How does one critique a web design?
December 10, 2010 3:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I critique my website design?

I have to write a critique of a website I created using XHTML. The only guidance I was given was that I should "discuss the design decisions I made." However, I am a complete newcomer to coding, and my design process was basically, "Can I get this to work? Yes? Hooray!"

So...what is the process usually like for people who know what they're doing? What kind of things should I discuss? Does anyone have a good example of a website critique?
posted by bibliophibianj to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The critique should not be an analysis of the actual code, but an answer to questions like "why is X where it is?" where 'X' is a menu/column/header/etc. Or "why does X look like it does?" color/form/structure. Or "does the placement of X assist the user in doing what she wants to do on the site?" yes = good, no = usability problem. etc. You can of course talk about how the constraints of HTML affected your ability to make other decisions than those you made.
posted by beerbajay at 4:07 AM on December 10, 2010

I can't find a specific critique, but you've surely been on the 'net long enough to see re-designs of popular sites that you've hated for one reason or another.

Design is different from coding, so rather than "does it work?" you should be considering things like font size or selection, length of lines of text (long lines of sans-serif = hard to read), use of graphics, colors, use of white space, etc. You would probably also want to discuss usability, ie, how easy is it to figure out what's going on when you load the front page? Finally, you consider how well you think the site will work going forward - we're on the edge of HTML 5, after all.
posted by Gilbert at 4:13 AM on December 10, 2010

What are the three main tasks you expect users to be able to do on the site? How easily can they discover how to do these things?

What kind of a site is it? Is it a shop / blog / informational site? What are the values it's trying to get across? How does the site communicate these things by use of colour, fonts, and other stylistic decisions?

What's the most important thing on this page? How is that signalled?

Does the site have a strong consistent layout between pages?

What does the site do to help users understand where they are in the site structure and how to get somewhere else?

How usable is the site with a screen reader?

How usable is the site when zoomed in as if by a poorly sighted reader?
posted by emilyw at 4:18 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does the website work correctly in different browsers (and different versions of the same browsers)?

Does the website use design and layout conventions that people are used to, e.g. a "Home" link to take you back to the main page, a search box at the top, menu along the top and/or down the lefthand side, etc.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:22 AM on December 10, 2010

Yes, what everyone else has suggested, and it sounds like a heuristic evaluation or cognitive walkthrough might help.

Those evaluation methods are usually performed to discover flaws, but you could use them to find the ways that your design is working well.
posted by booth at 4:43 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I wrote my first review, I was given this template. If you follow it exactly, you'll sound dull and mechanical, but you will hit the important points:

"My goals for _ were, in descending order,

I arrived at these goals due to _.

They are important because...

I considered these possibilities:A, B, C, &c.

Here are the pros and cons of each, and here's my order of preference among them:

Unfortunately, technical limitations precluded options _ and _.

So I implemented _. Along the way, I had to modify it in a few ways:

The final solution still has these problems:

And it may be possible to solve them in these ways:

But that would require...
posted by d. z. wang at 4:45 AM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

What emilyw said, I think. I'm making some assumption about why you were building a website, but my guess is it wasn't just to demonstrate you could string some code together. Your website has a purpose, and how you designed it determines how well it serves that purpose. So concentrate on all the standard features of web usability, like the navigation, page layout and information hierarchy. What is your website for, and how well does it perform that function?
posted by londonmark at 5:00 AM on December 10, 2010

I like the idea of keeping it focused on the end user being able to complete a task or receive a piece of information.

What is the goal of the website? How simple is it for a person to accomplish that goal? Is there any alternative choices that you could have made that would make it easier / harder?
posted by jmevius at 5:24 AM on December 10, 2010

"Can I get this to work?" is engineering, not design.
posted by rhizome at 10:22 AM on December 10, 2010

Best answer: Read "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. Apply principles therein.
posted by media_itoku at 3:15 PM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: See, I told you I didn't know what I was doing...apparently I was asking the wrong questions. I think I've got a better grip on what I should be discussing now. And media_itoku, the Krug book was really helpful-thanks for pointing me towards it!
posted by bibliophibianj at 3:16 AM on December 11, 2010

"How do I critique my website design?"

Here's one thing I do: Have a friend who has never seen the website before sit at their computer. While standing behind this person (so you can observe), ask them to find something specific deeper in the site. For example, if the site is for a furniture store, ask them to find a table they really like, or ask them to find the store's address.

I'd just redesigned my blog and I thought it was the coolest thing EVER! Such a beautiful yet creative design. And pretty simple too. God, I thought it was awesome. I was dating someone at the time. A friend asked what my girlfriend looked like. I said "Oh, you've got your laptop. I posted a picture of her last week on my blog." I told him where to find it.

As I watched him try to figure out how to navigate my so-called simple site, I realized the new design suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2010

« Older This is really ticking me off   |   If it looks interesting, doable and enjoyable, why... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.