Week 2 Assignment: Website Design Critique

12 10 2009


Like most newspaper websites, the Daily Herald’s site is crammed full of headlines and content and lacks a dominant element and organization.Daily Herald home page

Daily Herald home pageAlthough I don’t lament the death of print (despite having been a newspaper reporter), I do occasionally miss the modular design and clear sense of order that a newspaper offers. The front page and all section fronts stick to a certain hierarchy that tells the reader where to start. The most important story appears at the top with the largest headline and photo. It’s followed by the second most important story and so on.

But that sensible layout hasn’t carried over to newspapers’ websites. It seems that newspapers want to show off as much content – and ads – as possible above the fold of the website. The top of the Daily Herald website is a prime example. In the top section we see a poorly designed promo for a special feature, two news stories, a list of community news headlines and a promo for photo galleries. These four items have similar column widths and are given equal space. That’s a big problem – my eyes don’t know where to start. I suppose I’m first drawn to the promo for the distracted driving feature, but it’s confusing and unappealing. There is no hierarchy within this element. The headline and subheadline are really difficult to read and are almost the same size. The shadow effect on the type looks pretty amateurish. Plus, it took me a long time to figure out that it’s a picture of a motor cycle helmet. It’s never a good sign when the viewer can’t even tell what the photo is of.

There are way too many fonts sizes, typefaces and colors on this homepage. Half the headlines are in serif fonts while the other half are in san serif. Columnists’ names are in all caps and are red, followed by black headlines in a font that isn’t found elsewhere on the page. There are also too many colors used in this design: the rainbow of tabs on the top right (jobs, homes, autos, for sale), the yellow horizontal lines, and the blue and red section dividers. Also, the blue background doesn’t provide enough contrast to the blue banner at the top of the page. Additionally, the top of the website uses a slightly different column grid than the rest of the page, likely to accommodate the annoying flashing ads on the page.

Among many changes, this site needs a more consistent look as far as type and color and needs an appealing dominant element. Newspapers need to streamline their homepages and better organize their content.


kayak home page

Of all the various travel websites, I prefer Kayak’s home page. It’s simply designed and easy to use. The larger typeface of the categories in the left column make it easy to see that these are your search options, but the site automatically starts you on “Flights” when you go to the home page. I appreciate this simplicity because I grow weary of the other sites when they try to convince you to also do searches for rental cars and hotels.

The vibrant Kayak logo reminded me of the typefaces on page 29 of “Stop Stealing Sheep.” That section discussed typefaces that look like human figures, architectural elements and so on. The Kayak logo takes its typeface from the old-fashioned signs that gave you flight information in the airport or train station – an ironic nod to the old days of travel. LCD monitors now inform travelers of their flight information, and people now use sites like Kayak to search for the best airfare deals.

The site consistently uses one type of san serif font, and Kayak focuses on just one color – orange. Links are in blue and underlined, a well-known style for hyperlinks, and other text is in black. The site uses white space well.

kayak searchEven Kayak’s search results page is clean and user-friendly while providing lots of information. The flight results show the fares in a larger type because the price is likely one of the most important factors in your search. The section headings are in a larger bold version of the body type, helping guide the user through the site.

Using a light blue background and white boxes, the different sections of the site are clearly defined and well-organized. The left column offers a variety of ways to easily filter your search while the box on the top left gives you all the options you might need about the search. The width of the columns allows the most space for the most important section – the search results – while providing adequate space for the left column.

Although many elements play into design and composition, I’d wager that one of the common themes among well-designed websites is the lack of obnoxious banner ads. Unlike most travel sites, Kayak doesn’t have any advertising on its home page. The search results, however, do have text advertisements, but those are far less obtrusive (and far easier to ignore) than Flash ads.




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