Critique of 3 inspiring websites

How do you hold a self-critique?

Part I: The Project

  1. Restate the goal or aim of the project – in your OWN words. Do this to make sure you understand the problem you are setting out to solve.
  2. Did you fulfil the goal you were supposed to achieve? Did you miss the point of the original problem you were trying to solve?
  3. Is your solution appropriate for the audience or purpose of the project you are working on? For example, are your colours childish or corporate?
  4. Is your solution appropriately executed?
  5. Are you using a suitable visual hierarchy of information? Will your audience know where to look first, second, and third?
  6. Does your solution communicate the intended message to your audience appropriately? You can ask people to tell you what message they are interpreting from your design.
Part II: The Process

  1. Did you do any research? If so, how did you use it? Should you have done more?
  2. How many thumbnail sketches and roughs did you do before you created your comp? How much time did you really think about the problem?
  3. Did you experiment outside of your comfort zone? Or did you stick to your area of strength?
  4. Did you make any false assumptions about what you could or couldn’t do? Or did you take a positive approach that you could do anything if you really tried? It is very important to experiment and build your confidence in designing. Try flipping, stretching, skewing, speckling, etc.
  5. Did you really allow yourself to become involved in this problem you were solving? Did you use your imagination and feelings? Were your feelings personal or removed?
  6. Were you too judgemental? Did you give yourself a chance to be creative? Were you patient with the project and yourself? Don’t be so hard on yourself that it makes you afraid to take chances.
  7. Did you take chances? Were your solutions innovative? Did you dare to be different? Or did you do what most people would do? One way of determining this is to compare your solution to others? How many other people reached the same conclusions?

So here I go practising these critique methods on 3 inspiring designs within the Communication Arts – Webpicks

Photographer Fredrik Clement

A screenshot of Fredrik Clement's photography website. Instead of hiding them behind a complex interface, the developer of this minimal site placed the images front-and-center in a gratifying full-screen display.

As a photographer’s portfolio, this website does a fantastic job in how it shows the photos unobstructed by interface elements and completely full-screen. A thumbnail film strip appears at the bottom edge of the screen, and contact information slides into view overlaying the top half when the pointer approaches. Left and right sides will preview adjacent images and they’ll slide into view when clicked. It is a simple and highly effective approach to the goal of such a project, and a most appropriate design for the intended audience.

Storyville Coffee Company

A screenshot of the 'Storyville' website. This site introduces a new, available-only-on-the-Internet, coffee bean retailer. Storyville, equally passionate about perfectly roasted beans and independent artists, conveys its obsession with both in a collective, interactive experience. The continuity of the design aesthetic makes it a flawless brand experience from start to finish.

Visually gorgeous, the site is a highly polished sales project that appeals to coffee drinkers chained to their broadband internet – more customers than you might think. The transition animations, photography and videos, simple and clean layouts, colour scheme, and shop facility all blend together to cohesively complete the experience for caffeine consumers.

USHMM: Propaganda

A screenshot of 'United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Propaganda Exhibit' In January 2009, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened a special exhibition titled State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, that examines how the Nazis used propaganda to sway millions with their vision for a new Germany. Reflecting the museum’s efforts to keep the Holocaust and its lessons a topic of public discourse, it encourages people to think about how to recognize and respond to propaganda, to understand the potential consequences of it and provokes discussion about responding to hate speech and propaganda today.
Instead of presenting the exhibition in précis, the Web site is a further exploration of themes. It invites interaction with select content enabling visitors to explore the subject, its legacy and its implications in today’s world.
The materials are presented in a range of formats (artifacts, books, documents, moving images, sound recordings, etcetera) and logically organised into themes, a timeline, an artifacts gallery and resources, making it interesting and easy to find important information. The online forums and polls make a perfect platform for interactive expression. As an educational resource, the lessons and exercises are well referenced. The principle of exploring, as defined in the site’s by-line, allows users to move through the material at their own pace. The cohesive red, white, and black colours together with muted colour drawings, paintings and posters, and black and white video footage, are all excellently combined, enhancing the mood and feel for the target users. The only drawback I can find is that some secondary navigation items are elusive and / or buried. The video gallery, for example, contains a lot more than just 1 video, but it is accessed via a link on the front page titled Watch video about the exhibition.

And now for 3 less glamorous online designs, and why I think they’re poor…
First of all, like anyone with more than half a brain, I googled for bad website design and I’m mighty glad that I did. Being the youngest of 4 boys, there are many things in life I learned with somewhat less embarrassment because of my brothers – thanks guys! This same ethos is echoed over at Web Pages That Suck,

Looking at bad web site design is valuable because it gives us the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes without having to make them ourselves. Winston Churchill once said, All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.

Take Churchill’s quote literally, that is, learn from the mistakes of all men!

Fabric Land

A screenshot of 'New Page 1' - The only positive comment I can make is that the navigation in the left frame is basically alphabetical. (Is “basically” good enough? If I were single, would I want to date someone who is “basically” a woman?)
The most important HTML tag — TITLE — is the search-engine-hating “New Page 1.” They shouldn’t feel bad about this gaffe. There are only 5,310,000 other pages on the web that use “New Page 1” [as their title].

Hideous colours that mean nothing to the visitor; insulting instructions and abusive tone with words in all capital letters; redundant information (SINCE 2000 [9 YEARS]); animated .gif images that serve no purpose but irritate; blurry and stretched out of proportions photos of staff are very low quality and also seem out of place as the first item of the main content; JPEG compression killed the company name (logo?) banner; the marketing copy – if you actually bother to read it – is absolute rubbish; text links like “click to look” are just the beginning of the countless usability issues; the list goes on and on…


A screenshot of 'Genicap' - www.genicap.com This company is supposed to offer a pretty nice plugin for Adobe Illustrator; however, I have searched their site for 30 minutes and cannot find out how I can buy a copy. There is no search feature. The navigation SUCKS. It is chock full of technobabble. All in all, one of the worse sites I have seen for a big company.
Annoyance is one word I would use to describe it. Aggravation is another! The pages of the site seem to have a ridiculously long loading time. The copy reads like a mish-mash of a geometry textbook, quotes from Buckminster Fuller and Steve Jobs, and some drivel from an acid junky. The body copy is a JPEG image rendering it rather unusable! The hiding of page URLs via misusing frames, prevents visitors from bookmarking anything but the redundant splash page with Mystery Meat Navigation. I’ve also wasted a lot of time on this website and still have no idea what the point of it is. I think this one angered me most because on the surface it is deceivingly good looking with a sense of balance and unity. User frustration is the only result of this shocking website.

A screenshot of 'HavenWorks_com ;-) NEWS HAVEN INFORMATION REFERENCE SOURCES FACTS' When someone sees this site, their reaction is the same as my reaction when I first saw it — What the Heck?
Even on my giant screen, this website still has a horizontal scroll bar, let alone an incredibly tall vertical one. First reactions aside, the layout is a jumbled mess of columns and rows that even an effort to make a bad HTML table layout couldn’t achieve. Second, the colours are competing with each other, rather than complementing, and the human eye doesn’t know where to begin. Semantic confusion results from the choice of colours, and inconsistency in the size and typeface of fonts. Usability issues are profound, and I bet if you stare at it just long enough you will actually vomit or faint.

So, do the World Wide Web a favour before you beat down the path of creating more cyber-garbage. Thoroughly go through the Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015 and follow Churchill’s advice, learn from them.