Every week we take a look at a new website and analyze the design. We’ll point out both the areas that are done well in addition to those that could use some work. Finally, we’ll finish by asking you to provide your own feedback.
Today’s site is Scentsy Buddy, a site for scented children’s stuffed animals.
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About Scentsy Buddy
ScentsyBuddy.com is an interactive website that allows your child to register and “adopt” their Scentsy Buddy, play fun games, and read each of the buddy’s stories in a safe, online environment. We do not ask for your child’s personal information or allow online “chat” of any kind. This website simply offers a way to extend the Scentsy Buddy experience long after you “adopt” your buddy.
Here is a section of the homepage:
In just a glance, I can immediately tell that I’m not going to have many problems with this website. I think they really nailed the target audience without sacrificing aesthetics that even adults would find attractive. This is an incredibly fine line and not many can pull it off to the extent that it is done here.
This is one of those critiques that will turn into more of a lesson. Instead of focusing on what we can teach this designer, we’ll instead search deeper into what we can learn from this designer, particularly in the area of designing for children.
The attractive color palette on this site is one of the first things that captures my attention. There’s plenty of emphasis on primary colors, which is perfect for grabbing the attention of children. Like a psychological thumbs up, this helps kids know that the site is for them.
Remember that children are quite clever. They usually realize pretty quick when something is or isn’t designed to be targeted at them. It’s an interesting phenomenon to observe and one that you should always leverage when engaging in this type of design.
Another thing that I really like about the color palette is that it doesn’t smash your eyes in with a baseball bat like many kid-centric designs. The colors are subdued and attractive with some subtle gradients. They don’t clash or conflict, but complement each other nicely. This is an excellent example of how designing for children doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be creating a site that appears ugly to adults.
The artwork here is a really nice mix of hand-drawn and browser created elements. The two interact and overlap in such a way that you don’t really notice the difference.
I really like the style of the artwork, it feels unique and attractive while at the same time big and bold to make for increased usability. Interestingly enough, the alignment on this page appears all out of whack, but it works. The designer did a really great job of visually balancing the page, while making it look like the elements are randomly placed.
While we’re on the topic of usability, you should know that it’s very important to have strong visual cues when designing anything for kids. The levels of literacy will vary drastically, even if you have a fairly small target age range.
One of the ways you see that here is through the use of the characters right on the homepage. If you’re a kid with a toy, your parent sits you down in front of this site and you’re going to see one thing: your toy on the screen! No one needs to tell you what to do, you’ll instinctively want to click on the picture of your buddy, which will bring you to a screen dedicated to that specific item.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the hover effects for the elements are quite pronounced. The gradient inverts, the stroke changes and even the position of the element is adjusted. This makes for a big, obvious difference that tells children right away that they’ve discovered a button or other interactive element (something to click on).
Areas For Improvement
Now that we’ve ranted and raved about the great example that is this website, let’s see if we can find anything that could use a little work.
Right off the bat, the footer comes to mind. This really looks like it was an afterthought and wasn’t really given a decent amount of attention compared to the rest of the site. All of the items are squished in together so that it looks like one big continuous line with no breaks.
I recommend completely starting over on the footer to make it look less like a mess of links and more like an organized and helpful guide to other parts of the site.
The only other thing I really take issue with is the use of the word “Register” in the line “Register your buddy.” It certainly makes sense to adults, who will likely be helping the child anyway, but I still think this could be a little more friendly. “Register” is a cold, technical term that a child won’t connect with in the least. According to the site, registering implies naming your buddy and downloading an adoption certificate. Something along the lines of “Name Your Buddy” might work a little better (still not the best solution but you get the idea).
Other than that, a big hat tip to the creators of this site. I can tell that a lot of work went into it and it has really paid off in the form of an attractive and hopefully effective site!
Now that you’ve read my comments, pitch in and help out by giving the designer some further advice. Let us know what you think is great about the design and what you think could be stronger. As always, we ask that you also be respectful of the site’s designer and offer clear constructive advice void of any harsh insults.