AJ Dimas-Lehndorf November 3, 2016
The website for the Riverside Art Center is truly awful. It’s not alone, however. If you have a moment and need a laugh, I highly recommend webpagesthatsuck.com. Most websites that people regularly use, those that represent major companies or services, are thoroughly crafted. So much research and development goes into building a site, but sometimes the product is still unintuitive, slow, or horrendously ugly. So, what constitutes a successful website?
A successful website is intuitive. Users should be able to find what they came for in as few clicks as possible. A menu bar on the top of the page is very common, and helps users jump between sections. Pages should be organized logically into sections and subsections, and the navigation structure should be consistent throughout the site. An intuitive sight is also searchable. Many websites have some form of search engine, but the best ones recognize natural language and search terms. In other words, they are as much like a Google search as possible. A Successful website is also beautiful. The design should be contemporary, and feel familiar in the context of modern electronic devices and other websites. The website is also a great tool to exemplify a brand. Colours, features, texts, images, and more can be selected to create a consistent brand identity.
There are two websites of varying success that I would like to discuss: Prada and the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Prada website is very brand-oriented, to the point that the homepage is just the logo placed over a beautifully confusing promotional video, along with some choice links to recent fashion lines and certain E-store sections. At first glance, this approach is very visually appealing, until you try to find anything meaningful. After some time, you will notice the transparent menu button, which reveals main sections, but when you click on them, they don’t link you to a that section; they reveal subsection links that you can actually click on. From this menu, you can also find the social media profiles. If you go on to peruse the fantastically expensive (and admittedly stunning) bags, you see them all at a glance. Unfortunately, right-clicking on an item to open it in a new tab only redirects you to the same image. It’s fair to say that the website is more beautiful and branded than intuitive. Even so, Prada is a fashion stalwart with an extensive history that is not told anywhere on the site.
The website for the Hudson’s Bay Company is very intuitive by contrast. The ribbon across the top has categories by demographic and even product category. Furthermore, you can hover over the category, and narrow it down if you like. If you would like to get even more specific, you can refine the search using six more criteria. Needless to say, you will not have a problem finding what you’re looking for, and if you can’t find it, it probably doesn’t exist. The trade-off is that the website isn’t very pretty. The typefaces and graphics are there, but it still looks utilitarian.
Neither of these websites strike the prefect balance between intuitive structure and brand design. I would rather use the Hudson’s Bay website, but I would rather look at the Prada website. Objectively, neither of them are awful, and it could be worse. They could be both ugly and confusing.