... so what's the best way to learn?
The Challenge of Learning
"LOOK... and then start asking questions..."
If you're really interested in expanding your horizons on visual analysis of web design, the first place is introspect. People surfing the web have no real idea of what they're seeing. They simply react. Click... we're here... what is it... is it what I came for... no... click again. It's a reactive process of search, discover, evaluate, simplify, search again.
Introspect is defined as the "examination of one's own thoughts and feelings."
However, it isn't introspect if it's reactive. You need to stop and ask questions -- then -- provide sober, intelligent answers to those questions. Take a few moments of your quiet time and randomly surf the web with no particular purpose. Now use the following step-by-step exercise to understand what you're seeing:
Web Design Quiz
Provide an answer for each of the following questions about the web page you've arrived on:
- Does the site's look and feel seem to match the subject matter
- Does the site align visually with the intended reader or market?
- Do you immediately get a sense of what the site is all about?
- Could you easily see "About" and security information?
Design & Layout
- Are the graphics appropriate to the subject of the site?
- Are the graphics appropriate for the intended audience?
- Are there graphics that seem superfluous or unnecessary?
- Is the color scheme appealing and suggestive of the topic?
- Is the layout cramped and 'too full' or is there proper spacing and visual rest areas?
- Is your eye drawn to the most important elements? Do they then relate into the content?
- Is the site understandable?
- Did you know what to do to get to the information you wanted?
- Were there guide posts or 'help' features included
- Are the areas of content clearly defined
- Were there distractions like spam and blinking ads
- Are there visual elements, design elements, pictures, or content blocks that are distracting, or that keep you from flowing into the content message?
- Is navigation Intelligent, logical and clearly understandable
- Does the technology work - Java, scripts, movies, etc. or are you required to load a program or do something in order to use the site?
- Do buttons and links send you where you expected to go?
Meeting reader expectations
When analyzing a site, always keep in mind the intended function of the web site. Readers will go there with some expectation or implied promise of performance.
For instance, some sites are developed purely for the purpose of spam, advertising, or selling something. Catalog sites, and product manufacturers/vendors who are marketing and merchandising their own products, are obligated to sell online. Always take the intent of the site into consideration -- then ask:
- Do they do a good job delivering what you expected?
- Are you invited in to the information?
- Does the look, feel and content seem comfortable and honest?
- Is the selling activity high pitch, low pitch or rude?
- Is the expectation or promise fulfilled?
The Final Truth
Remember that as a designer, you are duty-bound to design for the reader. By looking at web sites with an analytical eye, you're using yourself as a reader -- and you evaluate the relative success of the visited web page by asking the above questions. If the site was successful, then you've learned what made it successful. If the page is not successful... you've learned that too. Now you can put those lessons to work in your own web design.
If you decide you would like to share what you've learned or discovered about a web site, then share it with DTG readers. We've made it easy by providing a simple form for recording your reactions. If you need sites to review, then see all the sites posted by your fellow readers.
Until that time... be creative and thanks for reading!
Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher of Web Design and Review
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