UPDATE: As you can see this is an oldie that I raised from the dead. Unfortuntely the best part, the discussion, has been lost.
Due to the recent discussions involving opinions on the web and offering criticism I thought I would start doing some design critiques on sites to hopefully provide a nice skeleton for others who wish to offer their opinions and to also provide feedback to the designers of the sites. With any luck, some quality discussions will follow. My first critique: Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report.
Let me begin with something that everyone will have an opinion about: the HUGE header that he uses for all of his pages. To be honest with you I rather enjoy it for its visual appeal. It helps to maintain his brand while allowing for a “something different” type feel that you have to respect as a designer. With that said, looking good and trying cool things does not mean the world, especially on the web. The problem that I encounter with the header is that it repeatedly draws my eyes away from the content, which I am assuming is the main draw of the site. I try to read some of his wonderful prose, but my eyes keep telling me that there is something more interesting at the top of the screen. I guess I could say that another problem has to do with the fact that on smaller resolutions the header can take up the majority of screen real estate (e.g. if you were on 800×600), but I don’t think his intended audience, designers, should have a problem with small resolutions. It is something cool to try, but in the end I don’t think it has its intended effect, whatever that may be.
The Background and Colors
I am hoping that it is something to do with my monitor, but there is this “background effect” where towards the bottom of the screen the yellow color fades to white. This kills me, because I keep on thinking that my monitor must not be working properly. Maybe starting off with white and then fading to yellow would do a better job of drawing the eyes down the page, but the yellow to white makes my eyes do a complete stop and no longer do I worry about the content or the generously sized header, I begin to have concerns about my eyesight and my monitor.
A big issue with the background has to do with the “try to find me” syndrome that it creates. As a designer their is always an internal battle between usability and aesthetics. It is possible to make something extremely usable and look good at the same time. However, for me, the navigation’s color scheme is neither. The non-active tabs are hidden not really because of their background color, but because of the light border that is used and the background color of the rest of the site. The exact same thing could be said of the right-side bar. A third color added to this scheme (ignoring white and black) would do wonders for the whole site I believe.
A better example of how the navigation can be improved with a small color change can be seen on the Designing With Web Standards page. The same yellow and orange are used, but this time with a white background allowing the navigation to standout and become usable.
There are two different navigation systems in place. Neither of them seem to be related. I guess my only question would be why not either put all the sections on the top or all the sections on the right? Because of the navigation system, the site becomes severely disjointed. If you click on the about page, then nothing is highlighted in the top navigation, therefore implying that I am just completely lost with no where to go. Even with a personal site such as this, it is important to give the user a sense of where she is at and if you can’t do that at least let the navigation show that it is one site and not two sites sharing the same domain name.
Note: Currently my own site does not offer a way for users to know where they are at via the navigation, so this critique applies to myself as well.
Another issue with the IA involves the ability to go through Zeldman’s archives or lack of ability to do so. The only way I could figure to do this was by clicking on the small “Previous Reports” button at the bottom of the site. If I wanted to view what Zeldman wrote on my birthday (Aug. 14th) for example, it seems there would be a lot of clicking involved. It’s possible that I am missing something here however.
What I Like
I do like the color scheme and the fact that this version is more readable as compared to the previous one.
Hopefully, I have offered a constructive piece outlining the issues that I believe could be improved with the site. This is not a critique on Zeldman’s ability to design websites, because he has proven himself time and time again, but on this particular design of his website. I believe with the most recent design he was going for more of the “art” and less of the “design” of the site and simply forgot about his audience.