For a Web Designer it is often hard to search through sites and turn off your critical goggles. As someone actively involved in the world of Art and Design I regularly look at number of artists’ and gallery’s websites and I am often amazed at how many creative people / agencies sell themselves short when it comes to their online representation.
With this in mind I thought I would give a couple examples where I think the artist/ agency’s web site has pretty much got it right.
DeborahCavenaugh.com is an excellent example of a site that showcases the artist’s creative style and offering well.
As soon as you land on this site the artist’s, unique illustrative style is immediately and efficiently communicated. One could argue that the site is a little hectic, however I would argue the consistent layout of menus and generous provision of information allows an interested visitor to delve deeper into the site without feeling confused or lost.
Ideally from an SEO point of view the menu items should be in text format rather than pictures, and the web page is very image heavy which adversely affects the load time. On a standard broadband connection (1-4mb) the page takes around 10 seconds to load. Clearly we would not recommend this!
That said, most of the page does load long before the 10 seconds, so you would hope it would retain the visitor’s interest.
All in all, I think this is a very attractively presented site that gets across as much information as possible in a friendly way. I think I would try and optimise the load time on the main landing pages and assess which images are necessary and take out the ones that are not.
www.20×200.com is an online gallery that represents a number of artists.
The idea of an Online Gallery is something that has been around for a while. However, in my experience a lot of online galleries are actually designed to make money from the artists - be it through a monthly fee, one off payment or tiered membership scheme – rather than focusing on making it easy for visitors to browse and purchase.
With this in mind coming across 20×200 was a breath of fresh air. The simple layout and navigation allows visitors to browse the site with ease. It also seems in tune with user habits – for example there’s a text link to the homepage rather relying on a rollover on the logo that links to the home page.
The main problem an online gallery faces is how to show a large amount of work by numeroous artists without overwhelming the visitor. This is where I think 20×200 do really well.
Once you click on the ‘browse’ link in the menu you arrive on a page which is set by default to show all art work starting with the most recent in the cheapest range ($20). You then have several more options, to refine your search – date, artist and tag.
My main criticism of the site is that when you click to view an enargement and more information about a picture you are interested in, you appear to hit a dead-end.
The only way to get to the page you were on before is by clicking the back button or by clicking the ‘browse’ link in the menu (which takes you back to the default browse page). A button to return you to your search results would much improve user experience.
Additionally, there are a lot of links that take you off of the site. Whilst I’m supportive of this, personally I would prefer it if the links that left the site opened in a new window rather than the existing window. I’d then be able to easily switch back to the page I was referred from without hitting the browser’s back button ad nauseum.
Overall however, the simple and easy to use navigation allows the user an easy and enjoyable experience and makes this one of the best online galleries I have seen.
In looking at both these sites you may begin to notice that the themes that I highlight in terms of good web design refer to usability rather than more traditional ‘design’ elements like colours and graphics used. For me, good web design is about consistency and good navigation not pretty pictures. I bet you never thought you’d hear a designer talk like that!