The Felt Source Peer Review – Information Overload

    July 18, 2003

This website appears to follow the motto of form follows function. Overall, I think the site serves its primary purpose very well, providing its product to consumers. However, the web design leaves something to be desired. Here are some areas I thought could use improvement:

Color Scheme
At first impression, this aspect of the site is almost enough to dissuade a potential customer completely. Although the target audience probably values the ‘cutesy’ pastel blue and yellow, it can be difficult on the eyes and hard to read. However, these colors are not without potential – they are just overshadowed by the impulsive use of every other conceivable color on each page. The biggest problem with the site is that it lacks any coherent use of color as an organizational vehicle. Text and links are not consistent colors. Images that should grab your attention because of their bold colors or text fail to do so because everything has the same appeal. There is simply too much information overload.

Again, there is a certain information overload from too much variety. Felt Source would benefit tremendously by picking at most 3 colors and 3 font sizes in one or two common font styles and using them consistently.

This is in some ways a highlight of the site, but seems again overdone. The product images could be used more to highlight items, instead of highlighting everything. Since many of the images contain text, their invasive presence contributes to the font and color scheme problems. Simply put, the imagery on the site is just excess. The same image of “felt kids” even appears twice on the home page. Especially for the index page, there needn’t be so many graphics where text links would suffice, and often already exist. Furthermore, for a home page, the index is likely excluding potential visitors with older browsers or slow connections. The main page contains 300k of data, which takes up to a full minute to load on a 56k modem. If a redesign to minimize the use of graphics is not feasible, needs at the very least a splash page to direct modem users to whatever information can be given them without so many pictures.

The single best page on the website is the site map, without which browsing would be very difficult. The search engine is nice for those who know what they’re looking for as well. However, without using the site map, finding things just seems a little counter-intuitive. I can’t really offer a remedy, just my general impression that it was hard to find the products themselves with the way pages were organized. This was probably more the result of the difficult appearance than the actual link organization. Only one slight recommendation for the navigation bars, is on the main homepage – having stacked links is fine, but two links should not appear next to each other as part of the same sentence. Note also that the back to top links on some pages, notably the homepage, do not work.

With a wide audience, nothing is more important that browser compatibility, and this site could stand to work on that. In Internet Explorer 6, everything naturally worked perfectly. However, in Safari, the Mac OS X proprietary browser which has been fairly reliable, the spacings were disfigured. The page became much longer, and the links had whole paragraph breaks in between. I did not test the site on older browers, but if a next-generation browser has problems, I would wonder about the integrity of the site with Netscape 4.7, for example, still in use by many web surfers.

It’s easy to go through any site and pick out anything that one personally dislikes, but Thefeltsource is overall a strong web presence. Links function, and the site accomplishes its commercial goal. While the above suggestions could help make the eye appeal much greater, the site itself is well done.

Jacob Weaver
Webmaster – Capitol District Law Offices

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