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CSS and AJAX and Web 2.0 oh my

Monday, May 08, 2006

Snazzy web design: Two!

Now consider a fancier-looking cycling site: the Berkeley Bike Club. This site is a more souped-up than the GPC's. It uses CSS, Javascript, and an image-heavy format including adjusted margins so the site looks pretty much the same for everyone. In my opinion, this site is poorly designed despite all that nice stuff. One might say that this is because the BBC is a bunch of insufferable gear nerds who are more interested in nice shifters than nice scenery, so of course they wouldn't have any idea about what's good. But that would be a little glib, so we won't say that.

A lot of work has gone into this site's graphics, but it's still uglier than sin. The loudest element is the thousand or so logos of sponsors, each with its own garish colors and badly aliased lines. More than anything else on the page, this catches my eye – and the damn sidebar is on every page! Supposing we put duct tape over the ads, the site is still pretty ugly. The overall color scheme is black, blue, and white, which looks OK. But some pages have a healthy smattering of red, which does not go well at all with the others. The header above the content is also poorly designed: the navigation bar is deemphasized because it is relatively dark and in a light typeface.

The site is also problematic to navigate. Because every page links to every other page, more or less, there are several broken links. Try clicking "Rides" twice, for instance. In addition, navigation links appear in confusing pages. Some of the content areas, like "About Us" have links to subpages in the top-left corner. But in some cases the text in the top left (which is really an image) is unclickable and all the content is in the text box!

Technically, this site is pretty clumsy. It uses mysterious JavaScript functions to swap around the photos, forcing you to redownload the same photos you should have had cached. It uses a table-based layout and CSS at the same time. The webmaster is partial to long stacks of <br>s. The point is it doesn't really work.

I don't mean to take cheap shots at the BBC, even if I happen to think they should get a life. Their club is smaller than the GPC and probably doesn't have the same resources. But why not scale back the operation a bit? They don't all the silly crap this site has to effectively promote their club, and they could make a better site if they didn't use so many cool features. It's another reminder that technology is no substitute for sound design.