May 09, 2008

Arts on Earth

Arts on Earth is a relatively old launch, but I missed it, and it's completely worth highlighting for several reasons.

Michigan Marketing and Design built the site, and it has some of the best code and design I've seen come out of that shop in a while:

The homepage opens with great art, clear navigation, and well-formed code. In fact, the whole page takes only 53 lines of XHTML-strict.

The most obvious problem is that the front page doesn't describe what Arts on Earth is. Even a few sentences could solve that and lead deeper into the site. However, with the well-designed navigation, this may not even be an issue.

To find out if visitors are indeed confused, the web developers could look at their analytics. If a large number of visitors only view the homepage and do not continue to sub-pages, adjustments to the design may be in order.

Sub-pages are also well-designed and well-coded. Take the news and events page:

Text is set consistently with Lucida Grande in fixed sizes: 10/11/12/18px (a fixed font size may still be problematic for some users). The face is cleverly varied -- uppercase, italicized, bolded, set in red and blue -- to create a great look. The variations are not random, though. It's clear they were thought through and reflect the structure of the page. Some headlines are set in Georgia, a nice contrast.

The web developers certainly knew their business; the XHTML is clean and semantic. I was pleasantly surprised to see they went the extra mile to add a print stylesheet. The CSS could be condensed a bit -- the same font property is repeated many times, when it could just be used once in the body selector.

Missing from the site are newer features such as an RSS feed for events and news. The Sign Up page offers a way to receive updates, but the "Join our e-mail list" link just opens a blank email to artsonearth@umich.edu. The maintainers could add clearer instructions on how to join the list -- or use a free third-party email newsletter management service that offers a simple signup form, like Campaign Monitor or FeedBurner.

All in all, an excellent new site that many developers (me included!) can learn from.

May 9, 2008 11:04 AM

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