Debating Design

I don’t think of myself as an artist.  I’m practical, organized, and deliberate.  I utilize the web with a purpose in mind.  I go to shop, pay bills, and check local and national news, weather and sports.  I stream movies, tv shows, and live football games on-line.  I use the web for education and to stay in touch with family and friends. 

Recently, I have started to give more thought to the design principles of the sites I visit regularly.  I have started to question some of these sites on their artistic and aesthetic characteristics, and their ability to evoke an emotional response.  I wanted to use this post to comment on a couple of sites that I currently frequent.  One that I believe has a very good design and one that I believe could use some improvements.  I then wanted to look at a couple of really amazing sites from a design perspective.

The Good

The UFL is an upstart football league in its second season.  Their business model includes the 80/20 principle (give them 80% of the value for 20% of the cost), targeting mid-sized markets, and building  community presence and close connections with the fans.  Players include both All-Star NFL veterans and young, up-and-coming players.  Current teams include the Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials, Las Vegas Locos, and Sacramento Mountain Lions.  Hampton, Virginia, is slated to add a sixth team next season.

UFL Football Home Page

The target audience for this site is football fans.  The goal of the site is to get fans excited about the UFL and persuade them to purchase event tickets or watch UFL games on television.  I admire the use of color throughout the site, especially the color captured in most of the flash player images.  To a degree, images adjust based upon screen resolution.  The main navigation bar provides graphic drop down menus.  This mouse-over features assists in bringing the homepage to life.  I find the entire site very interactive.  Video clips and other multimedia, fan clubs, connecting with the UFL via Facebook, twitter or instant messages, e-commerce options, and UFL fantasy games are all features of this site that really get the fans interacting with the UFL.  Two consecutive sell-outs at Omaha Nighthawk home games is a testament to the UFL’s ability to connect with fans.  I am confident that their web presence and this site are a big part of that equation.

The Bad & The Ugly

HSBC Account Central Online

This is the homepage for one of my financial institutions.  The site displays a couple of white folks, with white shirts, using a white laptop on a clear table with a white background.  Other text and graphics are black, white, red or varying shades of gray.  The red does evoke some response to the otherwise lifeless site.  I’m sure they intend for the red to grab your attention.  I just think it triggers that same feeling you have when you get caught at a traffic light that never seems to want to change back to green.  The fixed width display is anchored to the left and does not accommodate multiple screen resolutions.

The Artistic

Who really has a fantastic Web presence?  This was the question that I posted on Facebook.  The responses I got are in the thumbnails below.  Thank you Kay, Hilarie, Ann, Gavin & Jed for your help. (Even if some of you had ulterior motives.)

Citizens State Bank  Meatball cases  Wired Homepage  Ikea  McDonald's  CSS Beauty  Bleacher Report  Rivals

Of these eight, the McDonald’s site was the one that impressed me the most.  Although the CSS Beauty Gallery itself isn’t that spectacular, it links to some of the most creative and artistic websites I have ever seen.  One site has a completely black screen but as you mouse over the screen, you enlighten twenty-four different and brilliant tiles. 

My two favorite sites from the CSS Gallery are Jax Vineyard and Psynai Design.

Jax Vineyards

The Jax Vineyard site is artistic, functional, creative, bright, and interactive.  The arrows at the upper right corner allow you to scroll through their beverage selections.  Transfer from page to page creates a sense of movement through the web site.  If the user has scrolled down prior to clicking an arrow, movement is from bottom to top.  If the user is still at the top of the page, movement is from left to right or right to left.

The beverages are accompanied by artistically placed cookies, cork or chocolate to accent the selection.  The use of negative space brings the featured item alive.  Text is simple and elegant.  Captions are witty and effective. 

A click on any of the titles in the navigation bar, pulls the user down to that section, while still leaving the featured product at the top of that same page.  The Meet the Team page has thumbnails of team members that on mouse-over produce a bio for that team member.  Again, sliding from page to page. 

This site is a grand slam.  I am engaged by the site and “know” that this wine is fantastic, even if I have never tasted it.

Psynai DesignThe Psynai Design site is not as nearly developed as the Jax Vineyards site.  However, it is still very artistic.  It is a good piece of modern techno-pop art in web design.  It also slides the user from page to page.  It lacks functionality. The more I pursue the site, the less impressed I am, but it gives a great first impression and serves well as a show piece for this twenty-something college student.

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About Jesse Alber

Jesse Alber attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications with an Athletic Coaching Endorsement from Hastings College in May, 1993. From 1994 - 2000, Alber served in leadership roles in human resources, retail, and production. Alber enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000. He served as a Armored Cavalry Scout and Troop Training Manager with A 3/7 CAV 3d ID until 2004. Alber deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and Kwait / Iraq in 2003. Alber served in the Army Reserves from 2005 - 2008. From 2004 - 2010 Alber served as the Adult Education Coordinator for Central Community College and Executive Director for the Hastings Literacy Program. Alber returned to Hastings College in 2010 to study Computer Science and Web Design. He is currently emploed as a Programming and Web Development Intern with Servi-Tech Industries. Alber will complete his program of study in the summer of 2012.
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