20 Design Ideas For Site Improvements
20 Site Reviews Of Gaslamp.org by the WebProNews peers.
Check out these reviews for design ideas. There’s nothing like your peers to tell you how to improve your site.
These WebProNews readers generously donated their time and effort to the improvement of a peer’s site. Please visit their sites as a way of saying thanks.
Here’s a link to Gaslamp.org, the site they reviewed: Gaslamp.org.
My first impression of Gaslamp.org was quite positive. The layout is clean and uncluttered. The use of color and graphics are
excellent. Right down to the choice of fonts and text color – this web site looks like a class act! But, when I looked under
the hood I found a horror show…
W3C MarkUp Validation Results: Fatal Error: No DOCTYPE specified!
META TAG ANALYZER had this to report:
TITLE Tag Analysis:
<TITLE>Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego. Restaurants, entertainment, shopping and nightlife! </TITLE>
Warning! This Tag contains too many characters for what we would consider a “robot friendly” Web page.
A close inspection of the index page revealed 84 code errors, of which 6 are critical.
This was achieved with tsWebEditor’s HTML syntax checker, “Tidy”.
The code was obviously machine generated and contained numerous “unrecognized” tags and attributes:
Examples:<csscriptdict>, <csactiondict>, <csobj>
A manual on how to use these properly can be found here: http://www.adobe.com/products/golive/pdfs/gl_whtpr_js.pdf
A metasearch on Ixquick revealed that other than two links (altavista and dmoz), they’ve paid out what appears to be a
tremendous amount of money for paid directory inclusions resulting in only 45 “unique” listings with possibly thousands
Key words taken straight from their metatags: Gaslamp district, restaurants in San Diego, street shopping, night clubs,
Gaslamp Quarter, events, festivals, san diego gaslamp, San Diego Convention Center, gas lamp, gas light
Keyword Density Analyzer v1.3 had this to report:
Total Words: 7
Occurrences : 35
Count Word Density
10 Gaslamp 28.57%
9 diego 25.71%
6 night 17.14%
4 restaurants 11.43%
2 Quarter, 5.71%
2 light 5.71%
2 street 5.71%
In other words, their chosen key words can not be found within the context of the document – so, they have very little relevancy.
Bottomline – “Stop relying on FrontPage and Adobe, learn to write code!”
Herbal Index Online
1. The impression the site makes on visitors. Is it fun, cosmopolitan, hip, exciting and vibrant or is it outdated, uncreative, ten years ago or whatever, and what should we do to bring it up to date? Keep in mind we are a tourist destination, so we need to cater to shopping, dining and nightlife, plus an older crowd who simply visit the Gaslamp for walking tours to learn about history and the architiecture, as we contain ninety four historically significant buildings.
My first impression of the site is that it is dark. The black background in my opinion is always a mistake. It may look kewl, but the fact is, a websites first and primary purpose is to convey information, and therefore must be easy to read.
Secondly the text is to small. A 12pt new times roman size font is the ideal size to read. Thus, any font which by desing may be smaller than this should be made to this size in comparison or slightly larger. Maybe 13 or 14 but no larger. This allows visitors to read the page without incuring eye strain.
Dark text on a dark background?
Do you realy expect me to see it if my eyesight is limited by contrast? Seriously. I do have a very dificult time seeing dark text on dark backgrounds. And what if the visitor has a bad monitor and doesn’t realize it? Well, the text won’t even be shown. I have such a monitor that I was using. There were sites that I could not view because the contrast between the colors were so close that the monitor interpreted them both as being black. Hence no text where text was. No links where links were.
2. How can we make all the pages on the site more cohesive (design wise), so that they look like they all belong on the same web site?
First thing to do is decide on a single webpage design which will include a single background color for all pages on the site. If the company has certain colors that they use on a letter head or other advertising, this would be the place to start. For instance, the gold and white colors in the logo.
Decide on whether to have two or three columns and stick with it. Two for best results Unless you insist on having needless images like the chef. One column gets all the picts and images, the other column gets all the content you wish to convey. You could use a gold background for your image column, and a white background for your content column.
You could also create a background image that has the same linear coloring as the logo. This then would be the background of the page if you could get it right. But you must insure that the background color or image does not in any way interfere or make it more difficult to read the text in the foreground.
3. Is there a better way to organize the business or event information we offer on the site, or is this way acceptable? acceptable.
4. Are there any glaring errors in code? none that I can tell.
5. What in your opinion would take this web site to the next level.
Stop looking for the so called next level. It doesn’t exist unless you are doing a site to show off your grafic expertise and know how to slow down web browsers. You could however, set the script up to change the image on a page as you change information. For instance, showing a lobster when one is seeking sea food is OK, but showing the lobster for italian food when a plate of speggetti would more imply that the visitor is on the right page.
I think the picture of the guy in white should go. Unless you reduce the image to a more exceptable size, a size that would allow you to put the picture at the top of the page next to the logo for instance. You can do this with any of the pages, Your expert in that area can have a pic if you like, but the size must be reasonable, and not look like a bio page. You can always allow for a bio page of your experts, but they should be seperate pages from the content that you are seeking to convey to the visitor.
I think that about does it.
1. The jazz-age trumpeter throws back to about 40’s-50’s Chicago, in the global reckoning. (I lived in San Diego ca 1970’s, and had no impression of jazz and Chicago—I lived in the La Jolla region, graduated from UCSD, worked in Sorrento Valley.) The Bohemian king (random gif) seems out of place for entertainment: Has the gaslamp district been taken-over by bohemians? (is the feeling: some cultish thing, not San Diego.)
2. “Eclectic”?—now that would remind me of the Sanctuary (restaurant) in La Jolla, where we enjoyed rack of lamb, rabbit stew, tiger shrimp, goose sandwiches, avocado crab bisque soup (my favorite: you can’t cook an avocado),… but that was before the owners from New York yawned-in with Coquille San Jacques, in the mid-70’s. Eclectic ordinarily means a blend of artisans and dockers, and (gulp, prostitutes? I can’t even think of what that looks like). Somehow, using the word “eclectic” next to a thick-cut steak (good image of San Diego moderne) just doesn’t ring: more a distraction, like hiding your head while the eclectics go-by.
3. Gaslamp, suggests something down south—mid-America, east of Texas … San Diego may have been built in that era, but gaslamp is the meme for another place, far far away in another galaxy (drive your ’60’s Ford Galaxy from Alphaville to Betaville). Gaslamp in San Diego means/meant, the local enjoyment of a different part of town—like going to a park or a beach: hardly a world-gathering, though anyone who visits San Diego, might wish to include it.
4. You mention Wyatt Earp—this is “western” stuff—which means mid-California (Nevada, etc.)—not gaslamp, but saloonville (that had, gaslamps, and candle lamps,… but was not so characterised).
5. Thinking of what might characterize San Diego, I think you have too much competition with Disneyland: They have a gaslamp district, which is a world attraction. Modern gaslamp district means a place where college kids hang-out because it’s different yet the same: having the amenties packaged in historic form for largescale cosmetic feel — not a ghosttown to explore and push the saloon doors, but to walk right-in and order an ice cream and a T-1 connection with stereo earphones (you can always glance at the archaic walls for an aesthetic refresher while playing a videogame). Maybe you need Wyatt Earp videogames in every shop (like Nevada has slotmachines in every shop)—but that’s beyond your advertisement request.
6. Frankly, I think you’d do better if every area of San Diego had its own gaslamp blocks: La Jolla, La Mesa, Escondido, San Ti. That way vistors could sample each of them, depending on what area they’re visiting this time.
Cordially and sincerely.
Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry, BA, CS
Adult Teaching CRED/1982-87/UCLA – Mathematics, Compu’Sci’s, ABE
“When intelligence counts, take a more advanced course.”
1. The impression the site makes …
Tone down the marketing-sounding copy. Design/layout is too jumbled; put together a table format that will work throughout the site. As it stands, various look more like a refrigerator door with magnets on it.
2. How can we make all the pages on the site more cohesive … Don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but hiring a competent design firm will do the trick.
3. Is there a better way to organize … The use of directory lists on interior pages is overwhelming but, sorry, I don’t have an idea for a better way to do this.
You might start with questioning whether you truly need to have access to every single bit of information currently available.
4. Are there any glaring errors in code?
5. What in your opinion would take this web site to the next level.
Make the design cleaner and consistent, rid yourself of “too trendy” graphics like http://gaslamp.org/images/stand.gif and http://www.gaslamp.org/images/ps10.gif. Why? Because on one hand you say you have to cater to an older crowd but then you display images of too-slick hipsters. It raises the question of whether the district is truly a comfortable place for all to visit or are you trying to be a Miami South Beach?
“Southern California’s premier dining, shopping and entertainment district,” — True or not, this sounds like hype and I don’t like hype.
“2003” in the “gaslamp quarter 2003” graphic is confusing. No relevance to my experience as a user.
The bold, colored lead text of each paragraph on the index page should tell a story or develop a brand-inspired theme when the are read separately but in series. It’s not cohesive right now.
I checked out the Gaslight.org site and liked the design of the front page. Sadly it took forever to load. The other pages are not as interesting in design as the front.
The front has a certain style and the others look somewhat familiar. I know , it looks like www.411.com. Maybe the black makes the difference.
I do think that the logos on the other pages should be the same as the front page. Repetitions of image will help the viewer remember the site.
The history page is of a completely different design and only goes up to 1920. What happened after that? Why should I have to go to another site to find out? If the Downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter is the hottest spot in town why not translate that feeling to the pages? Make them fun to look at, more color and keep the feeling of your product. This type of site is selling a feeling. Make sure the viewer understands that feeling and would want to be a part of it.
I would suggest that one different review of the area be at the top of each page and large enough to stand out.
I hope this will help in some small way.
1. Links aren’t cloaked so can see that link to say a restaurant in fact goes thru gaslamp counter and not direct to the site.
2. Navigation a little hard to take in 1st visit. eg can access articles from dining page, but not home page. Would be ok if articles were specific to dining but they’re general so should be on home page.
Maybe a more consistent nav bar as you go round the site?
3. Not many pics of the area on the site.
4. Graphics that are used are repeated alot – so all biz categories have the same pic and so on. Maybe more varied pics and graphics without losing consistent style.
5. Some features are marooned down particular paths – eg you can get restaurant tokens on the convention page but not on the restaurant page. Nice idea though to have the tokens – shows site has connection with actual real people & biz in the area.
6. Cannot be sure if there was any cruelty to the lobster included in all the restaurant pages.
7. Orange nav bar has popup hints for all catregories except GQA – not consistent.
Above are bad points noticed up front, but site generally very good, nice style. Follows three click rule. Will be trying to apply lessons learned to our site croyweb.com which is same kind of site – just a different kind of town.
Hi, I’m a suscriber of your e-zine, and here’s my review of this site …
1. The impression of this site does not look too vibrant to me. Your content and the main “idea” of the site is put together very nicely however. Also, I’m not a fan of dark colours, and I prefer the white background, along with the other colours you used as the main “theme” of colours, on the other pages of you site. This brings me to the next point.
2. To make your site more cohesive, use the same colours (about 3 or 4) as your overall colours. Make sure it doesn’t clash with each other, and don’t use bright colours AT ALL (like aqua, or lime) for major portions of your site (like backgrounds)! 3. I like the way you organized everything on your site. Content is ok, just the design needs some work.
5. I feel another better design would really help this site a lot.
Good luck and have a nice day,
I have a few areas that I believe could enhance the site.
I know that the writer is aware that his pages lack energy, but having lived in San Diego, I’d say that was an understatement. The Gaslamp district is well known, as is most of San Diego for it’s vibrancy. The page gives you the impression that you’re going somewhere relatively staid.
The second objection I have isn’t exactly with the page, though the attitude might creep into the web page, but it has to do with a statement made in the introductory letter by the author. “plus an older crowd who simply visit the Gaslamp for walking tours to learn about history and the architiecture [sic], as we contain ninety four historically significant buildings.” This strikes me as a somewhat ageist attitude. I don’t consider my self “old,” though I am 50. And while I do enjoy historically significant architecture, I also enjoy good food and entertainment. As you see, this thoughtless attitude could actually cost the district money.
Finally, you asked if there were any glaring errors in code. Take a look at the lodging page. “Error: the database ‘../californiares.com/hotelmaster.db’ could not be found or openedError: the database ‘../californiares.com/hotelmaster.db’ could not be found or opened”
OK, discount all that. While I was writing this, you snuck in a really great site.
Data Technology Corporation
1. I think New Orleans when I open up this page… brass player, black and purple, etc. It isn’t until I ask myself “Where is this place?” that I find the city in the upper left corner. Could be a good thing or a bad thing!!
2. There doesn’t seem to be a great connection between the first page and the following subpages in terms of graphic identity. I’d look first at your color schemes and match them to your index page. Your title isn’t the same, either… on the home page it says “Gaslamp Quarter 2003” and on the other pages it says “Gaslamp.org”. The theme should be consistent… either the lamp with .org or the New Orleans jazz feel with the black/purple and clipart similar to the trumpeter on the home page.
3. Your organization is ok, though I’d make the Articles/History/Location/etc. menu a little more prominent on your page somehow (maybe using the yellow font from the home page to make it stand out a little?). The various colors for each section are pretty bright, and you might want to keep a standard page template with standard colors and just change clipart and heading colors. The Events page is close… perhaps changing the blue to a black would help?
4. Can’t find any errors, but didn’t have a ton of time to look at the code.
5. See #2 and #3.
In response to your request for reviews of the site “gaslamp.org”, may I make the following comments:
The site is not cohesive in design concept and therefore does not flow naturally.
You have to read to find out what the organization really is, I would recommend something like, “Gaslamp Quarter, the heart of downtown San Diego” or something similar so that on the home page you are aware you are visiting a site that pertains to business located in the downtown district. A small GIF image could be included indicating dining, shopping, events and other things in the form of an actual logo. I would recommend a gif for the contact e-mail so that e-mail robots do not pick up the address to send spam to.
The hyperlinks are all wrong, a good example of this is the “site map” page where the colors are reversed from what a site visitor is used to seeing. I would recommend that the titles be in black and the hyperlinks be in blue.
The different colors on each of the pages are way to dark and once again add to the fact that site is not consistent. Also, the layout is not consistent throughout the different pages and should be.
One gets a little confused in looking at this site, is it a chamber of commerce site, a tourism site or an association site?
It seems they are trying to be all three.
1.) The site does seem quite informative and easy to navigate… however, the information is presented in a really boring manner. It needs some action; flash animations, gif animations, something moving! Also there isn’t much draw to interactive content. I want to read visitor-submitted restaurant reviews, win a movie, download your free screen-saver, chat with area peers, submit my favorite entertainment establishments for listing inclusion or review, etc.
2.) Save the front entry page, the site is very cohesive. Front page tooooooo dark, “listy”, and not enough movement.
3.) I like the organization. The top menu keeps me focused on where I am and where I’m going within the site.
4.) Code seems fine
5.) To take this site to the next level? Interactivity and animation. Perhaps an optional flash version!
My site is at: http://www.sonoraneye.com
I’m glad to help the GasLamp.org with some advice.
The fist thing I spot is that the inner pages use the GasLamp.org logo (also some images didnt appeared), but the home page don’t… I think the logo MUST show on the head of the homepage as in the inner pages, maybe they can place it as a watermark on the black background, the design on the home page is totaly out of synchrony with the inner pages… the logo would help to achieve homogeneity. Also they can use a vertical black line for the background in the inner pages, to “link” them visualy with the home page design.
My name is Carlos Canales, I run a Design, web and multimedia group in Mexico City, www.dcreativo.com the site is only in spanish, but it will be in english soon.
Carlos G. Canales Nieto
Diseo, Web y Multimedia
“Dcreativo, creatividad y tecnologa al alcance de todos”
While I may not be a “Webmaster” so to speak, I have created a couple of pages for myself. I have surfed the internet for several years so here are my comments on the site. The Entrance Page: Number one I don’t like black backgrounds, no matter what text color you use, it is hard to read on a black background back because the the text seems to glare at you. The small font size of the white text on this page is very hard for my old eyes to read without squinting. I think there is way too much information on this page if the reason for having this page is merely a portal to enter the site.
The site map page: Borrrrrrring!! Each category needs to be more defined. Maybe centered on the page with a much larger font size and a small graphic by each listing to denote what it is. Anything to add some zip to this page.
As far as the rest of the site. THINK CONTINUITY. What is up with all the pages being a different color? Lose that horrid lime green and bright yellow-orange background for sure. They are like a slap in the face when you open that page.
If you are opposed to a white background or maybe an eggshell color, then the best background color you have on your site is the color on the “professional services” page. It could be a little lighter, but it is not hard on the eyes and the black text or the white either one is easy to read and it doesn’t “glare at you. It matches well with your logo at the top and it seems to pull the whole page together.
In other words it has a “professional” look!!
Well there is my review for what it is worth,
The few suggestions I have are as follows:
Change the background color to white, nothing is more depressing and potentially ominous than black.
I know Flash is a thing of the past but obvious indicators that you are scrolling over a hyperlink are expectations rather than exceptions.
All the general info about what the site is offering should be on the front page by adding text boxes to rollover areas on the page. Not the current reiteration of the words you have scrolled over (when the page finally downloads).
Angulate the images, the place looks uninteresting. Until you mentioned what the site was about I thought it was advertising a restaurant not an entire commercial area.
In short, it looks like it was designed from a template from Word’95.
PS I am being overly critical because you have asked for comments. Normally I would have skipped past this site because it gives the impression that it was trying too hard to be something that it couldn’t hold up to.
The home page was quite pleasant, I felt that the general look of the page was entertaining, the text was a little difficult to read but maneageable. the Jazz musician is a wonderful touch to the site, I felt that it brought with it all kinds of flavor and history and atmosphere to the home page.
The links were very clear and consise, however, the rollover was acting Kinda choppy.
The only other thing I would concider changing would be the thin purple border around your slideshow image link in the top corner.
The map however was very difficult to focus on, there was too much on the page and with the blocks it was just busy, I would consider doing a map to the area, and maybe have sub maps to the various shops off of a link or perhaps have the star pointer show up when a business name is rolled over buit that is just my passing thought.
All in all, I enjoyed the site.
The overall impression is very good. Since we are here to criticize I have the following suggestions:
1. I know I did often the same, making the layout of the home page different. But your head banner and logo looks really good why not display in the home page too? It is also easier to find the links always horizontal.
2. You have different backgrounds of the pages; therefore the text and picture layout should be stricter to give an impression of related content. Or stay with one color and everything looks good.
3. The link design is made to hover into yellow tone, which is no good for the yellow “convention” page because the links disappear. (Maybe it’s just an overlooked error.) My proposal is to stay with the same color (eventually black) with no decoration and only hover into underlined.
My first impression of the site GasLamp.org was good, then sank once I saw that there was more to scroll down to. I’m not a person who can criticize putting to many words on a page, my personal site, Str82U is almost all text, if it weren’t for the dust on my monitor, the words would jam together. The top section that fit my 800×600 view was nearly perfect, by itself. Maybe use this as a splash page or set a redirect to the Calendar/index/info (the stuff below) page after 20 seconds or so. And then there was the history page, that was cool, but more like the index page than the rest of the site. That theme and style looks more attractive to me, and done right (not over done) you could really pull off a horizontal site.
Personally, I think this theme has more appeal visually, the history page is too white, but the navigation was great. As far as the other theme, I like the color changes from page to page and the page elements work too, the major distraction was the body layout had no set form. There’s no need to be conventional, but a little structure would go a long way, even if it were just making the right side (with the newsletter info) constant, with the Calendar of events, or abridged version, and block that section off with something vertical. What I’m getting at is giving the user stability and developing trust, subconsciously the user knows “This is here now, and will be here on every page” that way they are less overwhelmed by the next pages content.
The convention and events pages are a good example of the this layout, but it causes allot of confusion when you use that may font sizes, colors and styles on one page. Stick to maybe 3 different text options. It’s ok to use repetition with text as long as it’s consistent and separate. I think for the most part, average surfers are like children in that they want structure, they just don’t know it. It would make the site allot more comfortable is all, I have the same problem in my head…
So then, what’s up with that code? Did someone do that on purpose, gapping the text out that way? Personally, I cheat a little and still use FrontPage 4, (no I didn’t like 5 much) but figure that gap thing doesn’t kill anyone.
Wear out those meta-tags, there’s so much wasted space in the keywords. And put in what people are going to search for, PHRASES BABY, like “night life in san diego, san diego bars, bars in san diego, getting laid in san diego…” really, be specific. The trick here is to make the meta tagss and text on the pages say the same thing, relevance goes up for pages like the Dining page except there’s more wasted keywords, “Eclectic, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican.” what is it? put some description with it, Mexican food, Japanese Restaurant….and match the keywords on the page.
Oh man, need sleep, but the site needs a search too, not a web search, index often. Front page has a good search for small sites.
Link to those coupons, that should be in the main list of links. That’ll get people on the site map page unless you make a seperate page for coupons.
The bottom line___I’d develop the black index page theme, keep a common secton for your reoccuring items; newsletter, search box, coupons, etc. That’s it, good night.
I’m going to go through what’s wrong with the site, before I comment on what’s right about it.
Number one, the home page file size is way too huge. It’s over a 180 kb in size. 24 k is used up for the HTML code and the gigantic remainder is made up of images. This equates to almost a minute for those using a 56k modem before the page loads. For those of you screaming cable modem and DSL, hold your horses. The vast majority of web surfers still use dial-up. Not only that, but some of those cable modem nodes are getting a bit congested. A few actually have downstream speeds slower than dial-up.
The yellow text on the Home page invites me to click, expecting a link. But, no, it was just yellow text. This is minor. Fortunately, the yellow text was not underlined. On the Home page, I would have included the top page navigational scheme that is found on the subsequent pages. When you first visit a subsequent page, it seems like you are visiting a different site.
Speaking of the subsequent pages and their navigation, it would have nice, if the logo was linked back to the home page. It took me a while to figure out that the picture of the house was the link to the Home page. By the way, the “History” page is missing its top navigation. Also, the “GQA” link in the top navigation is missing its rollover text. Under “Services”, there are quite a few links that are not compatible with the older, but still popular Netscape 4.7x.
Now, for the good side. At least you offer a text-only version of the home page. The site itself is very inclusive. A lot of good information well organized. The meta and title tags are good.
In summary, I think the site would be nearly perfect, if the Home page was smaller in file size and had a similar navigation scheme as the subsequent pages.
Review of gaslamp.org
I would say the site is virtually perfect. Very well done! Site seems very cohesive in style with the exception of the opening page. Easy to get around and find out what needs to be done.
I checked out the source code…Pretty slim on meta tags, specifically relating to geographic region.
Graphic quality is good, loaded fast nice on IE6 dialup. I wonder about the screen width? I’m viewing at a 1024 x 768, and it looks good, yet many people still use 800 X 600 and they may get the dreaded horizontal scroll bar.
You’re right about the map…an inset with the San Diego area would be nice as well as distances to major attractions like Sea World, the Zoo, etc. The idea being to get tourist to stay in the area even if they visit other sites of interest.
A review of the gaslamp site:
1. Is it hip?
No, not really. The photo use is ineffective and I’m not fond of the black background for this type of people and service oriented site. It needs more life, more energy.
2. How to unify the design.
That is a function of the navigational elements, you need a consistent navigational approach from page to page, along with a consistent graphic approach. Navigation should be easily understood and prominent. The background colors change from page to page, that’s not a bad thing but it doesn’t work on this site.
3. The event listing is kind of a mess. I’d start out with text or graphical hyperlinks that list all events. The links can open up in a new window, with one window for each event. You could also do a calendar type of graphic with hot spots. On the business page, just do a popup window with the listing.
4. I don’t see any glaring code orders, but I’m a designer and marketing guy, not a code expert.
5. I think a re-design with more color, energy, people, and easier navigation would take it to the next level. Also, maybe some interactive features.
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