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Reader Reviews of Web Sites

REVIEW:
Wine Site: ESLflow's guide to communicative activities

P. Snashall points out in his Web review submission:
__ ESLflow is designed to be used by esl teachers to create lessons. Mainly it is designed as a resource full of communicative activities. So far some reviewers have been generous.
__ The esl editor at About.com* wrote

"ESL Flow is a brillant site using a flowchart metaphor. Grammar concepts are cleverly organized into functional patterns for which an impressive array of linked resources from the Web are employed. Resources are organized both for students and teachers and include grammar, speaking, dialogues, readings handouts and lesson plans."

__I think my site is great too and I use it so have been designing it to be functional. However, I am a little worried about some things.
__ I elected to use a big page design, and I'm not sure if other people can get used too it ( I love it - I don't have to click through pages - everything is there).
__ I am very confident about the content of my site. I know it's some of the best esl teaching ideas in the world. I work in an inspiring hothouse of teaching in Bangkok. But, as yet I haven't learned HTML. (I teach 40 hours a week).
__ The design of the info concerns me . I'd really like to be reviewed. Now major search engines are beginning to list me highly in certain categories; ie communicative activities for esl and I want my design to match the content.
Regards, Peter Snashall

* Reviewer says: I was assigned to critique a web site in my "Page Layout with the computer" class at Foothill college in CA, and I picked this site since at the same time I'm taking an ESL class, so it is interesting for me to discuss the ESL site.

1. The flowchart navigational system is helpful, and should be particularly good for teachers.
__ However, the colors reminded me of Easter, so, I would suggest using a slightly different color scheme unless it is intended to bring a flourish, spring feeling to the site.

2. This site is fairly big, but almost every page downloads quickly, which is nice.
__ Because there are not a lot of big graphics or photos on the upper levels of hierarchy, the site is simple visually and easier to work with. The more complex graphics at lower levels do not seriously impede navigation.

3. I like the flowchart navigational system
__ However, as a designer I found some elements that might warrant a change: some words are underlined, and thus they appear as links even though they are not. Some elements are hard to read since there is not enough contrast between the background and type on it (an example is light pastel colors on a white background.)
__ There seems to be a lot of misalignment, so it would be nice if all lines and columns were properly aligned. On subpages there are a lot of small graphics where you don't expect them, and I'm not quiet sure how they related to the topic. Also, these graphics appear on third or fourth level, and are not consistent with the graphics from the first levels.
__ It is nice that the logo appears on every page, so the viewer can recognize that he is still in the same site. Also, the color scheme is maintained through the whole site, which holds all pages together.

4. As I said, the flowchart navigation is a clever metaphor...
__ but it is hard to figure out that these small bullets are actual links because there no text links. Also, with graphics turned off, there wouldn't be a way to get to many locations. I also found some dead links, and on some subpages, if you are on the third level, the only link up is to the home page, while sometimes you just want to get to the parent level.
__ As it says in the introduction, all lessons can be printed with Internet Explorer, and not with Netscape, so it would be nice to have a cross-platform solution.
__ This site is big, it would be nice to have a site map. In this case it would be easier to understand the structure of the site. Without the map it is easy to get lost in the sublevels. Also, it might be a good idea to make the external links open in a new window. Right now, external links open in the same window, which makes it easy to get separated from the site, or lose it entirely.

5. SPAM
__ The advertisements provide clutter, but if this site is free it is hard to get rid of them. Also, according to well-known web masters, it is not necessary to put counters, especially on almost every page (who cares?). Since the number of pictures is limited, every banner or link exchange attracts the viewer's attention away from the information.
__ The site has very few web tricks, which is nice. Since the site is full of useful information and there is no need for taking up more memory by putting in gadgets and tricks.

6. I couldn't figure out right away the reason for using different bullets as links.
__ Perhaps it might be better to use a single symbol, or to make the difference in the significance of the symbols clear. There is some nice animation, which should stop automatically after several loops. Otherwise, as in the case with banners, it takes the attention away and might distract some viewers.
__ As the author wrote in his comments, he likes big size pages. Unfortunately, most people don't have large enough monitors, and when only part of page appears, it might be not clear enough to understand the information (I have an average size monitor, and I had to scroll all the way to the right to see all links). Having to scroll horizontally might be annoying for a viewer, since you have to do it for every line of type that you read.
Olga


* WD&R Comments: Is there anything else left to be said???
__ Olga, this is an excellent review -- we are so pleased that you decided to send it in! (Other schools use our site as teaching aid, but we never get to share in the results!) I believe you should get an "A" for this review.
__ Olga points out many things that we would have stressed as well. Particularly the spam part. If you read our piece on "Banners Spoil the Site" you get another view of the situation. Since that article we've seen literally hundreds of sites where truly inappropriate banners appear. It's a shame too, because so many site owners feel the banners are justified in bringing in readers. It's as if they're saying: "Our content isn't good enough, so we'll use banners to bring in readers." Don't get me wrong: I'm not just picking on Peter. But I do think in Peter's case that there's got to be another way to do it rather than banners! This is good, valuable content -- it doesn't deserve blinking banners. IMHO. I think I'll do an article on better techniques that can take the place of the Banner Exchanges. Would anyone like that? [YES] [NO]
The About.com review referred to above may still be at:
http://esl.about.com/msub8.htm

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