Web Design Critique #39: Sabina Nore

by on 26th February 2011 with 2 Comments

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 the personal website of Sabina Nore.

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About Sabina Nore

“While this website showcases my various creative outlets, it is design, and more specifically web design, which has been my official profession for over 10 years. I have created web sites, Flash animations, logo designs, brochures and posters, illustrations, mascots, Flash games, and other design items for clients all over the world. Each new client introduced me to their realm, which even if completely new to me at the beginning, would become remarkably familiar towards the end of the project. ”

Here is a screenshot of the homepage:

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Initial Impression

As you can see, this is one unique website! It has a definite whimsical and fantastical feel like it’s taken straight out of a children’s novel. This type of thing is extremely hard to pull off and usually results in a page that looks like it’s from the 90s. Admittedly, there is some of that here but perhaps not in the places you would immediately think.

I can certainly tell that a lot of work has been put into the site and that it’s very much meant to be a personal reflection of the author. With a little bit of tweaking I think we can bring the site a long way!

Music

First things first, I point this out on literally every single site that does it: automatic music players are a great way to get people to hate your site. We generally expect our web browsing experience to be a quiet one and to have a website randomly start throwing music and sound effect at you can be unpleasantly surprising and even embarrassing if the site is visited in a public setting.

I usually recommend that the default setting for music players be off, with an obvious choice to add sound only if the user wishes to do so. Further, the mute button on this site really only tones down the audio and doesn’t actually kill it. If a user hits a button to turn off the sound on your site, make sure it does exactly that.

While we’re on the subject of my pet peeves, you might consider toning down the visual flare a bit. The mouse sparkles and animated smoke can be a bit overwhelming!

Header

The header is actually quite stunning. It’s super crazy but in a strangely attractive way that succeeds in the mysterious tone that it is meant to set.

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Regardless of whether or not you like the end effect, you have to admit that it’s quite the Photoshop feat! There’s a lot going on in this portion of the site so let’s break it down piece by piece.

Social Icons

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It definitely wouldn’t be easy to find social media icons that would fit with this theme, but the glossy sheen on these seems to reflect the whimsy of the rest of the page. I’m not sure if these are custom or just a stock download, but the choice is a solid one.

Navigation Elements

Throughout the header are various items that react as you hover over them and lead to other portions of the site when clicked. Some of these are up front and obvious, others are discreet and almost hidden.

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Normally, I would say never ever hide your navigation! However, these images are actually merely a secondary way to navigate the site. The real navigation menu lies in the top left, right where you’d look for it.

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Since there’s an obvious and easy-to-use way to navigate the site, I don’t really have a problem with the scavenger hunt below. It could even be quite fun for some users.

Logo Area

In the center of the site, there is a large logo with the designer’s name. This immediately makes it easy to spot whose site you’ve stumbled upon and includes a personal quote that gives a tiny bit of insight into what the site is (a portfolio of creativity). However, I do have one issue here, see if you can spot it:

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As funny as it sounds, I can’t help but see “Sabina Snore” every time I look at this logo! The placement of the large “S” on the left seems like it’s trying to fit into the words. Sabina might consider stacking these elements or rearranging in such a way that the suggestion of the word “Snore” disappears.

Footer Content

While the header is quirky but carries a lot of merit, the content section at the bottom could use a complete restructuring and is by far the weakest section of the page. There’s just a whole lot of content to read down here and it’s all sort of squished together in one big block. Further, the layout seems to break and overlap on several browsers.

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Organizing lots of written content is where 95% of web designers that submit a critique on Design Shack fall short. It’s a tricky task and one that is far too easily results in a visual mess that no one reads. I always like to use real examples to show that it can in fact be pulled off in a structured and readable way. Today’s comes from Goldenboy Media:

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Notice how much written content is displayed here, perhaps not quite as much as on Sabina’s site, but there’s a strong argument for reducing Sabina’s homepage content to something more manageable. The info on Goldenboy Media is broken up extremely well. There are two distinct sections that use different organizational tactics to prevent redundancy. The first uses simple icons and a grid layout, the second uses two large blocks. The result is super attractive and very user friendly.

I don’t recommend that Sabina steal this layout directly, but instead use it and others like it as inspiration for organizing written information in a way that can be sorted through very quickly.

Your Turn!

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.


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