Damashi Peer Review – Visual Design Problems

    June 19, 2003

The biggest problems with the Damashi web site are visual. (And the fact that I couldn’t access the shopping cart due to 404 – Object Not Found errors.) The site contains a distinct market niche of which the owners are clearly experts. The products are logically organized, and combination specials are displayed when a user views either of the components. Normally I am not in favor of alphabetical listings of products, but in this case the listing is not overwhelmingly long enough to make a negative impact.

The graphics and layout, however, need updating. Amazon’s method of putting the price and the “Add to Cart” button at the top of the product page seems to have worked well for them. Reducing the size of the book cover graphic would help put more information on the first screen, as well as decreasing page load times. (If you wanted to provide an enlarged view, allow users to click on the smaller one.) Cascading style sheets would be very helpful. While I don’t always keep with the traditional blue/purple link colors, using blue as a “visited” link color is especially confusing, and the yellow active link color compounds the problem here. Likewise, some of the book titles are red, some blue, some yellow. Some are underlined. CSS would make it easy to be consistent.

The masthead and button graphics are not as appealing as they could be. The marbled horizontal rule is also pass.

I would also make changes to the Order Guidelines page. First, don’t open it in a new window. Next, change the layout (2- or 3-columns?) so that all the information doesn’t appear as such a long page. Users viewing the page at 1024×768 resolution (or higher) see very wide columns of print, which can be difficult to read.

The sitemap is an excellent inclusion (also needs CSS). There’s a link here to “Bargain Books” which doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere on the site – a good thing since there are no bargain books currently being offered. The sitemap should be synchronized with the rest of the site, and I would not include a page on bargain books unless they are actually being offered.

The “Author Biography ” page is a bit confusing. The first four authors’ names are at the first <UL> level, and are themselves links to individual pages about each author. Some points about each of these authors are at the second <UL> level. The final four authors’ names are positioned at the left margin, with their additional information at the first <UL> level, and the link is to the book they jointly published. Consistency in levels would clear up the confusion.

In summary, I found this to be a well-organized site badly in need of a visual tune-up.

Carol Harkins

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