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Old 10-15-2009, 09:11 PM   #1
Ronald
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Default Critique My Site Design (Please)

I recently convinced the chamber of commerce that I freelance design for to have me redesign their poor website. I had previously created an 88-page visitors guide for them, so I used its art deco-influenced style and color scheme on the new site. I also reorganized the site, both removing and creating new main menu links, and reorganized various page info.

Only a few minor formatting problems exist, most of which probably wouldn't be noticeable to the average viewer. I'm also considering opening the body/content section wider as it leads below the left-hand menu table (view Attractions and you'll see what I mean). However, this would prevent my use of tall, narrow photo stack collages.

First is the new "one-stop-shop" menu that they requested. This links to various city-related sites; not all are associated with the chamber...
- My forthcoming design
- Old (current) design

From there, you click the Chamber of Commerce logo and come to "home.html," the actual chamber site...
- My forthcoming design
- Old (current) design

I've also created a new Photo Album which has the many photos that I and other people took for the visitors guide. I used a freeware called httphotos...
- Photo Album
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Old 10-16-2009, 01:20 AM   #2
Richard Waller
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Very nice. No obvious problems. I think I am confused because you are asking for comments on two sites.

At the moment I do not see the structure of either site. I keep opening fresh pages and I ended up with four identical pages on my screen.

Generally users get confused when there are more than seven oprions. It would be best to restrict the number of options shown and then give them a choice after their first selection. Drop down menus do not help me very much so that for me would not be suitable. A sitemap would be useful for those that are really searching.

Keep up the good work.

   
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Old 10-16-2009, 08:13 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Richard Waller View Post
Very nice. No obvious problems. I think I am confused because you are asking for comments on two sites.

At the moment I do not see the structure of either site. I keep opening fresh pages and I ended up with four identical pages on my screen.
Thank you, Richard. You don't have to look at the poor current designs; I just threw them in for perspective on the improvements. The multiple links may be confusing but it is in fact only one site. The "one-stop-shop" is an intro page that offers links to other city-related sites. From there you can enter the "real" chamber site, which includes a photo album made with httphotos. So yeah, three different section styles altogether.

If the links are not working, I'll just type up the actual URLs. Can't go wrong there.

One-stop-shop intro
- http://www.manchesteriowa.org/new/

Chamber homepage (which encompasses the main site layout)
- http://www.manchesteriowa.org/new/home.html

Photo Album
- http://www.manchesteriowa.org/new/gallery/

The old (current) site
- http://www.manchesteriowa.org/

I realized I should view the site in Internet Explorer rather than my favored Mozilla Firefox, since over 80% of web surfers use IE. This helped me clean up a few problems, but some minor aspects seem unfixable.
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Old 10-16-2009, 08:01 AM   #4
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It is pretty but there seems to be no content (nothing for Google or other spiders to find). Or is this just a dummy layout?

You are using HTML 4.01 Transitional, which is really, really old. Most sites today use XHTML 1, with cascading style sheets (CSS).

You have ISO-8859-1 encoding; it is better (more universally accessible) to use UTF-8 (unicode). Don’t see ALT statements on images; they should be there as they make it possible for screen readers to parse the page.

On the Welcome page, I see closing inline HTML (/font, for example) in a few cases. No open, just the close.

Your pages do not validate; you might want to check your pages on the W3C validation site from time to time; it can help catch errors that may cause problems for some viewers or otherwise harm the effectiveness of your site.

Mind you, many sites do not validate, sometimes because of an error in coding, sometimes because W3C occasionally changes the rules. But some errors can cause problems, and it helpful to know about them, and good to fix the ones you can.

   
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Old 10-16-2009, 08:29 AM   #5
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It is pretty but there seems to be no content (nothing for Google or other spiders to find). Or is this just a dummy layout?

You are using HTML 4.01 Transitional, which is really, really old. Most sites today use XHTML 1, with cascading style sheets (CSS).

You have ISO-8859-1 encoding; it is better (more universally accessible) to use UTF-8 (unicode). Don’t see ALT statements on images; they should be there as they make it possible for screen readers to parse the page.

On the Welcome page, I see closing inline HTML (/font, for example) in a few cases. No open, just the close.
Sorry, I don't know what exactly HTML 4.01 Transitional or ISO-8859-1 encoding are. The top of the page coding says XHTML 1 for document type. I should note, however, that a lot of the "skeleton" coding was taken from the current (poor) site and tweaked for my design, so I'm not surprised if there are lots of errors. You're definitely right about the </font> tags; rather than using style sheets, they used font codes for nearly every single line of text, so the current pages are loaded with redundant coding that I've been cleaning out for my new design. I do have many "alts," but on your advice I will now make one for every graphic.

Regarding the "dummy" layout question, I simply have my new layout, with all the new content as it will be presented, in a folder called "new" within the site. There are meta names ("keywords" and "descriptions") and content in the coding. I have a friend that web designs for the business he works for, and I plan on showing my site to him tomorrow. He was going to make sure I have the searchable coding as you noted.
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Old 10-16-2009, 09:08 AM   #6
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You can search the W3C site for encoding, DOCTYPE, and other details. Or get a book to use for reference. I like Elizabeth Castro’s HTML, XHTML & CSS: Visual Quickstart Guide (which is cookbook-like and very useful — information at her blog). Eric Meyer’s CSS: The Definitive Guide is also excellent. And the source bible for CSS is Cascading Style Sheets: Designing for the Web by the originators of CSS, Lie and Bos.

The latter two books are out of print, but you can find resellers at Amazon.

There are also web sources, but I find the books add useful explanations often missing from the web advisors.

   
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Old 10-16-2009, 11:50 AM   #7
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Thank you for the references, ktinkel. So do you have any suggestions in terms of the graphical site layout, or is it pretty solid? I wanted the green head/side menu graphic to be cohesive and fit snugly against the top and left of the window, but with the different browsers and screen dimensions, the latter quality can't be. Still, I'm content with the result.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:09 PM   #8
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ronald: So do you have any suggestions in terms of the graphical site layout, or is it pretty solid?
I'm not Kathleen but...'-}}

I think it looks quite solid...the only suggestion I might make is to put the "Photo Album" link (via the Chamber of Commerce and subpages from that page) at the bottom of the list of links since you are opening it in a new window because it was sort of confusing land on that page after clicking on the "Photo Album" link as there are no other links.

Alternatively, add same links that you have on the Chamber of Commerce page to the "Photo Album" page and/or note that the photo album will open on a new page--personally, I'd add at least a Chamber of Commerce homepage link on the photo album page so that if someone were to land on that page via a browser search, they would be able to find the "source" page more easily and this holds true for the album subpages too. I always think that one should be able to navigate to any page from any page...

I looked at the site using Firefox2 and Netscape 7.2 and everything displayed properly...

Terrie

Last edited by terrie; 10-16-2009 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald View Post
Thank you for the references, ktinkel. So do you have any suggestions in terms of the graphical site layout, or is it pretty solid? I wanted the green head/side menu graphic to be cohesive and fit snugly against the top and left of the window, but with the different browsers and screen dimensions, the latter quality can't be. Still, I'm content with the result.
The front page is nice and clean. It doesn’t flex but it suits my browser setup, so I didn’t notice. But people with small-format devices or those who enlarge the page in order to read it will be affected by this.

I hate images that flicker or change, but since there is only a little reading on that page, the dissolving center image is not too distracting. Those who routinely use NoScript or an image-killer might not see it at all, which would leave an odd void in the center of the array.

The new/home page is less elegant. The menu type at left is really only clear when it is completely on the green background; might work better if it were all either in or out of the green area.

Arial is hard to read at text sizes on many screens. Your code is evidently overriding my browser preferences (or I would be seeing Verdana or Bitstream Vera Sans). Forcing your choice on the viewer is — how to say this kindly? — rude.

You are trying to justify some of the text (last para under Welcome). Justification does not work on the web, and should be avoided (compare the large word spaces in the first two lines compared to the unjustified last line).

Your page requires me to scroll horizontally to see all of the details. How disappointing when I actually scroll to see only an image of a sign welcoming me to Manchester. Ideally, the page should flex to accommodate any visitor’s viewing preferences.

The subheads are in a script and color that seems drastically at odds with the rest of the design. They are also not very well set (maybe cannot be — something about the design of the type), and the images are not crisp and clear.

The centered footer assumes, again, that a visitor has a wide browser window; it looks very odd in my vertical pane, neither centered nor flush left. Again, this would not be a problem if the page accommodated a visitor’s chosen viewing pane.

Aside from these details, it is much nicer than what you are replacing.

   
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Old 10-16-2009, 12:58 PM   #10
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kt: The subheads are in a script and color that seems drastically at odds with the rest of the design.
I didn't think the subhead color was too drastically at odds as the green in the background image is sort of a blue-green--at least on my monitor--so they sort of stand out (which I think they should?) but perhaps a darkish shade of green would echo the background image better?

I have a fondness for script fonts and I sort of like this one and I didn't find it jarring or anything--it's not taking up huge portions of the page. I think some sort of flow-y/italicized font for the subheads would be good because all the other fonts are so static and it gives the page(s) a bit of liveliness...

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