What is competitor analysis and how should web content planners set about it? Use your own website as an example

WHAT IS COMPETITOR ANALYSIS?

Competitor analysis is a term used in marketing and strategic management. It means “assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors” and helps defining competitive strategy (1).

The objectives of analysis include defining possible changes competitors might make to their strategies and how they will respond to moves occurring in the market (2).

Competitor analysis, according to Michael Porter, is also based on asking yourself three questions:

  • “Who should we pick a fight with in the industry, and with what sequence of moves?”
  • “What is the meaning of that competitor’s strategic move and how seriously should we take it?”
  • “What areas should we avoid because the competitor’s response will be emotional or desperate?” (3)

“Clearly all significant existing competitors must be analysed. However, it also may be important to analyse the potential competitors that may come on the scene” (4).

FOUR DIAGNOSTIC COMPONENTS OF A COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

  1. Future goals
  2. Current strategy
  3. Assumptions
  4. Capabilities (5)

Michael Porter divided these points into two groups: understanding what drives the competitor (future goals and assumptions) and competitor’s current strategies, strengths and weaknesses (current strategy and capabilities). He mentions that less attention is paid to comprehend competitors’ purposes (6). Aiming to understand broadly what are their ambitions will definitively helps us establish a better strategy for our business.

Picture 1 – Micheal E. Porter, Competitive Strategy. Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors, Published New York : Free Press, 2004, p. 49.

Future goals (7) can be related to finance, targets, technology, social performance etc. Once competitors’ goals are defined, it’s easier to predict “whether or not each competitor is satisfied with its present position and financial results, and how likely that competitor is to change strategy”. The diagnosis of future goals also helps to forecast their reactions and initiatives.

Assumptions (8) refer to two categories: competitor’s assumptions about itself and about the industry and the other companies in it. They “guide the way the firm behaves and the way it reacts to events”. We should be aware that not all assumptions are precise. Sometimes they may lead a business to a wrong direction. Blind spots are “areas where a competitor will either not see the significance of events (such as strategic move) at all, will perceive them incorrectly, or will perceive them only very slowly”.

The analysis of current strategy (9) is based on describing “current strategy of each competitor”.

Competitor’s capabilities (10), the final point of competitor analysis, “is a realistic appraisal” and evaluation.


Picture 2 – Robert M. Grant, Contemporary Strategy Analysis, Published Oxford : Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2008, p. 108.

SELECTING COMPETITORS

Competitors can be grouped in different categories, to help us define our aims and targets (11).

We can divide our competitors into strong and weak. Although competing against less powerful companies is easier and may require less effort, challenging stronger ones will help establishing your position from the beginning.

Competitors can be also defined as close and distant. It’s more obvious to select competitors among those who are more approximate. It influences the selection of our target market and business niche. It’s also worth keeping an eye on distant competitors, those who’s business doesn’t seem related to ours, because it can affect our strategies.

Good and bad competitors refer to those who play industry rules and those who make more risky moves. This category of competitors has its effect on the equilibrium.

No matter which category of competitors will be considered the most significant, there is no doubt that each of them should be taken into consideration and analysed. The better we examine the market and our competitors, the easier it will be to specify our aims. Benchmarking is the action of learning from the best companies, implementing their best practice into our projects and improving them (12). Competitive Intelligence means analysing available information about our rivals in order to predict their strategies and make our decision making more efficient (13).

SELECTING CUSTOMERS

Customers can be also divided into groups: valuable / not valuable, vulnerable / not vulnerable (14).


Picture 3 – Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller, Marketing Management, Published London : Persons Education Ltd., 2009, p. 340.

The picture above compares various types of customers and suggests which group is worth keeping an eye on. It’s interesting to observe the the once that can influence our business are the ones from extreme top left and bottom right corners. These customers, defined as either valuable and vulnerable or not valuable and not vulnerable, are driving our business by giving us profit and interest in what we do.

MY COMPETITOR

GBPOSTERS.COM

To analyse GB Posters website I will use Michael Porter’s four diagnostic components: future goals, current strategy, assumptions and capabilities.

Future Goals
One of the aims of GB Posters could be to compete with international posters and prints suppliers. This will involve establishing contacts with local printing-houses. Opening a POD service outside UK to operate in foreign markets would allow them to deliver products from Britain internationally at lower prices.

Current Strategy
They offer a huge range of products and deal with recognised companies in Britain, such as HMV, Amazon, Play.com.

Assumptions
They claim to be the biggest supplier of posters in the UK market.

Capabilities
They provide a wide range and variety of products (prints, badges etc.) and they have competitive prices.

CONCLUSIONS
I can see myself competing with GBPosters in terms of specific and high quality products. I also believe that the possibility of interaction with poster supplier (here: emerging artist) can make each transaction unique.
Providing potential buyers with useful information about products on offer (event posters) makes them more accessible.

—-

References

  1. Wikipedia, Competitor analysis, available online, accessed on 13th March 2011.
  2. Micheal E. Porter, Competitive Strategy. Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors, Published New York : Free Press, 2004, p. 47.
  3. Ibidem, p. 47.
  4. Ibidem, p. 49-50.
  5. Ibidem, p. 48.
  6. Ibidem, p. 48.
  7. Ibidem, p. 50-51.
  8. Ibidem, p. 58-59.
  9. Ibidem, p. 63.
  10. Ibidem, p. 63.
  11. Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller, Marketing Management, Published London : Persons Education Ltd., 2009, p. 339-340.
  12. Ibidem, p. 340.
  13. Robert M. Grant, Contemporary Strategy Analysis, Published Oxford : Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2008, p. 107.
  14. Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller, op. cit., p. 340-341.
Posted in Content Management, Coursework | Comments Off

How does the law of copyright affect web publishers and what problems have they encountered?

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT?

The law of copyright was established to protect the originality of someone’s work. The other principle is to make sure it is not duplicated or misused by other person in order to bring them profit.
This is “the right of the owner to reproduce or permit someone else to reproduce copyrighted works” (1). It can be perceived as a sort of reward given to the artists and publishers for their creativity.

To be classified as copyrighted a work need to (2):

  • be original;
  • have a definite medium of expression;
  • be creative.

Types of work that can be copyrighted include (3):

  • literary works, including computer programs;
  • music works;
  • dramatic works;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings;
  • architectural works.

However, not everything can be protected under the law of copyright. This rule can’t be applied to facts and ideas unless both of them are expressed through a certain medium. Titles and names can’t be protected neither, same as procedures, government documents and works that are already in public domain (4).

TYPES OF LICENSES AND SITUATIONS WHEN WE CAN USE A COPYRIGHTED WORK

There are a few situations when a copyrighted work can be used without asking for permission.

Fair Use defines a case when a part of one’s work (especially text, images and pieces of music) can be used without asking for permission. Although there is no fixed definition of this Fair Use, in general it allows to copy a work in order to comment, criticize or parody it (5).

There are four factors (6) that should be analyzed before considering Fair Use:

  1. the purpose and character (it’s accepted to add new sense of copyrighted work by transforming it for your purposes);
  2. the nature of copyrighted work (refers to distributing facts that may are beneficial for the public, i.e. it is allowed to use biographies);
  3. the amount of work that was taken (try to avoid copying the most important elements or statements and remember that the less you copy the better);
  4. the effect of the market (don’t try to make money out of authors’ works and don’t deprive them of income).

Fair Use is also allowed for educational purposes (7). On one hand I absolutely agree with this because the act of learning is fantastic. Creating many different possibilities, especially for children, to use all available materials to study is one of the best things that can be done. However, it’s always beneficial to educate that any work that is not mine should be quoted or pointed out in references. This also teaches respect towards artists, writers and any creative job we refer to.
Fair Use also supports the situation in which the practice publishing is contrasted with real publishing (8). This again emphasizes the importance of learning from competent and established authors in order to produce a good quality work. Referencing and quoting can’t be missed in any stage of studying and gaining skills.
For further reading I would recommend reading some live examples of cases where Fair Use is allowed.

So called De Minimis Copying is using just a small bit of someone’s work that quoting isn’t obligatory (9). This type of copying is often explained to be non-interfering. De Minimis is accepted in situations when a person in copying a title or a headline (10), using small quotes or making minor corrections to quoted work (11).
Even if it’s allowed to take a small piece of work, be aware of copying slogans and short, catchy expressions. They are protected under the copyright law (12).
Even if we think that copying someone’s work isn’t in fact taking advantage of their effort, I am convinced it is always good to give reference to work we appreciate and consider beneficial.

It’s worth being aware of the situations when our work can be used without permission. I think the borders of Fair Use and De Minimis are quite fluid – to me it’s difficult to establish a fixed law to regulate where is the limit, i. e., of copying to learn. Whenever we feel our work is being exploited, I think we shouldn’t hesitate to express our disagreement.

Materials available on the web are available under various types of licenses (13):

  • copyright;
  • copyleft – when a work that is available for free and any modifications made to it are also for free (14);
  • creative commons (different kind of licenses available under the same name) – based on the right to distribute and change for free (15); licensor can choose what kind of permission is allowed (16);
  • public domain – when copyrights have expired (17);
  • open source – where access to work sources is available (18);
  • royalty free (applies to photography available online) – when user has no restrictions in using an image but only for the first time (19).

COPYRIGHT IN THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Copyright protection for literary works, articles etc. as well as for images lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. The right of published edition applies to how a work was published and copyrights i.e. layout and typography for 25 years (20).
Films are also protected for 70 years, but after the death of principal director, author of screenplay and dialogue, and composer of music.
Sound recordings, broadcasts and computer-generated works are copy written for fifty years after the end of the year in which they were released (21).

“Copyright law protects work even if no papers have been filed with the government” (22). Even if a work can be viewed for free in the Internet, it doesn’t mean it’s in public domain (23).

Fonts, although often available online for free, are licensed, too. They are treated as software, which means they are meant to be used from a particular machine, like computer. If you would like to use a purchased font on your website, i.e. in a logo, make sure the license covers using it online (24).

It is also worth mentioning there is a different copyright law when you use a material for your own purpose and when you write or design something for a client. Licenses need to allow for a usage of particular work for commercial purposes (25).

COPYRIGHT AND LICENSES VS CREATIVITY

I would like to point out an important statement from the Copyright, Designs and Patterns Act 1988. The document was created both to protect artists and writers, and to enable others to learn and express their opinion. The Act protects works from being copied illegally but states that any production can be “used in a fair manner for research, private study, criticism, review, and reporting current events” (26). The statement supports the freedom of expressing views about any work, any art. In my opinion it takes care of creativity among artists but also develops creativity among users, readers, viewers etc.

In this part of my composition I would mainly like to refer to two presentations available on TED Conferences. This online channel contains a very wide range of videos available on various topic and I find them helpful in learning about a situation from different points of view.

In the current liberal society we expect to have access to any information we want to. That’s why having a restricted copyright law might sound out of date. Contemporary copyright law needs to establish a balance “between conflicting interests: the author’s economy/monopoly rights and the need in a liberal society for access to information” (27). The possibilities of modern digital technologies constitute this balance.

Harvard Professor, Larry Lessig, is a strong supporter of read-write culture where users are able and encouraged to transform someone’s work in order to produce something new, original, stimulating (28). The purpose is not to attribute someone else’s work to myself – sources are very often clearly visible. These actions let us look at an artwork from a different point of view, sometimes critical, ironical, humorous.
Larry Lessig, instead of blocking copyrighted content which then leads to piracy and rejection of author’s rights, suggests that “work if available freely for non-commercial use, enables opportunities”, gives “free content on neutral platform, develops creativity”.

Margaret Gould Stewart, YouTube’s head of user experience, gave an excellent example (29) of users’ usage of a copyrighted song in their custom video, which promoted a tune and influenced singer’s business.

CONCLUSIONS

I think that any web publisher has to be aware that making a work available in Internet for free creates plenty of development opportunities, enables establishing contacts all over the world, can move business, but also exposes our creativity to piracy.

Web is created by and for users. They have options and tools that help them extracting and copying content. They can share certain information with others via social media. I consider this to be very beneficial to both sides, as a particular page can be promoted, reviewed, also criticized (30).

When we agree to make a work available in Google rankings for free, we also agree that other users have unlimited access to the content, and we can’t block them from using it (if we unable sharing and right clicking to copy, we will only annoy them).

In my opinion if each one will try to respect the copyright and licensing laws, being afraid of the fact that someone will steal our work might be minimized.

—-

References

  1. Jennifer Kyrnin, Copyright on the Web, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  2. Ashley Packard, Digital Media Law, Published Chichester : John Wiley and Sons Ltd 2010, p. 128-132.
  3. Ibidem.
  4. Ibidem.
  5. Copyright and Fair Use: Stanford University Libraries, What is Fair Use?, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  6. Copyright and Fair Use: Stanford University Libraries, Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  7. Jamie Mckenzie, Keeping it Legal: Questions Arising out of Web Site Management, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  8. Ibidem.
  9. Ibidem.
  10. Website Law, 10 Things Webmasters Should Know About… Copyright, November 2006, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  11. Lahle Wolfe, Copyright Laws:What is the De Minimis Principle and Does it Apply to Copyrights?, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  12. Richard Stim, Copyright Protection for Short Phrases, published in September 2003, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  13. Alexander Dawson, Understanding the Laws of the Digital Jungle, published on 9th December 2010, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  14. Wikipedia, Copyleft, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  15. Wikipedia, Creative Commons licenses, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  16. Creative Commons, About The Licenses, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  17. Wikipedia, Public domain, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  18. Wikipedia, Open source, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  19. Wikipedia, Royalty free, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  20. Staffordshire University, How long does copyright protection last?, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  21. Centre of Learning Technology, Copyright, Images and Multimedia, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  22. Jamie Mckenzie, op. cit., available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  23. Copyright and Fair Use: Stanford University Libraries, Websites: Five Ways to Stay Out of Trouble, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  24. NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems, Font Licensing and Protection Details,, available online, accessed on 5th March 2011.
  25. Jacob Cass, Copyright Issues in Logo Design, published on 14th January 2009, available online, accessed on 1st March 2011.
  26. Karen Sanig, Protection of Copyright in Art under the Copyright, Designs and Patterns Act 1988, available in: Dear Images: Art, Copyright and Culture, Published London : Institute of Contemporary Arts 2002, p. 47.
  27. Simon Stokes, Copyright, Art and Digitalization: European and U.K. Perspectives, available in: Dear Images: Art, Copyright and Culture, Published London : Institute of Contemporary Arts 2002, p. 129.
  28. TED, Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity, 2007, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  29. TED, Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright, 2010, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
  30. Jonathan Bailey, Does Posting Your Work Online Give Others the Right to Copy, published on 19th August 2010, available online, accessed on 27th February 2011.
Posted in Content Management, Coursework | 7 Comments

Vitruvian Principles

Searching for Vitruvian Principles (Business, Commodity, Firmness, Delight) in cognate and non-cognate websites

COGNATE

GB Posters

Business

This is an online poster shop. Their revenue comes through selling prints, badges and framing services. This a good and clear way of making money.

Commodity

GB Posters is a very complex website but it’s categorized in a clever and logical way. Primary navigation runs across the whole width of the page and also occupies the left sidebar, indicating number of posters available. Besides, under the top one there are also other tabs that link to latest and most popular categories. Secondary navigation, located in the footer, is dedicated to customer services and information about the company.
Header is quite complex because it contains: logo, strap line, basket information, small advertisement, social media and registration links.
I think it’s a good idea to make each section in different colour. It adds a bit of personality to the website. However, I don’t think it’s useful when the colour of the logo changes in relation to a sub-page that is viewed.
I like the fact that main content occupies the middle space and features, promotions, blog feed are moved to the right sidebar.

Firmness

I like the usage of Javascript widget called Lightbox. It allows to view the image full size without moving to another page.
I think that a big advantage of this website are its large blue buttons – calls to action (consistent throughout the whole site) and modern banners that match the overall design.

Delight

The visual design is modern and clear. It communicates in a pleasant way, through logical navigation and good images, the purpose if the website.
I like the fact that each sub-page has it’s own banner which can be treated as a header of each sub-section.
Colours are very vivid and make the site look fresh. I think it also adds a bit of fun and makes the website look ‘cool’.

AllPosters.co.uk

Business

This is another online poster shop. Their revenue comes through selling prints and offering framing services.

Commodity

Primary navigation runs across the header. Categories are also repeated in left sidebar, including a section dedicated to special products. Secondary navigation, located in the footer, contains links to other countries’ sites and information about the company.
Header consists of plenty of information. Main element is occupied by the logo and cart information. The rest, including strap line, contact number, and order details in written in smaller font. Right underneath there is a large search box and main banner. I have the impression it all look a bit cluttered.


I think the way a path on sub-pages is displayed is very clear, logical and user friendly.

The fact that special offers and promotions are moved to the right sidebar keeps main content focus on prints. Each element in the layout has its own purpose.

Firmness

AllPoster uses Javascript to enlarge hovered image. Apart from a picture of viewed poster the box also includes details and an ‘Add to cart’ option. I think it’s brilliant that without clicking and moving to another site we are able to see an image in detail. Besides, providing the viewer with additional information and giving the option of purchase is also good from the business point of view.

The site dedicated to a particual poster has got plenty of useful information (example: Van Gogh, The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum). To me this is a very good example of well-used technology on a website. JQZoom allows magnify easily a web image. ImageFlow, another Javascript plugin, creates a nice and beautiful image gallery – pictures are changed by user.

Delight

In general, I must say I am impressed by the amount of features offered on AllPosters website. They enriched my experience and made it more exciting to browse.
Even though I’m not very keen on the header which seems to spoil the overall design, I like the usage of red and grey to highlight main features.

NON-COGNATE

MycroBurst.com

Business

MycroBurst encourages clients to post paid advertisements for logo and other designs. They offer quick turnaround and great variety of designs submitted online by website users. Although I think it is a good idea to make a clear statement about revenues and to pay someone for his/her effort, I wouldn’t place this information at the very top of the website.
In general, there are a few advertisements on the website. Homepage links to affiliate magazines.

Commodity

The website functions as an online community. It’s aim is to sell graphic design projects online, by organizing competitions and enabling users to submit their projects. I like the way it joins business with designing.
I think the website is currently being redesigned – I can see a slight inconsistency in terms of page layout between the homepage (looks better than the rest) and the other pages. Homepage has got a very logical structure and is easy to navigate.
To me it is a good idea to have two navigations to separate main and most important section from complementary information. There is a primary, very straightforward, navigation which directs to projects and designers. Above in the header there is an option to register and log in. Secondary navigation is located in the footer. It’s far more developed than the top one.
I like the fact that people can also comment on designs and projects.

Firmness

The primary navigation is very useful and clear. Social media buttons are well incorporated to the overall design. Main features are pointed out by putting them inside boxes and large buttons.
Unfortunately main navigation tabs in sub pages aren’t highlighted and a user might feel a bit lost finding a way.
I like the usage of Javascript to zoom in a particular design.

Delight

In general I think the website looks a bit vague. Although I like the combination of light blue and green with grey, there is no identity which will help define the purpose of this website.

AltPick.com

Business

There are a few revenue streams on AltPick:

  1. selling Alternative Pick magazine and books;
  2. offering a list of classifieds;
  3. selling art;
  4. promoting AltPick associations.

I like the idea of having a community website under a name of online business.

Commodity

This is an online community website. Artists create their profiles and update projects. Non-artists users can also register and select what are they interested in. It’s good to put together artists and people who admire their work.
Website looks professional, is very clean and has got a logical layout and navigation. However, main menu is quite long. To me also the font is too small and doesn’t make it prominent and inviting to move forward.
I like the division into main sections on the homepage. It points out in a very clear way what can be find on the website.
I also think the search box ‘Find an artist’ at the top is a very good feature

Firmness

Quite long navigation may cause confusion to the user. I think it would be better to reduce its size to the main options and put the side links into a secondary navigation.
Logo doesn’t link to the homepage, which to me is confusing. Besides, there’s no ‘Home’ tab in the navigation so going back to the main page is quite tricky…

Delight

Although the website looks creative and interesting, I think it doesn’t show its aim in a clear way through images. The choice of colours and layout makes it clear which element is the most important.
I like the serif font used for titles but I’m not very font of MS Trebuchet that is visible inside paragraphs.

Web Design Stuff

Business

Main revenue stream is through advertising – banners can be found on the right sidebar. Web Design Stuff also uses Google AdSense. I like the idea of moving advertisements to the side and not spoiling the main design with large banners.
It also gives a directory of web design agencies and other services.

Commodity

Website has got two navigations. The primary one consists of tabs that link to the main sections, whereas the secondary one consist of directory of related companies etc. I believe this division is very logical and lets separate side information from essential content.
Web Design Stuff is quite content heavy. There are plenty of examples of websites, web design agencies portfolios, directories and also a blog. It all seems well-organized but at the same time looks boring.
I think it gives good examples of users’ feedback in primary and secondary navigation.
It’s interesting that people can suggest sites they admire.

Firmness

Layout and design are consistent and logical throughout the whole site. However, I think it would be more exciting to see this content in more complex layout, rather than as a list of links in one column.

Delight

I like website’s colour scheme. Dark navigation bar and white font makes it clear where to go. Besides, main content is on a light background and stands out from the whole design.
Header suits a website that is related to creativity.
Possibly font size could be a bit larger, especially in articles and lists.

Posted in Content Management, Coursework, Thesis Project | 4 Comments

SEO and SEM analysis

TASK: Select 3 websites and analyse their SEO/SEM. Can you find their key phrases? What is their Google search rank for those phrases (how high in the listings)? What is their page rank? Can you work out what their traffic is? Suggest any improvements that you think could be made.

  1. 5oup
  2. Emerging artists
  3. Home 4 Talent

– –

5oup


Tilte: 5oup – a community for emerging artists and designers
Description: 5oup is an online community for emerging artists and designers
Page rank: 5/10
Daily page views: 1.7
Bounce rate: 44.4%
Time on site: 1.07

Top Queries from Search Traffic:

Query Percent of Search Traffic
5oup 22.86%
bombay bicycle club t shirt 6.17%
5oup.net 5.12%

Related Keywords (Google – Search-based keyword tool):

Keyword Searches per month
on line art 350
student artists 82

Extracted Keywords (SEO Moz – Term Extractor SEO Tool):

Keyword Importance
5oup 100%
emerging 95%
artists 95%
designers 89%
community 43%

Suggested Keywords (Google AdWords):

Keyword Competition Global Monthly Search
5oup Low 390
community for designers Medium 880
visual communication design Low 6,600
visual communication and design Low 5,400
communication and design Low 40,500

Analysis:
5oup is an online platform for designers where they can show their work. It contains portfolio sites and its main focus is to present projects. For this reason defining particular keywords might be a problem.
It seems like there is a possibility of gaining traffic through keyphrases like: ‘emerging artists’, ‘community for designers’ or ‘visual communication and design’. However, 5oup doesn’t engage the visitors (low average time spent on site).
Also the h1 tag is missing. This fact lowers the possibility of being found as an online platform for emerging designers.
There isn’t enough text content and probably too many images (unfortunately not all have alt tags). That is why web spiders may have problems finding what is this site about and putting it under suitable keywords and phrases.

– –

Emerging artists


Tilte: Emerging Artists Online Fine Art Gallery | Buy Modern Abstract Contemporary Art | Framed Canvas Oil Paintings For Sale
Description: Modern Contemporary Art For Sale Online | Fine Art Gallery For Oil Paintings, Canvas Art, Abstract Paintings, and Framed Art. Buy Canvas paintings. Photography, Drawings, Sculpture, and Glass.
Page rank: 2/10
Daily page views: 2.1
Bounce rate: 43.8%
Time on site: 2.04

Top Queries from Search Traffic:

Query Percent of Search Traffic
emerging artists 12.9%
doar arte 9.40%
emerging original bands 8.03%

Related Keywords (Google – Search-based keyword tool):

Keyword Searches per month
paintings for sale 12,000
art for sale 5,400
modern paintings 4,400
online art gallery 4,400

Extracted Keywords (SEO Moz – Term Extractor SEO Tool):

Keyword Importance
artists 100%
art 95%
artists 95%
gallery 89%
sale 82%

Suggested Keywords (Google AdWords):

Keyword Competition Global Monthly Search
emerging artists online N/A N/A
emerging artists Low 660
emerging artist Low 9,900
artists online Low 6,600

Analysis:
Emerging Artists is an online platform to sell art created my emerging artists. You can find there any type of artwork, starting with paintings and finishing with sculpture and photography. It contains examples of pieces of art that people might be interested in buying. The topic of this site is very broad and probably this is the reason why keywords are also very broad and don’t specify content of the website.
The average time spent on site is quite low, probably because apart from artworks there is not much content.
HTML code isn’t professional. This is a table-built website and doesn’t contain the h1 tag which would focus on something unique and make it easier to find the site in Google. Besides, images don’t have alt tags.

– –

Home 4 Talent

Tilte: Home 4 Talent
Description: N/A
Page rank: 4/10
Daily page views: 0
Bounce rate: 54.5%
Time on site: 1.28

Top Queries from Search Traffic:

Query Percent of Search Traffic
talent net live invite 70.60%
home4talent.net 20.99%

Related Keywords (Google – Search-based keyword tool):
Google tool was unable to extract any keywords from the site. This is a suggestion after adding ‘talent’ and ‘musicians’ to the search. However, suggested phrases don’t really match with the purpose of the website.

Keyword Searches per month
super talent 8,200
musicians wanted 2,800

Extracted Keywords (SEO Moz – Term Extractor SEO Tool):

Keyword Importance
home 100%
talent 63%
musicians 31%

Suggested Keywords (Google AdWords):
Again here, Google tool didn’t extract any suggestions for keywords and phrases. I added ‘talent’ and ‘musicians’ to the search.

Keyword Competition Global Monthly Search
talent Low 7,480,000
musicians Low 1,000,000

Analysis:
Home 4 Talent is a community site for talented musicians. They can create their own profiles (website works similarly to Facebook). Home 4 Talent gathers any kind of musicians – there is difficult to specify what is this site about because its broad subject.
To me the most problematic SEO issue is related to ‘Home’ in the title – it doesn’t help to define the purpose of the site. Besides, it is based on people’s profiles and doesn’t include side content which would be helpful defining website’s specifications. Description tag is not included, which makes thing worse to find Home 4 Talent.
HTML code is based on tables and homepage lack in a sort of introduction paragraph which could help spiders to find what the content is about.

– –

References

  1. Alexa – information about traffic, keywords and search queries
  2. Google AdWords – list of suggested keywords
  3. Google – Search-based keyword tool – list of related keywords
  4. Firefox tools – View Source
  5. PageRank Checker
  6. SEO Moz – Term Extractor SEO Tool
  7. Website Grader
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Criticising websites – Art Criticism as a base of Web Criticism

Abstract

The aim of this essay is to explain the basis of criticism of websites and relate it to art criticism. The composition is divided into several parts. In the first one I will try to define and explain the principles of art criticism. Second part will be dedicated to putting a connection between criticising websites and art itself. Finally, I would like to demonstrate how basis of art criticism can work for and be applied to web criticism. Included illustrations and photographs will help me present my point of view.

Principles of Art Criticism

Criticism can be defined as interpreting and evaluating (1). Investigation of any particular subject involves looking into a problem from a broader perspective. Yet analysing and making judgement on a piece of art requires additional knowledge in history and theory of art, philosophy or aesthetics. This leads to a conclusion that each matter should be examined within its own and suitable criteria. It is essential to describe and evaluate any artwork by putting it in the right context. Besides, any opinion should be supported by an adequate comment and examples, sometimes referred to corresponding philosophical and theoretical concepts (2).

Picture 1 – It’s easy. It’s not art, it’s tableavailable online

From my point of view, a professional opinion about art cannot be limited to a single statement that something is a good or bad piece of art. I believe that an interpretation of artwork always sounds more credible if it is based on logical and justified notions.

Art criticism fundament is to describe and comment on schools and individual works of art. It is the very first approach towards any artwork. Once the visual characteristics are defined, it is easier to make an interpretation and explain its possible connotations. All these basic factors help settling one’s point of view. This stage of criticism leads to the analysis, which purpose is to situate an evaluated object in the right context. Artists and artworks they create are connected to a certain background, trend, society. They might also be related to other pieces of art. Defining properly the visual and contextual aspects gives a good overview of the evaluated work of art. It illustrates the overall concept of an object, which I think it is crucial before making a judgement. In a good art critique, expressing a point of view should include giving reasons and grounds of one’s opinion (3).

To sum up, before making any criticism it would be useful to adopt a following framework that consists of four steps: describe, analyse, interpret, judge (4). It is worth keeping it in mind as it adds a logical structure to the critique. To me it also allows to systematise opinion of the person that is making criticism. Moreover, this framework points out the relation between each step. Thorough description, analysis, interpretation and, finally, judgement all together constitute an excellent critique, in fact not only the one that is written about art.

There are also various approaches to art criticism. Each of them situates a piece of art in a different context that defines the direction of analysis and judgement. The art criticism perspective can be: sociological, psychological, semiotical, historical etc (5). All these contexts attempt to relate an object to a certain background. There is also a tendency to consider artwork separately from other outside factors. New Criticism (although name may seem a bit out of date; it appeared in Reid’s book published in 1969) “stresses the uniqueness of each work” (6). In this approach interpretation is more based on visual and emotional experience that is provided by a piece of art.

I believe the decision which art criticism approach and path to choose is also an individual decision – a single person that criticises always adds some of their personality to comments and judgements.

Towards Web Criticism – web design as a possibility to extend the borders of art

Is web design art? With regards to its quite recent development, I think it is still difficult to say and, on the other hand, I would rather not be so firm and would not call every website either art or rubbish. Definitely web design is related to digital art, it has got also a lot to do with graphic design. It also uses different media to create a complex look and layout. If websites have at least a few things in common with art itself, I am sure we can base web criticism on art criticism and apply some of the principles mentioned above. Furthermore, internet is also a new space for presenting art and undoubtedly has been influencing it since the beginning.

When famous philosopher and art theorist, Walter Benjamin, claimed that nowadays artworks loose their aura because of commonness of reproduction (7), he also saw the benefits of those media which diffuse art. To him web and internet could appear as a “fairly democratic space. It has opened the productive forces of society so that almost anyone can participate” (8).

Picture 2 – Facebook and an example of a blog

According to Marshall McLuhan’s global village theory, Internet and World Wide Web work as a common space (9) where everyone can share anything with anyone, where plenty of various information can be found, very often for free. However, there in also an ambiguous aspect of this social virtual space. While we can easily communicate, comment, share news and data, at the same time all these actions are associated with a single user only. It is being in a common social area but standing on your own (10).

Anonymous user, a world where reality is being confused with virtual creation – these were Jean Baudrillard’s concerns about introducing Internet and technology to every aspect of our lives. He noticed that “cyberspace truly is a new form of absence” (11). However, Baudrillard also emphasised that web space can be a beneficial place for creativity and collective usage.

Internet is full of contradictions – associated with freedom in expressing oneself, it has limited access to some information. It offers new possibilities for each discipline but, at the same time, adds its own principles.

Art has got an influence on web space. There are plenty of web designs that are considered to be pretty and form our our tastes (I am sure also HTML and CSS codes can be created in a beautiful way and not only visual design). Although it is good when website design appeal to us, web pages judgement is also based on other criteria, for example designers take into consideration usability and readability issues.

Principles of Web Criticism – how the basis of criticising artworks can work for websites

The general definition of critique as interpretation and evaluation refers to any field. The principles of each analysis are still based on the same framework (describe – analyse – interpret – judge). The differences lies in some specific criteria that needs to be kept in mind while evaluating a specific object, in this case a website.

General evaluation
The overall evaluation of a web page should be based on viewing the whole site and expressing the general feel about it. It is rather a personal opinion. As websites are designed to appeal to a particular user, to me web criticism should be subjective. Inner, personal experience is always a good point of reference when it comes to observe how other people navigate through a site. Secondly, the evaluation should cover analysis of positive and negative aspects. This part of criticism gives the opportunity to take a closer look at various elements that are on a website. It is related to the other step which is giving feedback (12). To me it seems crucial to support each comment and judgement with an example or suggestion if something needs to be changed. Constructive criticism consists of stressing out both strong and weak points of a web page, justifying your opinion (13).

Picture 3 – Greenpeace International – homepage

Image number 3 is a screen grab of Greenpeace International website. From my point of view the website gives a good first impression. The layout is logical, as well as the usage of colours – green perfectly matches with the pro-ecological profile of the organisation and orange is an excellent emphasis for action buttons. I also think the top grey background creates a nice separation between the header and main content sections.
I feel the top navigation is very clear and besides has got a pleasant drop-down menu. Greenpeace is a large worldwide, commonly known organisation and I must say I am impressed with the logical structure of the navigation. It makes the site easy to use.
In my opinion the way hero image is joined with headline gives the website a fresh, modern look. This is one of web design trends to show large, good quality images. Photographs can often say more than loads of words. Big image on a top banner that links to a “call to action” page seems to be a well implemented idea.
I also like the “donate” button on the sidebar. It has got matching, visible colour. It was created using sprite image and has got a very nice user’s feedback when hovering.

Picture 4 – Greenpeace International – donate sprite button

Verdana font gives a friendly look to the site. It is used in the eye-catching green headlines and calmer paragraph text in grey.
Unfortunately, it is noticeable that small images next to news, videos etc do not have the same dimensions. Even if they are aligned to the left, the copy on the right starts in different places, depending on the width of the corresponding picture. I do not consider this to be a good practice. It is better to read if text sits in similar places, so that when a user assumes a paragraph below will begin in a particular moment, it will actually be there.
I think there is also one more issue with the choice if green for header and footer. Whereas the shades of green at the top are vivid and pleasant to look at, the ones at the bottom do not go well together. To me there is too big contrast between each stripe. Moreover, I feel readability aspects weren’t properly considered then footer was designed. Font colours and the bad quality of social media icons assure me that this part of Greenpeace website should be redesigned. However, I like the idea of faded background image with animals.

Picture 5 – Greenpeace International – footer

In general I must admit I like the website because it looks professional and is easy to navigate. The overall information is arranged in a logical way. I think the only aspects I would reconsider the usage of large solid green blocks and make sure the grid is in its place in sections that are especially designed to make the user stay on our website.

Technical evaluation
Criticising web pages, as mentioned at the beginning of the third part of my essay, also takes into consideration some issues that are typical just for them. When we are judging a site we should also evaluate its technical details. These include: checking how long does it take to load a page and if the colours / fonts are harmonious, verifying accessibility issues (if images are described with alt tag), validating code. Even though I think a website should not be just evaluated in terms of used technology, but it is good to always have a look at some non-visual aspects (14).

Picture 6 – You Tube – homepage

I decided to choose You Tube website for the technical evaluation because it uses plenty of images and videos so loading time could be a problematic issue. However, page loads with the usual speed, even on mobile Internet connection. When it comes to harmonious colours, in fact it is difficult to say anything. You Tube is a website with movies inserted into a two-column layout. Links’ blue colour probably was a result of the idea to create an easy to navigate, intuitive page. This might also be the reason of the lack of any background colour or image. However, this could be also related to readability aspect – presenting movies’ thumbnails, each with its own colours, on white background helps the content stand out. Code seems to have some errors, mainly with scripts and the usage of special characters.
In my opinion the technical evaluation looks good. I didn’t notice any major issues that might cause difficulties in using this website.

Aesthetic evaluation
Aesthetics and general design is also crucial when it comes to judging web pages. Usually this aspect it the first thing each user comments or evaluates before making a decision whether to stay or to move on to a competitor’s one. The design flow is very important in this part. If it has a logic behind the layout, it should be clear for the user to be able find it and follow. There are also more artistic websites that sometimes don’t have any grid. Nevertheless, the page still should have it clear where to take a person and which information should or should not be displayed at first glance. What is more, it is essential to keep consistency between images and text. Value of content is a point which plays a very important role in the evaluation process. Last matter is related to the usage of technology on a site, for example: jquery widgets, flashy boxes etc. Supportive technologies can add a modern, interesting look to a project. It is worth keeping in mind though that a website that is overloaded with movement or too different elements rather distracts than attracts (15).

Picture 7 – Pretty Production – homepage

Pretty Production is a website for Swedish design agency. I decided to present it in this section because of its unusual layout.
In fact this website finishes with the fold and continues width wise. All the elements that compose it follow the horizontal rule here. Our eye-sight is guided to the right by graphical elements. All the images have the same style and create consistency with text and light grey background. To me the design does not at all have too many moving elements. The technology use is limited. I believe this is why because of the atypical layout. To me it is enough replacing vertical scroll bar with the horizontal one.

Conclusion

Web criticism has got a lot in common with art criticism. This is because these two disciplines derive from the same root – to evaluate beautiful (or maybe not) objects that surround us. Although their principles are very similar, each of them has also got its own criteria which help judge an object. When criticising a website, we should remember that constructive critique always sounds better when it doesn’t only focus on negative items. I believe including positive comments and suggesting methods of improvement for those elements we didn’t like will probably make it easier to create beautiful designs and redesigns.

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References

  1. Britannica Online Encyclopedia, Art Criticism, available online, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  2. Vigneron, Frank, What is Art Criticism?, p. 1, available online pdf, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  3. Reid, Louis Arnaud, Meaning in the Arts, Published London : George Allen & Unwin 1969, p. 19.
  4. Janice Mason Art Museum, Four Steps in Art Criticism, available online pfd, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  5. Vigneron, Frank, op. cit., p. 12-15.
  6. Reid, Louis Arnaud, op.cit., p. 19-20.
  7. Freeland, Cynthia, Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction, Published Oxford : Oxford University Press 2003, p. 120.
  8. Ibidem, p. 136.
  9. Wikipedia, Gobal Village (term), available online, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  10. Freeland, Cynthia, op. cit., p. 137.
  11. Ibidem, p. 137.
  12. Ross, Anders, How to Effectively Handle Web Criticism, available online, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  13. Kyrnin, Jennifer, Web Criticism : Provide Feedback that Will Be Heard, available online, accessed on 15th January 2011.
  14. Kyrnin, Jennifer, op.cit.
  15. Ibidem.
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Dolls Hospital Redesign

I redesigned a website for Dolls Hospital. My mock-up of the homepage is also available online.

Existing site

The current website looks dull and unprofessional. There is also lack of unity in the way links, images and paragraphs are displayed.
According to Domain Tools, website’s title For All Your Doll Needs! is only 50% relevant to its content. The keywords used are inappropriate, too. Their relevancy was scored with just 44%. When I check them using Google Trends tool, most of them don’t have enough search volume. Website consists of 40 images, of which 28 don’t have alt tag. Page Rank is 2/10 (Website Grader). Alexa doesn’t have any data regarding the traffic.

These results don’t help promoting Dolls Hospital website and achieving good SEO results .

Redesign

I decided to use warmer colours to give the website friendlier look. I think the website is now more consistent when it comes to styles applied to various elements.
I also changed the page title, which now is Dolls Hospital & Collectables | Recollect | Dolls & Toys Restoration. It suits better the purpose of showed business. I reduced the number of keywords and used only those ones which appeared in Google Trends results.
In my opinion adding social media profiles to a website helps promoting business, increases traffic and gets users involved in more areas. Email marketing could also be useful, that’s why I added an option to subscribe to a newsletter.
Websites are more often scanned by search engines and when their content is often updated. A good idea to keep inserting new articles could be running a small blog which would be part of the existing website.

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Graphic Design Fundamentals

Task 1: look at the following websites and analyse how they use symmetry, asymmetry, balance, lines of unity and contrast in their design.

Emigre

Emigre homepage screengrab

The Emigre homepage uses both symmetry and asymmetry. It doesn’t use the golden ratio to divide the content into columns: the one on the left is significantly narrower than the rest of the body. However, I like the way the website is divided into proportional squares. These smaller and larger boxes, aligned and separated by thin margins, create a balanced composition. The space between each box is wide enough to make each square stand on it’s own and still keeps the whole layout together. Each element is different in terms of content and colours but they are all designed using clear layout, or centered or aligned to the left. I like the contrast between font and background colors. All the information presented is perfectly readable. Even though at the first glance the site looks very diverse, in fact everything is designed in similar style. This makes the website graphically consistent (lines of unity).

Eye – The International Review of Graphic Design

Eye homepage screengrab

The Eye homepage is symmetrical – the main content is situated between two equal sidebars. The way the title bar above the image is divides, as well as arrows with text on top are asymmetrical. However, the whole composition is centered. This is particularly visible when you click on issue number and a list of articles appears. I think the website is balanced when it comes to colours and fonts. Also the main image matches the overall design. I like the contrast between background and fonts colours. All the information is presented in a clear way.
Personally, I think the website is a bit messy, especially with the two adverts sidebars. To me they distract from the main content and that’s why I feel there is lack of unity between the side and main parts.

Task 2: Look at a previous website design of your own and apply the golden section to the design and organisation of the content on the page.

Hill Farm

Hill Farm website

Although the whole website is 960 pixels wide, main content sits inside a wrapper that is 820.
According to the golden ration division, my main column and side bar are: 506 and 314 pixels wide. This proportion also applies to the header, where contact details and strap line are moved to the right.

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Writing a design brief

Yesterday I was browsing the web looking for some tips how to write a design brief.

Most of the guidelines refer to situations when a designer works directly with a client (some of us will have to deal with this…).
Freelance Switch highlighted some good points like thinking about the main message and looking for inspirations.
Also in Suspire Blog you can find a list of key points that you should think about before designing, i.e.: objectives of your website, branding, accessibility and timetable (!!).

More information can be found in Clear Design, Nlinghn Media, Harmony, Method and Class.

I also found a nice PDF document, a Design Depot Newsletter from September which point out where to start…

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How did it go – a small design process of a small business website

First of all I’d like to say I was impressed how everyone put themselves in designing a website for Hill Farm. Each site was different and at the same time each one was really good!

Thank you all for feedback and comments. I will take everything into consideration and make a few changes in a couple of weeks – for now I need a break :)

Here is how my design process went…

INSPIRATIONS

Before I start designing anything, I usually browse websites related to a particular topic.

I found a few articles linking to beautifully designed hotel websites: in Vandelay Design Blog, Webdesigndev Journal and Creative Fan. Obviously some examples repeat in each of them but it’s always useful to look at various galleries.

My favourite hotel websites are: Accommodation Manjimup (clear layout, design associated with villages, nice big images, eye-catching navigation), Trapp Family Lodge (large images, not too much text, everything created on a paper-like background), Jackson Hole Dude Ranch (details related to nature, large and clear top navigation), Visit Snowy Mountains (vivid boxes colours, large buttons).

I also found two websites advertising farms in Cornwall: Hilton Farm Cottages and Bocaddon Holiday Cottages. Both use green colour, horizontal primary navigation and large images.

And when I get stuck having too much information or no ideas in my head, I go for a walk or do something completely different :) Nature and contemporary art help!

LOGO

Creating a logo was a big challenge for me…

The first floral ones didn’t go well with the green background and large main image below. So I decided to use a solid colour instead, still using the same Just Old Fashioned font. Still the effect wasn’t as good as I expected (thanks David for suggesting I should spend more time on my logo).
Finally I realised using too many fonts doesn’t mean the website looks better. That’s why I decided to stick to Verdana as my main font, use Delicious Heavy for the logo and Delicious Italic for the strap line.

Links to nice free fonts available in Smashing Magazine article.

BACKGROUND COLOUR

My background colour is quite vivid. I must say I love playing with colours. That’s why I couldn’t resist styling fonts and background. I do agree the body text is not readable enough, both because of not enough font contrast, and too small line height.
I will look into it in a couple of weeks. Let’s see what can be done to improve readability.

USER FEEDBACK

I’m experiencing some problems with hovered links because not all the styles I applied seem to work… (it also depends on the browser apparently).
Anyway, this is another issue that needs improving.

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Comments spams

I was wondering if the rest of you guys is also receiving comments that are spams?
I immediately delete each (in fact most of them)…
Are you having the same issue?

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