Website Critique: Austin Eastciders

Designers

I discovered a new blog last week that I’m completely in love with: Finch – Designer, Writer, Human

I love it because he’s real about the world of designing. I read quite a few of his blogs, but the one that really resonated with me was “Avoiding the Uncanny Valley of Interface Design“. In the article, he says

“I realized that the conference was just for designers to feel cool and see things only they would like. It wasn’t anything that would really benefit the users or clients I designed for. That seems to be a lot of the type of work that is praised, as well as the designers who work on it.” 
 

How true this is. Designers love beauty. The idea that an ugly website could garner traffic is like heresy in our world. But it’s so easy, in the artistic mindset, to skip past Information Architecture, and create something beautiful that is confusing and unusable.

Austin Eastciders is a great example of a beautiful website that was designed and organized well.

Design

Let’s talk design first. It’s easy to spot the design trends: link bar across the top, the focus on large type, and integral texture.

With the link bar across the top, I especially liked the way the active link would lose the “background”. The idea is kind of tab-like, but updated. The hover effect (which is pretty much standard now) actually moves the link text and icons down a few pixels. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it comes across fine. And can I just point out those social media icons – completely design integrated into the site, while still maintaining the familiar look we’re used to for each button. This is pretty common now, and it’s definitely a trend I like.

Design Critique: Austin Eastciders featuring Gold Top Cider

The large type here is an image that takes up real estate on the page. On the other pages of the website, this type is made a bit darker then the background and moved to a background image (see Blog image below). Of course when you have an image, you lose some of the SEO, but you gain continuity across browsers.

And of course texture. It wasn’t too long ago that everyone was into “glossy” and “sheen”; but now texture is all the rage. The great thing for designers is that there are tons of free textures out there. I see blogs all the time that are giving away free textures. Download the free ones and start a database of them, cause you’ll need them soon enough.

The one thing I didn’t like about this website’s design was the Twitter feed. The bird on top is cute and fun, but the contrast of gold and white on the words was annoying to me – it made me not want to read it, which is obviously an issue. I’d change it in two ways. First, I’d move the “about 4 hours ago” (time frame) to the next line. I’d also either switch the colors (make the @ and the links gold, and the words white) or make it a little less contrasting. Even though the contrast fits into the design well, it was distracting. Alternatively, adding some grey to the white on this section might just fix it without much fuss.

And just for fun, click on the image below and then hover over the can of cider. It glows.

Nice.

 Below is the design of the blog. I firmly believe that your blog, even if made using a CMS like WordPress, should be completely integrated into the design for the rest of the site. They obviously did that.

Organization

The organization of this website is top-notch. Yes, there are only 4 links at the top of the page, but you can tell they put thought into those links.

They’re trying to revive the classic cider, so obviously an About Us page is vital. Availability is also really important because once they’ve convinced you they’re awesome, you’ll want to know where to go to get this awesomeness.

The home page includes a basic “what they are” and their twitter feed, showing us that they’re alive and alert and doing something.

They chose to put the contact email on the bottom of every page, a decision I think is great, and the links on their blog page all relate directly to their blog.

Overall, the website is easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for.

 

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