By Paul Gorski
I was showing a friend the new Rock River Times website, and he was impressed by it and by how well the mobile version worked. We started looking at other local sites, and one thing led to another, and I had reviewed some 100 local websites. I will share some of my favorites and some observations.
Observations first: small type, poor navigation, and the lack of company history and staff contact pages really bother me. Current websites should also be mobile ready and have big “click here” call-to-action buttons. Contact us, get more information, see our client lists, or something like that. I found that some of the larger local design firm websites lacked some of these basics. I hope the firm I ask to design my site would include basic website design principles in its own site. Morningstar Media Group in Sycamore, Ill., has a website that implements many of these basic features well; visit that site at http://morningstarmediagroup.com.
Abreo, a restaurant in downtown Rockford, has a nice website at: http://www.abreorockford.com. The Abreo site has a clean, fresh, contemporary look, with simple, clear navigation. Great graphics of food help quite a bit. However, the type is just a bit too thin for the black background, and the type is too thin and light for the mobile version of the site. I would increase the font weight (thickness) just a bit. Fonts aside, Abreo has a very inviting website.
The YMCA of Rock River Valley, http://www.rockfordymca.org, has a downright spunky-looking website. This site is easy to read, features vibrant colors, and has great site navigation tools. There is a lot of activity going on at the site, giving the impression of an active YMCA. Works well.
For a corporate website, the Woodward site at http://www.woodward.com manages to pack a lot of information into a tight space. Yes, the fonts are a bit small for me, but the site navigation is good for a company with many different business operations. The Woodward site features a simple design, but offers a nice dashboard of news, search tools and partner resources on the home page. It is clear to me that someone spent quite a bit of time to ensure that visitors do not have to click four times before finding the information they are looking for. The site looks good on an iPad, but a bit cramped on a smartphone. My guess is that Woodward’s business partners are not screaming for a mobile app or mobile-optimized website.
Kryptonite and the Olympic Tavern have two things in common: they both feature craft beers and they both, apparently, use the same website hosting company that caters to craft-beer establishments. That is OK, but I have some recommendations for both sites. While both sites are trendy, informative and mobile-ready, the Kryptonite site is a bit slow and the Olympic site features Wine and Cocktail menu options that do not work. Fix the speed and navigation issues, and these two fine Rockford establishments can both lay claim to having fun websites. Visit Kryptonite online at: http://www.kryptonitebar.com and visit the Olympic Tavern online at: http://www.theolympictavern.com.
I hope I have not offended anyone. I encourage you to post a link to your favorite site as an online comment.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie.
Posted April 29, 2014