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 Atlantic Corporate Interiors. Let’s jump in and see what we think!
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About Atlantic Corporate Interiors
“From our business software to our product solutions to our back-room process, everything we do is built around listening to our customers and responding accordingly. Not surprisingly, this idea, as simple as it is, still resonates in the marketplace. As the pace of business increases and the demands of marketplace performance are heightened, one guidepost remains steadfast. Are we listening to the customer? If we do that well enough, everything else follows. Our solutions will be creative, within budget and, most importantly, exceed the customer’s expectation.”
Here is a screenshot of the homepage:
I chatted with this site’s designer a bit and he noted that the site had just gone live the evening before I began this critique. It’s an interesting opportunity to get a chance to evaluate a site that’s so recent. As you can imagine, it can often take days or even weeks to smooth over all of the little quirks and errors that you don’t notice until the site is seen by thousands of people.
My first impression about this site is that it looks very clean. I can definitely tell that the designer worked hard to make sure the final product didn’t become overcrowded by unnecessary elements and messaging.
The pages are organized well. There are three distinct sections: a header, content area and footer, kept separate by color and texture. From a purely subjective standpoint, I feel like the site is a little texture heavy. I’m not particularly fond of the prominence of the lines and gradient in the footer. I realize that it’s a visual theme carried over from other elements but I feel like it’s a little busy and distracting in such a large area.
Once again, this is more of a personal taste thing than a logical criticism. On the whole, the new design seems like a success. It’s a solid attempt at a current design style that brings this company into 2011 and beyond. As I look around, there are definitely some specific points worth mentioning and possibly updating. Let’s discuss these.
One of the first things that I noticed about the site is that it looks like someone forgot to update the title. This is currently a technical reference to an old test. Now that the site is live, it’s crucial to make sure this is updated to reflect the business name for both functional and SEO purposes.
Though I’m a huge fan of the minimalist web design movement, sometimes the principle can be taken too far. The home page of this site might be an example of this. When I load the site up on my laptop, here’s the portion of the page that I see:
As you can see, the site is pretty vague about just what is going on. There are some key questions that you want users to be able to answer right away: Who is this site from? What/who is it for? As an answer, the top portion of the site gives you only a logo that says “ACI.” There is absolutely no description of the company or what it does. The pictures in the slideshow are a clue, but looking at those I’m not sure if what’s being offered is a product (furniture), service (office set up) or both. The best indicator for what ACI is offering comes from the word “furniture” in the navigation.
This sort of “piece together the clues to solve the mystery” web browsing experience can leave users frustrated. Granted, some people will only navigate to the site because they know exactly what it is, others though will stumble upon the site via Google and other resources and you want to make sure these visitors don’t quickly lose interest due to a lack of information.
How to Fix It
The fix here is easier than you might think. You don’t necessarily need a huge paragraph of text to tell people who you are and what you do. Instead, try a simple one liner. For instance, Twitter is a pretty complicated concept, but its homepage simply says the following:
“Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about.”
This just tells you the very core concept about the service, nothing more. I recommend that you strive to come up with something like this for the top portion of the ACI site.
Moving on past the home page, we find that the secondary pages are fairly well designed too. Most of these pick up an effective and simple two column layout like the one shown below.
On these pages the designer has introduced a secondary navigation feature, which helps keep all the content neatly categorized and condensed. The repetition of the bright orange from the logo is a nice touch, it helps keep the color palette consistent and yet brings some life to the page.
The problem that I have with the secondary navigation is that it’s not always used. Some pages don’t have any siblings and therefore possess a blank navigation area. This makes for a pretty awkward element in the design that looks more like an accident than something intentionally left blank.
How to Fix It
The solution here is simple, just hide the secondary navigation altogether when there’s no content to put in it. The homepage is an example of a page that’s left this element out so it’s completely appropriate to do this again here.
The last thing that I noticed about the site as I clicked around was that there are a couple of image links that don’t really go anywhere. Instead they open up larger versions of the images. In principal, this is fine and is even standard practice on image galleries. However, these appear on images that don’t merit this functionality. As far as I can tell, this is confined to the sidebar images like the one below.
Here we see a picture of a phone on a keyboard, which makes perfect sense given that this is a contact page. However, when I hover over the phone image, I get a hand cursor, which leads me to click. This gives me a large picture of a phone on a keyboard. Why do I need a closer look at a simple stock photo? This unnecessary functionality has the ability to distract the user from what’s important.
To sum up, I think this site redesign was a success. The aesthetic is clean and current and really pairs well with the stylish, modern furniture being sold on the site. Overall, my suggestions for improvement amount to subjective design decisions and slight bug fixes:
- Consider easing up on the texture a bit. Perhaps tone down the noise layer and make the footer less distracting.
- Fix the page title.
- Make sure the purpose for the site/company is clearly stated on the home page.
- Hide the secondary navigation bar when it isn’t needed.
- Ditch the links on random stock photos that don’t have a reason to be viewed at a larger size.
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.