Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Competitive Analysis - Student Portfolio

As part of an assignment we had to undertake a competitive analysis of a student's website portfolio. I came across Richard Paul Davidson's online portfolio and decided this would be a good site to base my analysis. Richard is a recently qualified First Class Multimedia (Computer Science) graduate, and his portfolio can be found here.

Initially the portfolio doesn't provide anything to grab my attention. The choice of using black as the main colour makes the site look very dull. The header and footer use very amateurish computer design skills and without an impacting header on the site, I have to wait for the flash player to complete before I know what I am looking at.

The flash player can be used very effectively; however, the use on this homepage actually limits your access to the vital information until the flash cycle has completed. I believe the information should be there in front of you from the start, telling you viewer exactly what they need to know straight away. This is the purpose of a homepage.

From the homepage alone, it is very clear that there is no grid system used and no text alignment. The text is randomly placed around the page, which makes it look very disorganised and unaesthetically pleasing. This becomes more obvious as you view through the different pages, seeing a definite lack of consistency. Also from viewing all the pages it is very apparent that each page uses a different font size which is a direct neglect of basic design principles.

A positive of this website is its navigation. The text is very clear and consistent, making it very user friendly. I like the use of the hover over drop down menu too because it leaves the page uncluttered. It also adds another aspect of interactivity that is well thought out.

I don't think this website has used the footer to its full potential. Crucial information can be placed in there for easy access. Although Copyright is not necessary, it is always worth showing and stating the Copyright holder of the site. Other things such as contact details and sites maps could have been placed in this section.

On the portfolio pages the lack of internal navigation makes it very difficult to navigate through the different projects he has worked on. There is also an issue with coding as the final link for the Tower Hill work, actually links you back to the Empirehouse.biz section. This is a very basic mistake that actually stops you seeing all of his work.

Again, the use of flash is very poor on this page although it is a good concept. As you move your mouse to click on the projects on the right I found the link quickly moving across the page and it became a task just to be able to click the imagery link. This is not a very user friendly idea, as I found it very frustrating. A simple navigation system would have been much more appropriate.

My first impression of the profile page shows very poorly structured content. He has still continued to imbed the content in flash. This means that the content becomes uneditable, and users are unable to highlight it. The page would be much better off if it was pure HTML and CSS.

On more of a typographical note, the line length is far too long for the readers. Having a long line length means your eyes struggle to find where you are in the sentence. The fact that the text is white on a black background also increases the difficulty of registering the words. The line of text that follows under the image is also very unaesthetically pleasing. Despite these things there is a good use of a portrait picture to be able to put a face to the name.

The CV page again has no need to use flash as the content becomes uneditable. The text is made even smaller on here and the line length incredibly long making it very difficult to read. This page should not be fixed in length and should allow the CV to continue down the page. Definitely a good idea to include the PDF and Word documents, as the CV would be unusable otherwise.

The contact page should contain a list of contact details rather than an instant link to outlook express. This means that he is relying on people having an outlook express account set up, whereas this should be an optional means of contact.

Overall, I have struggled to find many positives on this portfolio. The basic rules of design and typography seem to have been neglected throughout. It has done a very good job of highlighting the things I must avoid when creating my portfolio.

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