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Author Topic: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!  (Read 5065 times)

Offline leeds laura

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Hi!
My name is Laura and I study Visual Communications at the Leeds College of Art and Design, in my second year now. My most recent project has been a client driven brief, and acting as my client has been the founder of the Naked Scientists, Chris Smith. The main aim of my project was to design a better layout for this website. I don't know what any of you think about the navigation and aesthetics at the moment but I would be interested in your comments. I decided to base my project around website design and have been learning the basics of html coding. I would love you to visit my blog at newbielink:http://www.myliveproject.blogspot.com [nonactive] and comment on my progress so far.
Any feedback is much appreciated, and any questions welcome!


 

another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #1 on: 18/05/2006 21:41:10 »
Sorry, but one of the things I like about the present site is the clean simplicity that focuses on function rather than image.

A web site, in my view, is a functional tool, not a work of art.

Clearly, there is art involved in creating an ergonomic design, but that art has to be focussed on simplicity, getting the message across with the minimum of clutter, and only as much graphics as supports this aim (for those people on slow connections, graphics and sound can be a particular burden on their bandwidth).

Looking at your sample sites on your blog, they all have far too much clutter.

Also bear in mind that anything that is not raw text will present problems in one place or another.  For instance, your stain removal site has the selectable graphic images shown as rooms in a house.

Firstly, since you have not associated any ALT text with these images, anyone who does not have a graphics enabled browser will see absolutely nothing here.  Many people who have visual disability will feed text from a text only browser into a voice synthesiser.  Apart from the fact that you will be disenfranchising these people, you may even be breaking the law in not providing support for text only browsers.

Secondly, many browsers allow people whose sight is less than perfect, to expand the size of text on the page.  This is again not possible to be used if the text is a graphic rather than ordinary text.

Thirdly, the human eye, through years of training reading text, is used to scanning things along horizontal and vertical lines.  Having text scattered around the place may look novel, but is less usable.




George
« Last Edit: 18/05/2006 21:51:30 by another_someone »
 

Offline daveshorts

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #2 on: 19/05/2006 11:34:06 »
For a site like the naked scientists where there is a huge amount of content, you need an interface that is much more optimised for finding and displaying the content as transparently as possible, rather than attempting to make a visual statement which often gets in the way of this.

The other issue is that you want the content to be maintainable, and easily alterable without ruining the look of the site, this doesn't have to constrain you too much, but this really means that you want to be able to automate the production of links etc. This is a lot easier if any links that could conceivably change are text, as otherwise you have to go and find a graphic designer every time you want to add a new category to the site. - I may be somewhat sensitive to this as implimenting the new site is my problem ;)
 

Offline leeds laura

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #3 on: 19/05/2006 12:10:26 »
thank you very much for your insight, and I now realise that I have not made myself very clear as I completely agree with everything you are saying. I too believe that a website should be as simple as possible and it certainly does not need fancy graphics, sound or animation to be effective (especially as these sorts of effects slow down the website and are not suitable for all viewers). I am more interested in the idea of the metaphor as a design base, something to structure the site and relate it to something we instantly recognise. I am currently learning about cascading style sheets which seem to be a text based form of creating an aesthetically pleasing site - do you feel these are appropiate? I hope I haven't upset you 'daveshorts', I am merely a design student using this fantastic website as a case study, and I really appreciate any feedback from you all.
laura
 

Offline neilep

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #4 on: 19/05/2006 22:19:11 »
oooh Laura...are you responsible for the new look logo ?

are ya  eh ? eh ? are ya ?

Men are the same as women, just inside out !
 

Offline ukmicky

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #5 on: 19/05/2006 22:21:26 »
quote:
oooh Laura...are you responsible for the new look logo ?
I wondering where that came from, snazzy init.

Michael
« Last Edit: 19/05/2006 22:21:58 by ukmicky »
 

Offline neilep

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #6 on: 19/05/2006 22:22:18 »
Yep...it's like...well nice !!

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Offline rosy

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #7 on: 19/05/2006 22:51:48 »
I like the fact it's got something on it that isn't just cells... I think having the earth on it at least suggests a broader interest than just biology, which is good. The circle being round his head rather than his arms I like less, however.. the whole thing is (presumably) supposed to be a reference to the Leonardo cartoon, which is so much a part of the general cultural background that the dimensions being a bit off makes me feel uncomfortable every time I look at it. Maybe that's just me, and *maybe* I'll get used to it in time...
 

Offline rosy

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #8 on: 19/05/2006 22:56:50 »
Teehee. I've just looked at him on the main homepage. The old one was wearing blue shoecovers like you'd use in a cleanroom.. the new one seems to be wearing blue buckle-shoes.
 

another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #9 on: 19/05/2006 23:25:13 »
Yes, CSS is good.

OTOH, you want to make sure your site works without CSS, but works even better where CSS is available.  The beauty of CSS is that, if it is used well, it can degrade gently and still retain a usable site on those browsers that do not support CSS.

Although there seems to be a fashion developing for using absolute positioning and fixed width sections (if you use absolute positioning, you pretty much require fixed widths).  The problem is that this rapidly falls apart when text is scaled up. And no longer fits into the boxes you had expected them to fit into.

Thus, IMV, use CSS, but not CSS absolute or fixed positioning, or fixed widths.



George
 

Offline leeds laura

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #10 on: 20/05/2006 11:56:54 »
thank you george, very much appreciated. sounds like I need to get my head around css then!
as for the rest of the replies, I cannot take any credit for the new logo! someone else with a artistic mind has designed that, and well done to them! It looks great!
please visit my blog at newbielink:http://www.myliveproject.blogspot.com [nonactive] and my website should be up and running soon! thank you.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #11 on: 20/05/2006 12:49:09 »
I totally agree with everything George said. I use HTML, CSS & php on all my sites. I have deliberately stayed away from Flash, DirectX, etc as not everyone has those & if your site relies on such systems for visual effects they won't see a thing.

As far as CSS is concerned, I almost exclusively use %age for widths and em for character size as opposed to point or px (the exception is if I use fixed-size buttons). Different monitors render text differently & using point or px can cause problems on hi-res monitors. Using em allows the viewer's own software/hardware to render the characters correctly.

I wouldn't worry too much about browsers not being able to handle CSS. It's only IE pre V4 where you'd get that & I doubt there are many people still using such antiquated versions. The BIG problem, though, is that different browsers interpret CSS differently. Some add margins & widths to the divs whereas others include them, some automatically add a margin. i find it helps to explicitly set the paddings & widths to 0 if they are not required.

If you want to really explore CSS go to http://www.oswd.org where you will find hundreds of free downloadable templates. Look at how others do things. There is also a forum with some very knowledgeable & helpful people who are experts in all aspects of website design & coding.

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another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #12 on: 20/05/2006 15:16:05 »
quote:
Originally posted by leeds laura
I am more interested in the idea of the metaphor as a design base, something to structure the site and relate it to something we instantly recognise.



My own, very personal, opinion is that metaphors are pretentious and lack originality.

My own view is you start from the function, and then develop a philosophy that suits that function.

To quote that well worn phrase “If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research”, and I think the same applies to web site design.

You do need to develop a consistent philosophy, so that the user, having gotten used to your mindset in one part of the site, can anticipate how you will have developed the site in other parts; but that mindset should be something that is original, and tailored to the needs of that site.  If you try and impose a philosophy from some other domain, then you simply apply something that was tailored to suite something else, and not tailored to suite the task at hand.

quote:
Originally posted by leeds laura
The main aim of my project was to design a better layout for this website. I don't know what any of you think about the navigation and aesthetics at the moment but I would be interested in your comments.



One slight issue with the layout of this site that you might wish to learn from is the problems (particularly the mods) have with accidentally editing or deleting things.  There should be better efforts in separating the relatively safe, and commonly used, functionality (such as posting to the site), and the higher risk, and less used, functionality of edit and delete.  This is again a matter of function driven design rather than aesthetically driven design.

It might also be useful if the edit screen was a different colour, or otherwise obviously distinctively different, to the post reply screen; so that even if one accidentally hits the wrong button (which should ideally also have a text as well, rather than simply a tooltip), one also has obvious confirmation of which screen one is in.



George
« Last Edit: 20/05/2006 15:18:31 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #13 on: 20/05/2006 15:35:40 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
I wouldn't worry too much about browsers not being able to handle CSS. It's only IE pre V4 where you'd get that & I doubt there are many people still using such antiquated versions. The BIG problem, though, is that different browsers interpret CSS differently. Some add margins & widths to the divs whereas others include them, some automatically add a margin. i find it helps to explicitly set the paddings & widths to 0 if they are not required.



Mostly, I agree with you.

The bigger problem I have had is a few people who are using Macs who still have old versions of IE3, although all of the newer Macs have moved to Safari, which is Gecko based, and so is compatible with Mozilla/FireFox/Konqueror.

The problem is still whether you wish to drop support for older browsers (i.e. if an older browser is detected, simply throw up an error page), or simply have degraded support for older browsers.  What you do not want is to have lots of support calls generated because someone using an older browser has had his browser to weird and wonderful things simply because you made no concious effort to either provide degraded function, nor prohibit the browser altogether.

The other area you need to be concerned about, and this is not going to go away, is people using Lynx (or its close cousin, Links2).  These are pure text browsers, no graphics, no colour, no CSS.  They are, amongst other things, used for feeding into voice synthesisers.

Although I have not myself looked too closely at it, but you may also wish to look at the CSS 2 properties for aural styles.  I don't know how well they are supported yet.



George
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #14 on: 20/05/2006 16:17:53 »
I use php functions to detect which browser a visitor is using. If it's not 1 I support I put up the suggestion that they upgrade (preferably to Opera or Firefox).

As for Lynx/Links2, the only 1 of my sites where that could be an issue is my autism site. I would like to upload alternate pages as pure text which can be displayed if I detect a text-based browser. However, I'm not sure how to handle navigation in that situation. Almost without exception I use Javascript or php-modified CSS navs, & how would a blind person read the menus anyway? I have over a hundred pages on that site & sorting out the menu structure was a nightmare in the 1st place (I've used a 3-tier dropdown menu system written in Javascript). Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #15 on: 20/05/2006 16:47:17 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
As for Lynx/Links2, the only 1 of my sites where that could be an issue is my autism site. I would like to upload alternate pages as pure text which can be displayed if I detect a text-based browser. However, I'm not sure how to handle navigation in that situation. Almost without exception I use Javascript or php-modified CSS navs, & how would a blind person read the menus anyway? I have over a hundred pages on that site & sorting out the menu structure was a nightmare in the 1st place (I've used a 3-tier dropdown menu system written in Javascript). Any suggestions greatly appreciated.



Unfortunately, my own tests with lynx (which you can download from http://lynx.browser.org/) is that it does not support javascript.  This is a headache.

The only real options is to do everything at the back end (i.e. submit the top level menu, and push out a new menu with the drop-down in place).  This unfortunately will hit the performance badly.

The only other option is to go back to using keyboard driven menu entry rather than mouse driven menu entry.  Keyboard navigation may in any case be easier for people with poor eyesight to navigate, since they do not need to search for things on the screen (at least not once they have gotten used to the appropriate keyboard entry values expected of them).

As you say, in either case, it really requires the back end to detect the browser, and throw out different pages according to the nature of the browser.



George
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #16 on: 20/05/2006 18:21:54 »
Keyboard nav would be almost impossible with the number of pages involved. 1 of the sections has 31 pages in it each with its own menu entry. I'd have to re-work the whole structure.

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another_someone

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #17 on: 27/05/2006 09:41:36 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
Keyboard nav would be almost impossible with the number of pages involved. 1 of the sections has 31 pages in it each with its own menu entry. I'd have to re-work the whole structure.



There is no trivial solution to converting to keyboard entry, but if your users are regularly using the same options, then it would be a matter of allowing them to type in the entire menu path rather than just the current menu entry.  If you have a lot of occasional visitors, then this would give no advantage to the user, since the user will not be aware of menu entry options ahead of displaying the actual menu screen.



George
 

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Re: fans of the Naked Scientists...I need your brains!
« Reply #17 on: 27/05/2006 09:41:36 »

 

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