About the Author: It's just Jim 🐧 On this site, you'll find my posts in various forms: serious, playful, media-based, audios, and more! The underlying theme is identifying my slices of life to paint the present with my past on the site itself.

[Process Post 6] Designs

In my next process post #7, I will include and review the feedback from my TA, design implementations and discussing edits made on the site. This process post will focus on analyzing design and content with elements of user experience.

Website Analysis: https://aliabdaal.com/

I came across a blogger, Ali Abdaal, a few years ago that has built their voice, platform and brand with a help of their site. As a relatively successful owner of a site, I wanted to analyze the design of the site based on what we learned in class from Mauve Pagé.

Screenshot of Ali Abdaal Home Page.
Ali Abdaal Home Page Site Screenshot

First glance: The website is clean and straight to the point with a captivating description/introduction of the main topic (the person). They use multimedia to showcase what they typically do. There is clear call-to-action with directions to guides to click on (with buttons) using contrast and imagery. The logo/signature, heading and menu are easy to find, read and understand.

Eye Direction: An important element of design is where the eye is being led. I looked from “Hey Friends” to reading the description, the video preview photo and site logo.

Consistency: Through the pages, the heading (logo and menus) remains the same. This applies to the colour and typestyle used as well. A slight critique I have is the colour choice with the slight grey-white background that is used to contrast items in the site (eg: Table of Contents). From a design standpoint, my critique is that it is a little difficult to see the ‘borders’ between sections on certain screens.

Style: While there is a particular style from the author on this site (from design). The one element in content/navigation is use of emojis around the site. This stood out because it was a choice within the creation of the content rather than the site design itself.

Screenshot of Ali's site. Has a list with emojis at the start of each sentence, from 20 to 26 as an example.
Screenshot of a list with emojis used.

Web Design:

  • Flexible and Responsive: The site works on mobile and desktop
  • Load Time: Smooth with no visible lag
  • Space Use: There is plenty of white space – no major elements of distraction
  • Performance: Font is consistent throughout
  • User Interface: Easy to navigate, intuitive and easy to tell what needs to be done on the site and what can be found on the site.
  • Referencing and Sourcing: They link (visibly)

Erin Kissane’s article mentions pages that have “semantically structured chunks of (mostly) text that can be assembled, taken apart, and reassembled as needed.” Whether it is within my own site design that follows the chunking approach or Ali’s site, it is an emerging trait of online platforms when developing content and displaying information. By categorizing and organizing from topics to paragraphs in a post, there is a change in form of the content and the containers of the content.

Designing Sites – Reflection

Gertz article from 2015 asks important questions about design and where it comes from in the context of our websites (around the internet). Gertz states that “we don’t actually care about content. We only care about what content can do for us. Why should anyone care about how it reads?”

This draws on an important understanding where the article discusses the similarities and copying of other site designs in order to capitalize on “successful” designs that work. Which in the end, looks the same as any other website.

I was cognizant of my website as we are limited by time to create the sites. By using themes that are pre-designed, they can save the creation and design decisions made in the process. However, this poses two problems. One is that themes may look similar or identical to another site who uses it. The second is it eliminates choices made in the process of creating the site. This is a form of limitation to some degree in our sites that we have in the topic of design.

Something I was not able to showcase clearly with only 1 website analyzed above is that a lot of sites are the same and different. There are essential designs or expected placements for websites for accessibility, usability and navigation ease. Examples like what pages to have (About, Home, Contact etc.) and headings at the top. They key is having these particular elements while standing out to be different from the rest.

The way I like to see it is: What is the special sauce that makes my site unique? That is, I am speaking to the design and look.

The last component in Gertz’s text that resonated with me is writing for the sake of writing. The fact some sites write because they have to which leads to superficial breadcrumb content. This is an interesting point to look into as it speaks to elements of writer’s block, machine content production, advertisement generation, and alienation of audience to degree.

Writing to produce and publish what the author wants, but also considering the value that a particular reader may receive from reading the text is important. It might be simple for me to say to stop doing an activity that one is not excited or happy to do. Yet, there may be unseen pressures to continue as well.

Ultimately, I think being able to carefully introspect as a site owner, publisher and author for our own digital space in order to paint a larger picture will be helpful. Especially the careful designing process from an aesthetic, accessible and enjoyable experience standpoint.


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