David Patrick McKenzie

Digital Public Historian

Critique: Amber’s Final Project

When I put out a call on Facebook for suggestions on improving my final project website, Amber suggested a great idea: a mutual critique of each other’s. For me, the critiques by friends and classmates, whether in class or via social media, have been really helpful (thanks, all!). So in that spirit, my thought’s on Amber’s final project, Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Hand Is Where the Art Is.

  • The title: I like the title. I really do, especially after occasions of seeing people from Michigan use their hands as maps. However–in this iteration of the website, without the map of Michigan in the header, I’m not sure that it makes as much sense. I agree with the decision to remove the map from the header, as we talked about in class. Perhaps on the front page, “above the fold” as they say but in the content area instead of the header, include a map with Grand Rapids highlighted? That might help make the connection more clear.
  • Header art: I like the sculpture. It helps give the visitor a greater sense of the site’s content. I like how you’ve floated it so that it’s not in the header box–in fact, I was inspired by how you did that with the Michigan map, and did the same with Santa Anna for my site (coincidence: the newspapers I looked at for Santa Anna’s time in Washington also were talking about Michigan statehood). The piece needs some work to make it lighter and more visible, though (nice that you took the picture!). You could also float it over the menu bar, perhaps by decreasing the space between the items and making the sculpture larger. I think that would help it stand out more, and give your viewer the idea that, hey, there’s some cool art in Grand Rapids!
  • Nav bar: Ah yes, navigation. I think I have spent more time on this than anything else in this class! I think it works really well here to have each section under the header bar, rather than on the left side. It’s very clear what your visitors are navigating. I think it would be more clear, though, to use the font you use in the body text for the menu bar. You use the decorative font, to nice effect, for the header and for the headers in the body, so I think you can use the body font here–that might also help with opening up some space to make your great sculpture photo even bigger, for all the world to see your photography skills!
  • Color scheme: I think the gray palette works for readability, especially with the blues thrown in. However, I do think, since you are discussing art (granted, what do I know, I’m a historian rather than art historian!), perhaps you could go to using, say, the red from the wonderful photo of the Calder sculpture? I like how you put the pull quote at the beginning–I think that could benefit from a nice, light-red background to help it stand out more. I can imagine, though, that it must be tough trying to decide what colors to incorporate since there is such a variety of colorful artworks in your site.
  • Repetition: Since this flows from the previous entry, I’ll start CARP with repetition (that, and I misremembered the C and started an entry for consistency!). The site has benefitted from you using a consistent color scheme throughout. You’ve really nailed consistency/repetition with one color scheme, one header design, etc. At the same time, your use of different header images on each page adds some extra visual interest. You do this in a consistent way, a way that doesn’t distract from what you are trying to do–each piece is in the same place, and aligned the same way. The main part that could be more consistent, though: The header. It might be better to keep the site title at top, even if in some way besides the header. Otherwise, although the color scheme tells the visitor he/she is on the same site, the headers don’t as much. Tough dilemma, though, where to put the different page titles. Perhaps have them highlighted in the menu bar, and then an extra level of heading above what you have?
  • Contrast:  Your contrast is good. In each section you contrast the different elements from each other, so that they flow together but you do a good job showing your visitor what is what.
  • Alignment: Unfortunately, not all of your paragraphs in your body copy align. Some are to the left of others. Can be tough to nail in the CSS! Otherwise, the alignment works nicely. Everything flows together.
  • Proximity: You do good work with putting things close enough together that they flow, without scrunching them too closely. I think your line spacing, in particular, is good. The one place that could be improved is in your captions. Sometimes the image credit is too far from the rest of the caption.

So all in all, great work, Amber! I think this site is coming along well, and I hope that my suggestions are helpful but aren’t too time-consuming. Thanks for the thought of a critique exchange!

1 Comment

  1. Thanks David! These are super helpful suggestions and they make a lot of sense the way you explain them. Hopefully I will have time to make these changes! My biggest concern is the alignment of the text and how that somehow got weird. I’m not even sure what to do about that, but I will give it a shot!

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