Monday, January 16, 2006

Originate

Originate
Flash site from Originate. What looks like an interesting idea to display content at a 45 degree angle soon grates on the nerves after about five seconds. Annoyingly, after clicking to view a portfolio piece, the site loads in a black square that you then have to click again. It actually looks like the images have not loaded yet.
Design samples disappoint.

[UPDATE 18-01-06]
I received a phone call this morning claiming to be from Originate. They demanded I remove this review or legal action will be taken.
The number was a private number so I cannot verify if this request was genuine. I have sent off an email to Originate requesting confirmation.

I am sure as a designer / design company, if you are confident that the work you have produced is good, then you should post a comment refuting my opinion and make a counter argument. Lets get some good design discussion going!
Please give your own opinion below. Is it effective design and good usability?

[UPDATE 19-01-06]
A good debate going on over at creative Ireland on the perceived rights and wrongs of reviewing design on a blog associated with Spoiltchild.

16 Comments:

Alex Horstmann said...

I'd agree with you completely.

Like having to click the Black Squares (in the Portfolio section), why do I have to click "Enter the Flash Site" when the preloader is finished?!? It should happen automatically AND there is no non-Flash site alternative!!! So asking me to enter the Flash site is misleading - there is only one version and it's done in Flash!

You're also spot on about the angled text - I gave up trying to read it after a while!

1/18/2006 11:52:57 AM  
Peter Knight said...

Yeah - "Enter the Flash site". I thought I just did :O)

1/18/2006 01:58:01 PM  
keith bohanna said...

"Is it effective design" - if it is meant to catch the eye and be a pure "visual popcorn" experience then it just might be effective.

"Is it good usability" - It is up there for a Seriously Bad Usabilty Award. It appears to be a concept that leaked out from the alpha stage to skip the beta, constructive feedback, and critical appraisal phases before being released.

It would be great to see Originate respond and engage - it looks like they have a great portfolio of work (although I nearly missed the graphics for same because of the black shapes mentioned by Alex - I presumed that some element of the site was not working with either Firefox or one of my security/blocking programs!)

keith

1/18/2006 02:22:32 PM  
Alex Horstmann said...

Keith brings up an interesting point of effective design versus good usability. I've thought about this quite a lot and without going into too much detail I would advocate usability over design.

It sounds sweeping, I know, and the arguement that this company is trying to ply their wares as creators of high impact designs has a lot of weight.

But, effective design is also about communicating messages clearly and effectively - in this case the design has failed. I was stalled trying to get into the site by having to click on the "enter site" link. I was stalled trying to see the portfolio by having to figure out to click the black boxes, not once but twice!!!! The text was at an angle that made reading it after the first page unappealing.

From a business point of view this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would consider myself and expert user of web pages - but if you're dealing with a CEO or CFO of a company vetting this site as a possible vendor, I think that it just throws up too many usability obstacles to that kind of user. They'll give up, go elsewhere - potential contract lost.

1/18/2006 03:03:09 PM  
Kevin Cannon said...

Alex, it's not a case of Usability vs Design. Usability is part of the design.


Visually the Originate site looks well, and probably would work fine as a print layout, where you can more easily handle angled text.

On screen, in this particular design, combined with the navigation, it doesn't work.


The site has decent layout & typography, but is so difficult to use, that it's hard to appreciate those well designed elements. It's a good concept, but a bit more work & testing would improve it a huge amount.

Alan - any updates on the call yet? If they did it themselves, that's ridiculous, you can't censor an opinion you don't like!

1/19/2006 01:41:09 PM  
Ken said...

Em, I haven't really had a good look at the site - I don't like it much at first glance. However, seeing as this site is a sub-site of Spoiltchild Design, isn't it a little unprofessional to be slating your competition publicly on your own company site?

Some sites I've worked on have been featured here but I bit my tongue as they've received favourable reviews. However, if you're going to be using another company's work to build up click-throughs, then you probably shouldn't critcise their on top of that. It's disgracefully unprofessional carry on for a Web shop. Just my 2c.

1/19/2006 05:13:06 PM  
Alan O' Rourke said...

I appreciate your comment Ken and I can see your point of view.

I don't believe I am slating the competition but in fact standing back and writing a critical review of a piece of design. I don't believe I have any personal/slating comments in my critique.

Spoilt is not here to generate click throughs. And if it was, the intended target and readership is other designers so its not exactly going to do me a lot of good.
Looking at the crazy number of hits this blog gets for "Tony & Guy" I might be better changing career.

This blog is a spin off from my previous involvement in the Designer Guild. Its sole purpose is to generate more discussion and commentary on Irish design, of which there is almost none at the moment.
Fortunately/unfortunately design is a hobby as well as a business and I love talking about it.

I am sure if you read over all the posts you will see that I rarely post something negative. If, in my opinion, something is not good enough it just doesn't get featured.
In the case of this post I was hoping for a better design for this prominent company which normally produces nice design. It was an interesting idea that just didn't work when executed. We all have them, and often. Trial and error is a lot of what design is about and how it develops and grows. It was great to see Originate try something different. In execution they fell into a few common traps that designers do when it comes to flash and translating print design skills to the web. I expressed my disappointment in the hope that other designers wont repeat the mistakes.

You say you bit your tongue when sites you have worked on have received favourable reviews. Do you mean that there should only be reviews with positives and ignore the negatives? It makes for a very one sided argument and goes against everything I believe design is about.

Spoiltchild Design, Spoilt and the blog Pinstripe are all me. I could separate them out and we can pretend that there is no connection but what's the point? I would be putting up a false front to everyone and that is not what Spoiltchild is about.

I do agree with you that I should be careful not to cross the line from critique into public and personal slating. But that's because its not a nice thing to do, and gets you nowhere. Professional to me means being honest, upfront and fair. The rest is marketing image.
Again i can see your point but as I stated I don't believe I crossed the line in this review.

But please tell me again in future if you think i do go too far :)

1/19/2006 08:25:23 PM  
Andy M said...

This post has been removed by the author.

1/20/2006 01:54:36 AM  
Andy M said...

Skipping over the non design discussion....

I think Originate have done a great job here. It is not 100% perfect as stated the black boxes are a little misleading and only for a little random scrolling with the cursor I would still be looking at a black square.

However Originate are visual communicators. I assume that their focus is visual therefore the design overcomes usability.

At first glance the site looks minimal and professional a theme that continues to run throughout the site. The angled text adds a sense of alternative thinking. For those that don't like it the usability gains a point with the popup box which displays the same text in a more 'user friendly' manner.

Quote Originate 'About Us'

Design has changed the way we view our world.


I think Originate have produced a design which is relevent to the content and direction of the client (Themselves/ Assuming they created their own site) Design relevent to content/client is the basis of any good design thats purpose is to promote the client.

Visual communicators should place design over usability. It is not there job to have nice coding/actionscript etc. Most clients I would assume do not approach a design studio and ask for some nice coding that their clients will never see and some will never even know exists.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion. No harm or offence intended!

1/20/2006 01:56:18 AM  
Rob said...

Legal action? Even in our increasingly litigious society, I believe one is still allowed an opinion...

1/20/2006 04:07:22 AM  
Ed said...

To echo Rob.

If originate put a website in the public domain then people are entitled to and right to review/critique it.

Just because you don't like the response to your new design doesn't mean you can persue legal channels.

Imagine microsoft or Sony suing everyone who gave them a bad review!

Ha!

In my opinion it is originate who are acting unprofessionaly here.

1/20/2006 12:36:48 PM  
Ken said...

I don't think this is about someone having an opinion. The point everyone seems to be missing is that this critique appeared on a competitors site, reviewed by the Director of said competing company. If Sony gave their 'honest opinion' about Microsoft products on their site, you can be pretty sure that there'd be legal wranglings. As I said, I appreciate that there was no malicious intent but when it comes to reviewing work done by design/web companies, other company websites are not the place to do it. There's no need to agree with me on this but you can be absolutely sure that the potential bad karma that it could create could only prove detremental to the success of Spoiltchild Design. Partcularly if other people in this industry started giving 'fair opinions' on everyone else's work. I think we can all agree that it would turn into a big bitching contest that wouldn't exactly do much for the image of an industry that we really need to start improving - for the good of us all!

1/20/2006 03:12:35 PM  
frankp said...

it's a thorny issue...

Haven't RyanAir slammed their competition in the past without legal action... maybe not, I just seem to remember some very direct references to AerLingus etc...

I'm still puzzling out my thoughts on this one days later...

At least three times I have written a comment here only to decide I wasn't sure enough of my opinion to post it!

And trust me, I'm usually pretty opinionated... ;)

1/20/2006 03:55:01 PM  
Alan O' Rourke said...

Thanks for the discussion and feedback guys.
Some final comments before i put it behind me.

I believe what I wrote was valid and constructive.
I did not slate a competitor. I reviewed a single piece of work.
Nothing personal was approached in the few comments.

There is nothing illegal in what I posted.

No ulterior motive in writing it. I have had no previous dealings with Originate in anyway, I do not know them and to the best of my knowledge have never been involved in a pitch for the same project.

If i was out to "get" a competitor it would be better to leave them with a site that was not as good as it could be instead of stating where improvements could be made.

I have no problem removing a post for good reason and on request. I have done this before.

I have no problem writing a constructive critique of a competitors piece of design from an impartial standpoint.
As an industry I believe we need to be more open not closed and secretive.
I don't believe I am right. I don't believe I am the Authority (that comment still makes me laugh).

The problem with the critique was the place in which it was posted. It weakens the critique because of a possible perceived bias with the relationship to Spoiltchild Design.
I will be moving the blog to its own domain and removing any indication that it is the voice of Spoiltchild. It will be the voice of Alan O'Rourke and guest reviewers.
Expect some proper exhaustive critical reviews :)

1/20/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Roger said...

Right now I'm using Konqueror (usually using Firefox) and I can't get past the front page. It requires Flash. The link to downloading Flash is not working.

Flash...if you want...but do it in the privacy of your own home.

OK now I've viewed the site in Firefox (with Flash). Clear case of the message being cleaned away Flash. However those who love it will always love it. I'd say 1 in 10 implementations work for me.

All the same best to try to resist urge to diss competitor. Not always easy.

Roger

1/20/2006 08:39:27 PM  
Rob said...

In any case, comparing the SpoiltChild site to the Originate one... are these two really competing in the same market?

1/21/2006 02:48:16 AM  

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