hmmm... again with the exploration... dunno...

> User impressions:
> 1) That "content management" bit in the middle looks out of place.

doesn't come off as a featured service?

> 2) What's "Cha-ching!"? What's that doing in the services section?


> 3) [Wondering] Do these guys do web applications? Where can I read
> about that? Ah, there's a link called "implementation". Click on it.
> (I only read upto the code monkeys part. People *sometimes* scan on
> the Web :)
> 4) OK, now I'm really shocked. When I clicked on "implementation", I
> expected to read a bit about what kind of work you do. Do you build
> web applications using PHP on Solaris? Do you do "portals"? What
> technologies do you use? Instead I go to a case study. And the case
> study isn't about a technology solution, it's about how "Each section
> of the site is 'branded' with a different color".

good point... what i tried to do is *show* what we do, instead of 
telling... too informal?  think people won't look or read it all?

> It's a question of the order in which I want the information. As a
> potential client, my first thought would be "what can these guys do?",
> "who are these guys?", and if I'm happy with the answers to the
> previous questions, "what work have they done before?"

good questions... certainly worth putting into our services section...

> Designer notes:
> 1) The graphics for the headings seem to be overshadowing the text.
> Personal perception only. You need to make the text stand out a bit
> more. How about converting them into GIFs with the same typeface used
> in your logo?


oh well, worth exploring...

> 2) Oooh, Jakob Nielsen is going to get his stick out and whack you
> when he sees the "Read more" hyperlink on the left as plain black text
> ;) It's a hyperlink. Make it look like a link in some way. Different
> colour, underlined, whatever...

feh... however, i was concerned about that... testing showed the 
ellipse actually made people roll over there and click... that 
seemed to be adequate...

> 3) Section headings text not hyperlinked???


> User impressions:
> 1) Oh, good. Certainly seem to be a bunch of capable and competent
> individuals. 2) What are those weird graphics on the right?

heh... out of date copy... you may have read the comments on the 
images being an 'easter egg' feature...

> Designer notes:
> 1) Your names are "floating" between the blocks of text. Subheads (in
> this case, your names) must be closer to the text they introduce than
> from the previous block of text. And I'd also eliminate the space
> between the name and the title.

yeah, i've been meaning to de-pad the bottoms with CSS...

> (ASIDE) If you want to project a formal, serious, image, that's fine.
> If not, may I suggest you switch to a "first-name at domain.com" email
> address convention? It may be a subtle psychological point, but when
> I'm sending mail to "adrian at algonquinstudios.com", I'll mentally tend
> to be a bit more open than if I were emailing
> "roselli at algonquinstudios.com". Not design-related, but I thought I'd
> mention it.

hmmmm... those aliases exist... not a bad idea...

> User impressions:
> 1) Looks good. Let me read some of 'em. Nice...
> 2) Why are press releases in here? Shouldn't they be in a "news"
> section or something? And why do they appear above the actual
> "articles"?

let's call it, "unable to decide-itus"... overall, in testing it, people 
didn't go to 'press' or 'technical articles'... but they went to 
'articles'... dunno why... so i just built it out that way...

> Designer notes:
> 1) You need to pick a few more of your articles to display here. The
> extra HTML won't be much and it'll look like a rich repository, which
> is what you want. 2) What's the article on the Evolt redesign doing on
> the first page? For a person removed from thelist, it doesn't mean
> much. I'd pick articles like the following:

right now, i think it's most recent, but that's actually very easy to 
change... i also felt more than three was too much...

> a) Give the User Control Over Your Fonts
> b) Real-World Browser Size Stats, Part I-III
> c) Using Excel Spreadsheets as Web Data Sources

yeah, i like those, but the first is so out-of-date now... i think the 
liquid design article is stronger...

> User impressions:
> 1) Wow, they certainly have a lot of clients. Must be doing good
> business. Certainly not your average mom-n-pop HTML shop.
> 2) Hey, which of these are web applications and which are design-heavy
> projects?

heh... case studies explain *some*, others are linked to sites, the 
rest are primarily enterprise apps... but yeah, i shouldn't have to 
explain like this...

> Designer notes:
> 1) Your icon for "off site link" is relatively clear (if not
> immediately, at least in context). Your case study icon could be
> changed to a stack of papers (something like "4" from the Wingdings
> font) or similar.

don't think it would too much like another off-site icon?  the 
magnifying glass has worked well for us in the past, and it implies 
'more detail' to me...

> 2) Uh oh, Jakob's baaaaack! Your links are not consistent in their
> destination. For clients for whom you have case studies, the hyperlink
> goes to the case study, while in other cases, it goes directly to the
> site in question. Not good.

that's what the icons are for... two kinds of links, two kinds of 
icons... unless i messed up, there should be two kinds of links, 
with each kind branded...

> Well, that was my critique. I haven't reviewed the site in much detail
> and I haven't touched the careers section, so I'm sorry. I also
> apologise if I sounded way too harsh.

so, no resume coming?

and don't apologize, this is what i'm looking for...

> Hope it was helpful.


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