Two key things unite all designers: we like to study works of other designers, get inspired by some interesting design elements and critically note other less successful ones; and we are our own worst clients. The latter trait is the reason why we are having such a hard time designing for ourselves. We either end up with something that we endlessly tweak or neglecting certain elements that don’t quite work in terms of usability or aesthetics.

That’s why getting feedback from everyone we can is especially crucial when we launch or re-design our own sites or branding identities. This means that every designer must possess an essential quality: don’t take criticism personally but learn from it and look at the produced work from that person’s point of view.

There are many sites and forums where we could present our work and ask for a feedback and input from others. Designers who blog can simply ask their readers’ to share their thoughts. Nevertheless, I thought of starting a new feature on Inspiration Bit: Design Critique, where I will try my best at offering a constructive criticism on the design of certain sites and hopefully my readers here will add their thoughtful suggestions as well.

Since I do not want to offend anyone, I will be reviewing the sites only with the permission or request of their authors/creators. Once I complete the re-design of this blog, I’ll present it to you with the invitation to critique every bit of it as well. If you would like me to comment on the design of your site you are more than welcome to contact me with your site details. These reviews will be completely free of charge. I do however reserve the right to choose which web sites I would be featuring in my reviews.

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Now I would like to thank Sander Baumann for inspiring me to start this new series and for being the first “victim” of my Design Critique. Sander has recently re-designed his blog SEGD and asked me to comment on the design. He already received lots of insightful comments from his readers and instead of repeating some of those recommendations here I advise you to visit SEGD yourself and check out the discussions there, while I will add a few of my comments here.

Some of the readers’ suggestions Sander already took into a consideration, corrected a few design elements and currently works on improving the menu navigation.

Obviously Sander spent a significant amount of time laying out the new design down to the smallest details. As a result he came up with a beautiful minimalistic look that’s focused on readability and elegant typography.

There are a few things however that I would spend some more time polishing out:

  • I’m glad that Sander is re-working the menu, the font there was not very legible. Also, since Sander’s blog is bilingual, and he posts in both Dutch and English, adding TITLE attributes in English to the Dutch menu links would be very helpful to his English-speaking readers. Adding hover effects on his menu links was a good suggestion as well.
  • The text in the header on both sides of SEGD needs to be re-formatted as well, it looks too small and blurry.
    segd
  • segd The big right curly bracket in the metadata area on the left sidebar feels a bit out of place, misaligned. Perhaps rather than using the curly bracket (which does remind a similar treatment on iLT) some distinct ornaments or fleurons between the date and the post metadata would appear better here?
  • I’m not sure what was the reason behind italicizing the curly brackets around the number of comments on the left sidebar, but they look odd to me there
  • For the bulleted lists perhaps it would be better to use small asterisks for bullets instead of the squares, to match the distinct element of the design—red asterisk.
  • For the RSS section on the sidebar I would use a red RSS icon instead of the orange one. How about designing your own RSS icon? Say, simply keep only the dot and two segments in red .))
  • Similarly, colour the arrow in a circle icon next to previous in red too. And perhaps create a simple envelope illustration/icon in red as well, next to about section on the sidebar.
  • segd Rather than showing the number of RSS readers as a simple text line, I would skip the feed count here altogether (it is already displayed as the chicklet in the footer), and display a list with subscription links there (while removing the link from the Subscribe heading), like subscribe to this blog, subscribe to comments, subscribe by email.
  • I’m glad that Sander introduced an additional colour to the mainly monochromatic palette. So many minimalistic designs stick with having only one accent colour in a black and white colour scheme nowadays. However, I’m not crazy about that light blueish colour for the links, it is too pale compared to the rich red. Perhaps some bright green hues, deeper blue, or even a daring shade of pink would work better.
  • Rather than styling the links with the default underline, I would space them with more breathing room by setting the text-decoration: none; and adding the border-bottom attribute with specific values for border thickness, style and colour.
  • While I do like the placement of numbers on the right side of the readers’ comments in a separate column, I’ve missed that detail at first. Displaying it in bold, or in red, or increasing the size a bit would make it more visible and stylish.
  • I love the white on black footer, it is very bold and attractive. I wonder though if adding the hover effects to the category links would enhance the user’s experience navigating the site. What do you think?

Overall, I’m very impressed with the re-design. It’s very clean and well thought out with some interesting ideas like placing the red asterisk to distinguish the author’s replies from the rest of the comments. I applaud Sander’s choice to use elegant Meta Serif as a decorative typeface for the site.

What are your thoughts on Sander’s recent re-design? And what do you think about the Design Critique series on Inspiration Bit?

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6 Insightful Bits in response to “Design Critique: SEGD”

  1. I know what you mean about forever tweaking. My site redesign has been live for one month (tomorrow) and you guessed it – I’m still tweaking. I think Design Critique is a great idea.

    Speaking of which, kudos to Sander for being involved. I like the site a lot. My first impression was based on seeing the big red right bracket which (like you, Vivien) made me think of iLT straight away.

    There’s not much that I would say in addition to your comments. The photo on the “Over SEGD” page looks a bit washed out, maybe because of the strong light source(s) behind Sander. On the front page I like the Thank You section. Did you notice that when you hover over each link in the Thank You section, the title is a lovely description of each person that Sander has thanked. Nice!

  2. Thank you so much for being the first up for a Design Critique. I highly appreciate your time for this in-dept review of my website! And Design Critique is a wonderful idea.

    I’ve created some small changes on the top navigation menu, but I’m not yet satisfied. The text hover for Dutch and English is a good suggestion and I agree on the header image, the text is too small and blurry, will change this in the near future.

    When I started designing the date and bracket I tried to create a visual funnel from left (basic information) to right (main content). I believe it worked but I realize it looks too close to iLT, this is next up in the agenda to change.

    Spot-on for the list items, a red-astrix instead of the grey blocks will improve the balance in the theme. Good suggestion.

    Totally agree on the orange buttons, I changed it to red (designed my own RSS button wasn’t so difficult after all) and also changed the other head icons.

    I agree with you on the feedcount, it seems a bit misplaced. The suggestion for a email subscription link is much better. I also believe the black text is to hard opposite to the blue text links.

    For the text links, I must admit I’m a bit colorblind which makes it sometimes difficult to choose the right colors. I might change it to pink.

    Will take another look at the hover for text links and the numbers at the comments. More to come..

    Thank you again Vivien for this great review, much appreciated!! I take every point into the next steps of my website.

    @Tracey Grey, funny I visited your website yesterday thinking great design. Thank you for very much your comment and I’ve changed the photo :)

  3. @Sander, I’m glad you liked my site :-) Your new photo is a good one. I like the reflection of the lights.

  4. Great to see another typographically focused site. I particularly love the use of the * as a motif used throughout the site (even the RSS feed icon now!). It really brings a consistent identity throughout.

    I just have a few comments.

    In the footer there are links which are not highlighted as links at all. You have to move over the text to figure out where they are.

    I have no idea how to deal with this, but sometimes you click on a link in English and find yourself reading a page in Dutch. (For example clicking ‘contact me’ in the footer). I’ve never had to create a bilingual site before so haven’t really thought how to deal with this kind of issue, but it is probably worth thinking about. I’d be interested in reading any thoughts people have.

    The new icons on the right are a great improvement, but the silver button effect seems slightly out of keeping with the clean style of the rest of the site. Maybe it would be best with out this extra detail of the button, leaving just the red parts of the icons.

  5. Tracey, thanks for pointing out at the Tank You links, I didn’t even notice that, I was too quickly clicking on them ;) It’s indeed a very nice touch.

    Sander, it was a pleasure reviewing your site. I’m very glad that you found my comments worthy of implementing and working on. Big improvement with the buttons before the sections titles on the right sidebar. I do have to agree with Alan though, that shiny silver effect with drop shadows make them look too “web 2.0-ish”. Why don’t you keep them simple like the rest of your site, and leave out the button background? Also, make the arrow red too. I really like how you’ve used the red asterisk in your new RSS icon – well done!

    Alan, you bring a good point about the challenges of a bilingual site. I think to simplify things for everyone, it’s best to title links in a corresponding language, so there will be no wrong expectations. So a link in Dutch would take me to the page in Dutch, and the one in English will be written in English.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on