Design Concepts- Week 3

Lab 1

Objective: Choose two articles from the list below and write a brief summary of each.

Human-to-Human Design
by Sharon Lee
June 26, 2007
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/humantohuman

The main point of this article is to encourage designers to ensure that the viewer’s visit to a site is enjoyable. It challenges the popular ideas that web design starts and stops with branding and that content in and of itself is king. It proposes that with so much interactive technology available to be used on web pages the focus should shift to empathizing with and inspiring visitors to your site. Visitors should be made to feel like they are individuals, not “faceless users.” If this is accomplished, it will foster positive attitudes towards a brand, company, or product.

Sharon Lee puts forth five ways to do this:

  1. Think beyond the demographic and picture the individual. Be as specific about your demographic as possible. Instead of saying a site will target sales agents, be more specific; the site will primarily target sales agents, 25-30 years old, and the secondary audience will be middle and senior managers, 35–50 years old. Then look at the needs of the site through their eyes.
  1. Websites should tell a story, and enable users to choose their own path according to their preferences or needs.
  1. Engage the viewer by mixing visual design with interaction and motion. Designers need to create a rich, sensory experience, which helps to absorb users and encourage them to become entirely involved in the site and its message.
  1. Inspire visitors by using more than logo, colors and typography to relate to a brand. Broaden the idea of design to create a positive brand personality that will draw visitors in.
  1. Creating a beautiful design will give the user the impression that the site is easy to use, whether it is or not. Lee believes that complicated processes and pages can look simple with the right styling (primarily the use of space). She believes three important feelings to create are peace, serenity, and trust, which are especially important for transactional sites.

This article has given me something to think about while designing my site. I am very focused on keeping the site simple. I need to try to add some extraneous elements that will engage the viewer. I’m not sure exactly how to do this yet. Perhaps something I could do in 4 static pages could be turned into a slideshow of sorts? Also I could make sure my blogs are not only pertinent and insightful but humorous and more personal. Maybe I could add some material that will be fun for a child who will be using the site? As I said, I’m not sure, but this is definitely something to think about.

Can Blogging Help You Market Your Product Online?
by Robert W. Bly
http://www.creativelatitude.com/articles/article_200712_bly.html

This article examines (debates) whether blogging is useful as a selling tool, or simply a waste of time. The articles begins by defining a blog is an online journal, and examines the theory that if you are an information marketer or publish information to establish your expertise in an industry or field that blogging should be part of your publishing arsenal.

Ely sites two major problems with blogging as a business development tool. The first is that most blogs are “streams-of-consciousness musings about a particular topic.” The second problem with blogs is distribution- the visitor has to actively look for it.

On the plus-side for blogs is that having a blog can help pull traffic to your Web site. Search engines, especially Google, love blogs, and blogs can significantly push up your page rank.

The author says that blogs should (but rarely do) deliver analysis, wisdom, insight, advice, strategies, ideas, etc. He offers that it might be better to use something interactive such as bulletin boards, instead of something that belongs in a diary.

I chose this article because it was recommended to me to put a blog on my site by more than one person. I tend to be a very goal oriented, “to the point” sort of person, so I made room for the blog on my site, but I personally couldn’t see how this was valuable. I just did it because people who know more than me told me to. I decided to change that to an “Ask the Teacher” type format, and after reading this article, I think it was a good decision. I think this will combine something useful with the desire to get page rank.

Lab.2

Objective: Study your competition.

For this exercise I Googled “technology lesson plans.” These 2 most closely matched the intent of my site:

K to the 8th Power
http://www.kto8.com/index.php

K to the 8th

2 Strong Points of the Design:

I felt there was good balance to the page. The site name/logo were proportioned nicely with the log in section at the top. The body of the page was nicely centered.

The navigation bar was nicely done, with good movement across the top. I like the way color was used between the navigation buttons and the typography, with the dark green for the bar and the lettering going from light green to white.

One recommendation for improvement.
What I really thought was terrible was the use of real estate on the page. It uses a huge black graphic (which looks out of place) to show program icons that could easily have been turned into a much smaller graphic or listed in the body of text. Also, the software listed is used in all schools, so there is no need to use half the page to advertise it. It’s not like they have anything special there. The use of this big, black graphic pushes the important information down the page, so you have to scroll down to see it, assuming you have not already moved on.

Does the site present easy to absorb information that is to the point, concise and professional?

K to the 8th Power

What I did like here was the way the information was organized and explained. I liked the way the written information was laid out. I also like the use of colored and different font face to establish hierarchy. What was troubling was the introduction of another navigation bar (the black one). I thought it made the assumption that these would be related to the page content, yet they had nothing to do with the page content or each other. That threw me. Also they introduced navigation buttons to the left of the page. It make the site confusing.

Does the site design convey a clear message or purpose?

Yes, the use of the green navigation bar always reminds you what the purpose of the site is. The design of the text establishes hierarchy, so you always know the main purpose of the page, and the black box gives the message in very specific terms. Also, the use of white space with concise text allows movement through the page without being overwhelmed with the variety of content.

Does the site design advertise its products effectively?
Well, the design, especially as exemplified through the green navigation bar on top certainly lets you know what the site offers. I think that green navigation bar is the site’s strongest element.

Were you impressed with the site overall? If yes, why? If not, what turned you off to the site?

At first glance the site seems good in the use of white space, color and navigation. However, the gigantic problem with this site was that it was all fluff and little meat. It takes several pages and sentences to give information that could have been done in 2 well worded paragraphs. And what I really hated was that you never are given an inkling of what this will cost. I don’t want to request a quote. If I’m looking for lessons, chances are my plans are due tomorrow and I don’t have time to get into a long term relationship with a site (especially giving them my email address- always suspect). I guess I have always felt that if they won’t give you an idea of cost right away, it is probably way overpriced. Anyway, had I not had to critique the site, I would have left it an hour ago.

Nortel Learn It
http://www.nortellearnit.org/

Learn it

2 Strong Points of the Design:
One thing I really liked was the good use of space. There was lots of space that differentiated each part of the page. Your eyes can move around the page to the various subjects which were offered without being overwhelmed. It also gives the page a nice clean look. I also liked the use of shape and how that went hand in hand with the way space is used. Each item was in its own shape, and again there are many shapes, but the presentation still seems very simple.

One recommendation for improvement.
It is very possible they have used a color scheme or principle I haven’t learned about yet, but jeez the colors are just terrible! I would use one loud color and then other colors that complemented it, but were much softer.

Does the site present easy to absorb information that is to the point, concise and professional?
Yes. The content on this site (and there is tons if it) is organized very well. Content areas are within their own colored shape. Links stand out and are contained within very short paragraphs. You are able to find what you want very quickly and get there easily.

Does the site design convey a clear message or purpose?
Yes, again the use of the navigation bar always reminds you what the purpose of the site is. Also the use of the graphic on the top of the page tells you what the site is about immediately.

Does the site design advertise its products effectively?
Yes, the navigation bar at the top, which tells you the three most important things the site offers is in a prominent position at the top of the page. Also, all links are in a different type and color, so you know what is being offered right away and you can go right to it. I also like the way the menu at the left side of the page contains the site map as the first item entry. In case you are not finding what you are looking for, you can get to the site map quickly.

Were you impressed with the site overall? If yes, why? If not, what turned you off to the site?
Except for the use of color which I thought was the worst, the site is very well put together. What I really appreciated was that the designer of this site was able to take mountains of information and present it in such an incredibly organized way. You never felt overwhelmed. You were able to find what you needed very quickly.

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