Web Design Goodies Critique #15

By Joe Burns

Greetings, Fellow Designers,

Lets go bowling!

Im actually a horrible bowler--so bad, in fact, that often I dont keep true score. I once played a game where we chose the winner by calculating the average number of pins knocked down in each frame. Really. I lost by about 7.5.

When I mentioned the word bowling, what did you think of? Pins? Balls? Bad shoes? Ill bet that a mental image popped into your head.

That mental image is what I want to discuss today. Theres a field of research called semiotics. It basically tries to determine what symbols mean to people. For example, when someone is driving a car, what does the color red mean? What does a red octagon mean? What does a red circle with a horizontal white line mean? Each means stop or do not enter or dont come any closer. No text is involved; the symbol is enough to convey the message.

Well use this bowling page to convey a message about how you can use this information to your advantage.

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: Classic Ladies Bowling / Author: Sue Iverson
http://classicladies.cjb.net Actually that goes to: http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Arena/4662/
Load Time: 23 seconds, 56-Kbps modem, cleared cache, 11/24/00, 12:22 A.M.
My Screen Size: 1024X768
Browsers Used: Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Navigator 4.5

Concept: This page is dedicated to Classic Ladies Bowling in northwest Indiana, and why not? The author, Sue Iverson, seems to really take the page to heart. The information is thick and quite up to date. She wished me a Happy Thanksgiving...on Thanksgiving! Thats a pretty good feat in relation to what happens on so many Web sites and pages. This is another of the millions of pages that will never be known to a huge audience. It is what I like to call a watering hole page--only those who care about the topic will come in. The vast majority of pages on the Web fall into this category, and thats great.

Praise: The page is full of information. News is updated every Thursday. Jada Mocaby bowled a 300 on Friday, September 8, 2000, at Hobart Lanes. Well done! The page proudly displays the MBC 12 Strikes Award for superior content and design. They deserve it. The content is just wonderful. Its the reason for the page, and the reason is solid.

All over the Web, I see sites that have unbelievable content, but not much semiotic support. Outside of the text, nothing else conveys any message.

As I have said time and time again, content is king. I did broadcast programming for radio stations before getting into teaching, and I always believed that if a radio station got the music mix correct, they could do just about everything else wrong and still be successful. Its the same with Web pages. If the content is something that people really want, then just about every design concern can go out the window. Content is that important.

However, the content can be helped tremendously if what surrounds it is taken into consideration. Everything on the home page should convey a meaning to the viewer.

Heres the bowling home page:

Click for larger image

Concern #1: Lets start with the first thing that popped into my mind when I came into the site. I knew the site was about bowling before going in because of the authors letter submitting the site to be critiqued. Yes, the text reads bowling, but other than that, nothing else says bowling.

Suggestion: We are visual creatures, we humans. Thats why were fascinated by small, shiny objects. You can have the word bowling 20 times in bold red text, but it wont have a fourth as much impact on the viewer as one bowling image placed high on the page. Even a single bowling image will scream to the viewer that this is a page about bowling. Youll set the stage immediately with an image, whereas text will take a bit of time.

Get what I am saying? The symbol of a few pins being knocked down by a three-holed ball denotes bowling. It does it right away because that symbol is universally understood.

Concern #2: Next up--color. This is an online newsletter. The page is laid out like a newsletter and reads like a newsletter. The content is written in a friendly manner, as if every name that pops up is already known to everyone else reading the text. Lets look at the colors. You have deep red on a gray background. Its easy to read, yes, but not overly fun, nor does it say anything about bowling.



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