The purpose of Elite by Design (http://www.elitebydesign.com/) is to provide helpful and insightful articles in the fields of web design, web development, and Photoshop.
I’m going to review this in my ordinary fashion, with my initial experience fully written followed by my suggestions for improvement at the end of the post.
The Front Page
When I land on Elite By Design, I first notice the banner, two large lead images, and the top navigation. It’s all very pretty but means very little to me.
It looks a bit like this on first glance:
The page looks very nice visually, but it’s a lot for me to try to take in all at once. I assume the site has to do with Design, but don’t really know what it’s about until I see the different site categories on the lower left of the page.
Intrigued in finding out what I can take from the site, I click on the “Tutorials” category.
Blog Category Page
The Tutorials page loads and I have no trouble scanning the page. It is nicely laid out, I can identify individual posts and the options associated with each post, and there are small thumbnails that help me understand what the post is about without doing a whole lot of reading.
I scroll down the page looking for an article that interests me, and eventually arrive at the page navigation. It’s not counter-intuitive, but it’s a bit misleading to have the page navigation appearing in a box that also says “Premium WordPress Themes Starting at $49.95”. They are not related elements so they shouldn’t be in the same container.
A Blog Post
Assuming I came to Elite By Design looking for some design related blog articles, I have a fairly easy time getting to where I want to go. I click Blog, arrive at the most recent posts, and click a post that interests me. Ideally, the front page should guide me to the latest post, but this is what I end up doing instead.
The actual post is formatted very nicely though! Well laid out, descriptive headers, good use of lists and short paragraphs make everything easy to read. At the end of a blog post I can find more articles, and a typical comment area.
At this point, I’ve seen the word “Community” thrown around enough times to make me wonder what it’s all about. It must be a forum, or some other type of important element at Elite By Design given it’s prime placement at the top of the page.
However, the Community page does nothing to explain to me what it’s all about. I just see a whole bunch of links to different articles.
It’s not until I actually click an article that I figure out it’s a list of articles from outside of ElitebyDesign.com. It takes a bit of searching, but I eventually even find a form for submitting links of my own. The form isn’t difficult to figure out, but could certainly be reduced to one form instead of two.
The Community is a neat idea, I really like it, but I don’t know I like it until I’ve deliberately forced myself to learn what it is.
Premium WordPress Themes for Sale
Elite By Design sells premium WordPress Themes. I purposely save this for last, as I think the audience interested in purchasing themes will be much different from the viewers of the blog. There may be some overlap, but there will probably be far fewer buyers, who came to the site with the sole purpose of spending money on wordpress themes.
So I reset myself, and take a new perspective on Elite by Design. I am now a shopper who has landed on EliteByDesign.com during a search for premium WordPress Themes.
Upon landing at the homepage, I truly have no idea that Elite by Design sells wordpress themes. I happen to catch “Themes” in the top navigation, but even that doesn’t draw my eye to it very quickly. I don’t event realize that one of the Lead Images is advertising a wordpress theme since there is a huge word, “Video” in the center of the image.
The Themes landing page is much nicer, and my location is now highlighted in the navigation menu. There are some wonderful previews of the themes for sale. I try clicking one to see a live preview but nothing happens. I find a “Demo” link under the thumbnail and click that, but I’m redirected to WooThemes.com instead of a demo for the theme. The same thing happens when I click “Buy“. When I click “More Info” I am shown a page with features, but no demo, and no screenshots of the theme in action. To make matters worse, there is a Google AdSense unit above the list of features. If I’m paying for a service or product, I don’t want to have ads in my way.
All in all, the Theme shop for Elite by Design is not functional. I know that I could search around WooThemes for the actual theme, but chances are I will just as well purchase a different theme, or do another search for Premium themes.
The sidebar draws no attention to itself despite some fancy images and nice styling. This may be good, as it doesn’t distract too much from the primary content.
One thing that I notice when going through the sidebar are some tabs, “Recent”, “Flickr”, and “Community”. I assume “Recent” to be the recent posts, and Flickr to show some artwork from the creator of Elite By Design (or perhaps a Flickr group since I’ve seen several of these in the past. Clicking on “Flickr” displays nothing however. I’m not sure what “Community” is before or after clicking on it.
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of these tab like systems, especially when I have to think to understand what each tab will display.
- The two large lead images take up a lot of space on the front page. The dimensions of these images could be reduced (or eliminated) to bring the important content up to the top.
- The flow of EliteByDesign.com is hard to follow until you’re a few clicks off from the Front Page. The front page could be better organized to quickly get designers to the content they want to see, and shoppers to themes they want to buy.
- The navigation isn’t very intuitive. “Community” is meaningless to the first time viewer, and the subnavigation changes but doesn’t associate itself visually with the primary navigation. Use color,tabs, or some other visual cue to connect the selected primary navigation with it’s secondary choices.
- On Blog category pages, move the page navigation outside of the Premium Themes container as they are not related.
- On some categories, “Older Articles” and “Newer Articles” are right next to each other in the page navigation and have arrows pointing in the same direction. Typically, page navigation has arrows pointing left and right to insinuate movement in different direction (or at least showing links on two separate sides of something).
- Explain what “Community” is on the Community page. Have a BIG call to action for users to submit links of their own. Consider changing “Community” to “Community Links“, or something else that implies it is a collection of user contributed links.
- Reduce Community Submit form to just one. There is no need for a user to have to decide between two forms with identical fields.
- The front page is roughly 1MB. This may be a problem for users on slow connections. Consider optimizing images.