It isn’t immediately clear as to what Narfstuff actually is, there are lots of clues to indicate, but at a first glance, it gives the impression of being a personal website of some sort, due to the laid back, informal appearance to the graphics and site design.
Despite this initial uncertainty, it quite quickly becomes clearer when we look at the navigation items that this is a portfolio and blog site.
When we look at how customised Narfstuff is, it maintains a stereotypical blog layout with a main column for blog posts and a right hand column for the blog category and archive navigation. Despite this though, the blog has been quite well created in a unique way using a great deal of custom imagery to create the appearance of a clipboard on top of numerous other items on a literal desk. This makes it seem fairly personal, but the added touch of flowers to assist in the creation of a border between the clipboard and navigation shows us a little bit more of the creator’s personality. This personalisation makes the website memorable, though it does not incorporate any “fancy” functionality such as the scrolling effects of WeBleedDesign.
The content is reasonably professional, but has a more personal blog style of writing than a formal document. The website has not been updated regularly for some time, but it does appear that it is becoming more regular, and includes items that may be of use to the professional community such as free graphics packs. This assists in developing a more professional appearance, despite the informal writing style.
The website loads relatively quickly and functions on a number of different browsers without any hiccups, so it is quite accessible and the navigation is easy to use. The navigation with roll over effects also form the only interaction available with the website. One thing that can cause confusion though is that the portfolio section of the website changes in appearance quite dramatically to the rest of the website.
Not only does the design change, but all the functionality and navigaition items have become different as well. This is a bit off putting especially as there is no clear way to return to the other section of the website. The only similarity is the colours and the vines with flowers that are used to create borders.
Despite this lack of consistency though, a contact page is available in both sections of the website. However, no contact details are available, there is only an inquiry form. Similarly, there is no reference to any other social media, such as Twitter or LinkedIn which could be useful in developing further leads or clients.
We Bleed Design, created by Bryan Katzel is a unique and interesting way of displaying an online portfolio. It is initially fairly clear that it is a design portfolio. This is done through the name of the website itself, “We Bleed Design”, and the use of prominent headings such as “Design, Illustration and other Digital Keepsakes”. The thing that isn’t clear initially, is what sort of design Bryan actually does.
Straight away, Bryan tells us it’s his portfolio and has links to more information about himself, and to email him.
When we follow the navigation item to his work it becomes more clear that most of his work is print based, but that he also does web based design.
Clicking any navigation item takes us through a very unique automated scroll which runs over a transparent PNG to create a rather memorable experience with a seemingly animated page. The same “animation” occurs when we click on other navigation items, some run for longer than others though, depending on how far down the page we go. Alternatively, we can manually scroll through the page and see the animation at our own pace.
The downside of this customised functionality, though highly unique and memorable, is that the navigation does not follow the user, it remains at the top of the page. In order to get back to it, one of the many “Up” buttons must be clicked. These “Up” buttons are plentiful, but they do not really stand out and unless the user knows they are there and what they do, it leaves them without navigation. If the user does know they are there and understand their function, it makes for a slow navigation experience as the user must wait for the reverse scroll to occur before they can then navigate to the next section. This does have a negative effect on usability, despite making for an interesting response to user interaction. It is excellent to see though that this functionality is accessible on numerous browsers and platforms, and so the functionality isn’t lost for certain people.
Bryan has included a blog on his page that seems to be updated, but not regularly – only 3 times in the past year. Despite this, and the heavy use of cartooning in the design, the content does come across professionally. It would be fairly easy to effectively incorporate a Twitter or Flickr stream into the design and maintain the existing theme and aesthetic without detracting from it. It is unfortunate though that he hasn’t utilised these or any other form of social media or networking to allow users to interact with him and his website.
In all, We Bleed Design is very unique and personal, and it certainly sticks in the users mind due such a high level of customisation and unusual features, however, this does make the usability of the website a little poor. The accessibility of this website is excellent and the interaction is unique but it is not regularly updated and there is no links to other forms of social media. The contact information, while present, is not prominent, and many of the portfolio items say “coming soon”, giving the impression of incompleteness, which detracts from the overall professionalism of the website.