Web Design Goodies Critique #14

By Joe Burns

Greetings, Fellow Designers,

I get mail from readers every time I write a newsletter. After sending out ten or so of these critique newsletters, I received an e-mail from someone who informed me that I wasn't really doing my job of critiquing correctly. Anyone, I was told, could look at a poorly designed Web site and pick out the problems. What I should be doing is looking for well-designed sites and critiquing them.

OK. Let's go out and find a well-designed site. I'm not going to use a big commercial site like Yahoo or Ask Jeeves for this newsletter, because doing so would alienate a lot of designers. (When I was first starting out in Web design, if I had been held to a standard that only a team of professional designers could reach, I would have said, "The heck with it.") I will continue to critique sites created by amateurs, but I'll look for a very well designed site. I think this week's site qualifies as a pretty darn nice design.

Now, the obligatory release statement...

>>>>The critique below represents the opinions of Joe Burns, Ph.D. Feel free to disagree with, argue about, forget, or accept anything he writes. The purpose of the critique is to offer examples that you can use to revise your site, or forget about when it comes to your own Web site. As always, remember that there are simply no hard and fast rules to Web design. Any choice is the correct choice, as long as that choice aids the user and fulfills the site's purpose for being.<<< <

Title: Mommysbiz.com / Author: Dana Danielewicz
Load Time: 20 Seconds, 56-Kbps modem, cleared cache, 11/11/00, 11:38 A.M.
My Screen Size: 1024X768
Browsers Used: Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Navigator 4.5

Concept: Mommysbiz is primarily a resource center for day care professionals, but it is also geared to just about anyone who has a kid. I found enough rainy-day activities to keep a kid busy for a week. Have plenty of macaroni, white glue, and glitter around when you visit this site. There are links to a ton of information. It's a site where you can spend a lot of time playing around.

Praise: Visually, the site is beautiful. Take a look:

Click for larger image

The site uses a giant multiple-table format that conforms well to just about every screen size. The screen captures in this critique are at 800X600. It looked just as good in larger screen sizes (except for one concern I'll hit in a moment). I found the topic of the site quickly, and once I was oriented to the site I could get around fairly easily.

Concern #1: I have said before that content is king, but next in line is navigation. The site is beautiful, no doubt. However, it starts to run into problems when it comes to navigation. You have a series of public domain drop-down boxes at the top. The concern is that you also have an HTML-based drop-down box underneath. Look what happens:

Click for larger image

Suggestion: The banner of drop-down menus should stay. The HTML-based boxes should be moved or dropped altogether. They don't contain many links, anyway.

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