MetalReview.com is not a site I'm terribly familiar with. It has a nice banner up at the top with tabs for navigation, and you can always get home, unless you log in, in which case when you click "home" it automatically redirects you to community. The navigation doesn't go away at the second or third levels. The links do not change once clicked on, except in a selected state in which case an orange tab appears around it. There is a nice lighter grey rollover state. You can always get back home, except when you have logged in, in which case, it makes you go to the community site. There is also a nice breadcrumb that lets you get back a few levels.
The site has pretty deep architecture. You can post to forums, read reviews, search content, and read different albums reviews sorted by artist or author of the review. The architecture is pretty close to flat, however, and it's easy to navigate from one place to another, though you might have to click a few levels in on each one to get to the specific thing you are searching for. The typographic hierarchy is pretty clear (typical bold/size/italics for prominent type), and the content, while in wide columns, is almost nicely spaced. It needs a little more leading, but not much. it would be nicer if it weren't white on dark grey, however, as my eyes kind of buzz a bit looking at it. One neat feature, however, is that you can change the text size. Ironically, this part is in a tiny tiny font.
The grid on the page is pretty constant from one page to the other. The imagery is minimal (reserved for the most part to album covers or profile pictures. The focal point is pretty obviously the center of the page, but imagery doesn't do much to enhance that. I am perfectly fine with the use of imagery, however, as the site is focused on music, and most imagery associated with metal is very silly, and this site manages to remain clean. Part of that has to do with the colors used, which are three shades of grey, white text and an orange selected state. The dark grey sits on a black background and exists in tables to separate content nicely. There is a black gutter between content. The colors were probably chosen because black is "br00tal" and the orange is vaguely reminiscent of hellfire. The objective of the site appears to be to be a community where metal fans can learn about and discuss their favorite music. You can search but not on every level of the site (which is kind of annoying- you have to click a link to go to the search window on some levels), and you can sort things pretty decently well. Overall, the site is pretty simple, which is, I think, very useful. It doesn't get in the way at all.

Thinkgeek.com has one main navigation system on the home page in the left column. The left column has different categories of products, and you get back home by clicking the ThinkGeek logo. The hierarchy behind the organization of hte left navigation isn't tremendously apparent, but my guess is that it's by best selling items. The navigation never disappears, and when you click on a category, the menu expands under that category and some subheaders appear. Navigation links don't change once clicked on, however, they just change based on whether you are there. Links within the page or on the breadcrumb trail that appears in the content turn purple once they have been visited. The navigation headlines turn white when selected, but the subheaders don't change when you're there. The way you can tell where you are in that case is based on a pretty large and obvious header on the page. You always know where you are because of that. The site doesn't have particularly deep architecture. There are a few levels- main, general category, sub category, product, you can click through user pictures and the like, and if you log in, you can accumulate "geek points" which can be redeemed with your purchases. The architecture isn't flat, but it's pretty easy to get from one place to another. The type is minimal, but pretty basic. The type for the product descriptions is a little dense, but the headers and links are clear, as are the navigation labels. More prominent type is bold, and sometimes it's bigger, though not always. The grid of the page is pretty much the same on each page, and the center content changes based on what portion of the site you are viewing. The iconography and imagery is pretty basic, and the logo repeats the element of a brain all over the page. The photography is meant to sell the products, and it does that quite well. I think there is enough imagery, but perhaps not enough space overall on the page. There's a lot of content to take in and a lot of grid. The main category pages do a better job of displaying the information in a non-cluttered way. The page's colors area also pretty unobtrusive- there are a few shades of grey, a gold color, and some white. The colors don't seem to have been chosen for any particular reason, other than to not interfere with the content too much. The greys are reserved for the banner and the navigation, as well as the space around the content. The content is separated by a gold line across the top of the page as well as some grey and black outlines around white content. The purpose of the site, to sell the product, is achieved, and they have a useful feature of recommended items, and items that other users who purchased that item also purchased. You can also search the site, which is neat. You can't get too specific, but you can search. You can also make a wishlist and click the home link that is above the face of an angry baby. The site, while not the most aesthetically appealing, is inoffensive to look at, and well constructed.


Squishable.com is a site that is mainly used for selling giant squishy round stuffed animals. The navigation on the front page is (SHOCKINGLY) a constant. Simple labels lead you to home, help, an about page, a gallery, and contact information for the company. They also have a content bar on the right hand side that includes a mailing list, a travel blog for Horace, the Nomadic Monkey (currently in Alaska), and a list of charities that squishable.com "digs" with links to their websites. The hierarchy leads the user to home first, which is to be expected as that is where everything is sold, but beyond that it doesn't make much sense. There's a help menu that ought to be labeled as FAQ, and "us" might be better labeled as "about," though us does lend a personal touch to the page. The main navigation never disappears, even at the second or third level. Once a link within the page has been clicked on, it turns a slightly darker green. There is, however, no selected state or rollover state for the main navigation. You can sort of tell where you are based on the headlines for the content, but the headlines don't match the labels on the navigation, so you have to actually use some modicum of logic (however slight) to match the header with the navigation label. You can, however, always get back home. The site does not have deep architecture at all, though you can log in to it, presumably to submit photos and to order. The typographic architecture is pretty self explanatory- like much other sites that have been reviewed, it's bigger and bolder where there is emphasis, etc. The body text needs a little leading and a touch of tracking though. The headers are also in the light blue of the navigation banner, which makes them recede into the background. The grid does, however, make sense, and the navigation is all on the top with main content on the bottom taking up the largest amount of space. It does not remain constant from one page to the next, but it is close. The focal point of the page is made obvious by its size and clarity, and uh, the fact that it's a photo. The sections of the page that change are related to product. The sections change in order to better display information about the product. The photography displays the product effectively, but the images aren't tremendously well done. The background of the page is also kind of irritating to look at. There is just enough of a difference between the colors for the contrast to be annoying. If the colors were closer, it might be less irritating. Also, and I didn't think of this earlier, but the logo is pretty damn ugly. The dot com portion of it is on top of the "squishable." But like, ugly. The squishable text touches the blue above it but just barely so you can't really tell if it's intentional or not. Ew. In terms of imagery, I don't particularly think that they got it wrong in either direction. There isn't too much or too little, and there aren't really any icons or symbols.
The page, with the exception of the absolutely hideous background with it's pale yellow and mustardy green, the site is light blue, medium blue, white, and a light green for the text that is repeated in the grass of the banner (where an unnecessary pig sits, not looking NEAR roly poly enough to actually be a spherical squishable). The light blue is used as border around portions of white to separate the content, and the other colors seem reserved for the banner. The colors were chosen because, well, they look like a landscape. The colors on this site are, frankly, kind of boring. The objective of the site is to sell squishy things, which it does, but I think only because the squishy things are so damn adorable (also by telling you that your cart is empty and sad). You can't search for anything, but you don't need to. The useful part of the site is the user gallery- you get to see the fuzzy guys in action and not just in administrator generated content. Verdict- silly squishy things do sell themselves, but the site is still kind of crap.


Alex Dukal's portfolio site is very pretty. The navigation is a simple bar across the top with a decent typeface and a very simple rollover state that becomes a selected state. The navigation labels are clear, and they lead you to different sections of his site– home, portfolio, blog, about, and contact. There is also a navigation system at the bottom, which, given the fact that you never really need to scroll to see the content, is a little unnecessary. The hierarchy is designed to get people to view work, and then view what Dukal is up to, which makes sense. There aren't really many levels to the site and the navigation is present throughout, unless you travel to the blog, which then just links you to Dukal's blogger. The selected state tells you where you are at all times, and you can always get back home (the blogger account, of course, links you there). The site most certainly does not have deep architecture. With the exception of the portfolio section, the architecture is totally flat. The typography is minimal, which is good, because when it's used, it's not terribly good. It's fine on the front page, normal pretty headers, the news section with good typographic hierarchy (bold and large for more important, etcetera, as per the other sites), but in the about section, the type is very flat, and a little crowded, even though there isn't much of it. The grid stays pretty similar from page to page, except on the main section of the portfolio. Most of the pages are on an open sketchbook spread, nicely tied into Dukal's career as an illustrator. It means that the focal point is always the art that is displayed on the spread. The place that this changes is in the portfolio section, where instead of one spread, you see many spreads with all the pictures. As the drawings and art are the main point of the site (Dukal is, after all, an illustrator), the sketchbook imagery is pretty great. The colors are mostly restricted to the artwork, with the exception of a small red selected state. The main part of the page is white with a little bit of texture in the background that saves it from being boring. The objective of the site is to showcase Dukal's art, and I think it achieves that well. The illustrations don't need to be any bigger than they are, and the site is pretty minimal, which is fine. I would change it so that the blog is not an external link and actually is on the page. The site does let you subscribe to RSS feeds for the site news, blog posts, flickr posts, and the portfolio updates. That's probably the most useful part. You can't search for anything, but you don't really need to.

Pixar's website is perfect. They have a single navigation system on their front page, and the rollover state is the selected state as well. The hierarchy is pretty clear– they want you to explore their work, feature films first (probably since they make the most money and had the most time invested in them), short films second, and then a bunch of process links. The navigation never disappears, and the selected state lets you know where you are at all times. You can also always navigate back home. The site doesn't have very deep architecture, and the look remains constant. You cannot get absolutely anywhere in one click, but it's pretty close.
The typography is pretty simple, and text on the site is minimal. The more prominent type is larger and bolder, and the subordinate is smaller and lighter. The grid is constant on all pages. The focal point is pretty clearly the center portion of the page. The images are located there, and are clear and gorgeous. It presents the work well, especially the "How we do it" section of the page, which uses a viewmaster MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY than Bowhaus. There aren't really any icons or symbols. The page is mostly done in white and shades of grey, and the full color comes on the images. The white space on the page lets the images pop nicely. THe objective of the site is to showcase Pixar's work, and it does a nice job through gorgeous imagery, different kinds of media, and a wide variety of content. My favorite feature of the site is the "how we do it" section. They also have a neat section showcasing different artists.

This site is perfect. Nothing to improve.


Bowhaus Design Groupe, a Philadelphia based design firm, has a fairly dynamic web page. There is a banner with a main navigation system on the home page with drop up (they don't drop down) menus for each of the four categories. The drop up menus are kind of frustrating, as they're small and if you roll off of them they disappear completely. The hierarchy is pretty straightforward- the numbered main links are the most important, and the sub categories are secondary. Navigation doesn't disappear at any level, and you can tell it's navigation mainly because of the way that it is placed on the page. There are a few moments of text on the page in the content section that aren't actually clickable that look like they ought to be, which is frustrating. The clicked navigation links don't change, but you can tell where you are because the link for the section you are in gets highlighted, and if you're in a sub section, that gets highlighted too. You can always get back to the home page by clicking the Bowhaus logo.
The architecture is, again, not terribly deep. You can move around pretty easily from one place to another and there are maybe three or four levels. The architecture isn't totally flat, but it's pretty close. It might take, at most, two or three steps to get to exactly what you want. However, in the portfolio section that is slightly different. The slideshow option shows the user work for different clients, but it's super frustrating, since you can't click through the different images of the same project, you just kind of have to let them load. The images also have a back and forward arrow on the bottom right of the image, but instead of navigating you through images on the project, it takes you to the projects before and after it. The typography is pretty apparent in terms of hierarchy. Titles are bigger, text is smaller, etc. Navigation labels are, for the most part, clear, but as I mentioned before, the home page has some text that is extremely ambiguous about its clickability. The grid and structure of the site is pretty constant, and everything is visible at all times. There is no scrolling needed. The content changes from page to page, and the navigation bar shifts location, but the focal point is always pretty obvious- it's the content in the center, and on the main page, that is the navigation bar. The imagery and photography adds a retro kind of feel to the site, as do the colors, which are for the most part, fairly muted. The images are a lot of old advertisements from the fifties or so and some maps. There's also a neat retro touch with a view-o-matic as a way to view the slide show and the case studies. However, the links on the case studies don't actually take you anywhere else. YOu end up staying on the case study page and not viewing specific projects. The colors do separate content. The navigation bar is a different color than the background for the content, etc.
The objective of the site is to attract new clients and showcase work for the Bowhaus Design Groupe (which has a silly and useless e at the end of their name). You cannot search for anything, but you don't particularly need to. The site is also pretty straight forward. I would say that its relatively clear cut usability is the most useful part of the site.

Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is a "community of free thinkers and artistic innovators" based in Philadelphia. The site has a wonderfully constant navigation bar on the top of the page (I seem to like a constant navigation system), and like pitchfork, last.fm, and a few other sites, has content sorted by category in a grid on the home page. The categories on the home page, however, are only a few of the categories in the top navigation, which makes you wonder why there aren't links to the artists or musicians in the content on the front page. Perhaps the age of mechanical reproduction has rendered the artist irrelevant (har har har). Once you go one level in on the site, for most categories you get a left column navigation. THe rollover highlight stays to show you where you are, and a header in the content tells you (in case it wasn't obvious). This works for all of the categories except for "Shop Online." I'm not sure if that's intentional or just an accident. There isn't any obvious hierarchy, though "Shop Online" is the first button in the row. The links don't change once they've been clicked on, and the way to get back home is to click on the main banner at the top. The site's architecture isn't too deep– in the store section you can go from store to categories in the store to products in the categories, but that's about as deep as it goes. The look doesn't ever change substantially. Like with Pitchfork, TMT, and ReFormSchool, the architecture isn't flat, but it's not far off. It only takes a few clicks to get from one place to another. Unfortunately, a few of the pages seem to be broken, and I'm not sure that the site is really up and running yet.
The typographic hierarchy is pretty apparent. There is one main font for the headlines and the main banner, and the clickable text is all the same blue. The size changes based on whether there ought to be more or less emphasis placed on the text, and navigation labels are clear, even if they don't always work. The structure of the page stays pretty similar. The main page has the top banner and three columns of content, and then the second and third level pages have a left hand navigation with center content and our constant banner. Now if only more of the links in the left hand navigation worked.... even the mailing list link is broken on most pages. Which, I would guess, is probably bad for business, especially since there is a contest with free giveaways for those who subscribe to the mailing list.
The focal point of each page is not the individual product, the individual musician or artist, but rather the over-arching concept of each category. You get this impression because well, there's a big fat picture devoted to that. The imagery is definitely pretty, and actually not over done, I don't think. There is a weird funky symbol up top that is a compass/forceps over an eye on top of a gear, but I guess that's just their logo. Otherwise, the photos are all pretty relevant, and the colors are minimal. Only three colors are really ever on a page– grey, blue, and this kind of tan beigey color. The content is more separated by lines and general placement than by color.
The overall purpose of the site is to promote the artists and musicians involved and to sell stuff that those artists and musicians make. You can't ever really search for anything. The most useful part of this site is probably the blog, which keeps you up to date on happenings in and around Philadelphia that have to do with art, or, specifically, Art in the Age.