Review: Shot In LA

Aesthetic and Technical Review of
http://www.shotinla.com
by jim barchuk
23 August 1996 11:00am


Pages tested under:
Netscape Navigator 2.02
Windows 3.11
VGA 640/480
14.4k modem.

Opening Page

Unfortunately, one immediate bad first impression. While the 'status line marquee' seems really cool, it is in fact extremely annoying and in fact counter-productive. The status bar 'belongs' to user/browser. First of all, it is the users status bar, not the web site's status bar. Second, text is much more difficult to read. Instead of simply reading the text, the user must 'wait' for the text. Also, if the users misses a portion of it as it scrolls by, they will most likely not wait for it to come around again. The point is to 'let' the user view the page, not force them to conform to it. Strongly recommend removing this item, place the scrolling text as normal screen text and it'll be seen just fine.

A note regarding text navigation. While the lower portion of the page's text links are fine, the 'Current Issues' links are available only after loading graphics. Suggest text hotlinks.

The opening screen including graphics -looks- very good but the images' file sizes are Very Large. The five graphics including the logo plus the four covers total 250k. On my 14k4 connect (on a slow day) that took 3.5 minutes. This is not necessarily excessive considering the size and attractiveness of the images, but that they are required to continue navigation makes them excessive. Suggest reducing the color count to 16 for 2/3 bandwidth savings at very slight appearance cost. For the cover images further suggest thumbnail versions on the opening page with the option to load and view the full size images. This image size problem will -compound- as new covers are added to the page. Also suggest reducing the image sizes so they fit four-across on the screen, rather than needing to scroll down to see the second row of covers. This will obviously change as new covers are added, but the point is to display as much information on the screen as possible.

Technical problems. The Javascript should not be enclosed within comment delimiters. The Javascript should be contained within <HEAD></HEAD>. This is a potentially drastic problem. For instance, the first time I loaded this page, it crashed Netscape. Whether it was caused by either of the two problems mentioned is unknown. Certain Javascript/<HEAD> abnormalities are a know contributor to crashes, but the comment delimiters throw another wrench into the works.

Comment contents note. It is not a 'good idea' to use continuous strings of hyphens "------" within the comment block. Browsers interpret the first "--" following the start-of-comment as potential end-of-comment markers.

Other technical notes. "FONT SIZE =" should be used to change text size rather than <H#>. MIDDLE is not a valid attribute for <TD>. Neither of these two errors are damaging, but will not appear as intended under certain browsers.

Selected Opening Page Links

'Shot In LA Web Survey'

Very good idea to note that not all browsers support forms properly.

'Sponsor's Page'

Good idea to put the folks with the $ right up front. [G]

Some of it is difficult to read. Continuous blocks of full centered text are not a good idea. Suggest lists.

The graphics are overbearing in size -and- mostly useless; at VGA 640/480 resolution none of the smaller text is legible.

Also, given the layout of:

image
text
image
text
image
text

...it is rare that the text associated with an image fits on the screen at the same time. This give a kind of 'discontinuous' effect

Suggest a layout of:

image text
image text
image text

'Local Links'

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://www.shotinla.com/nolinks.html - NOT FOUND!

'Credits'

Suggest tables to bring margins in.

'Film and Video Links'

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://www.shotinla.com/nolinkS.html - NOT FOUND!

'Shot In LA Film and Video Foundation'

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://www.shotinla.com/found.html - NOT FOUND!

'The Louisiana Screenplay Competition'

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://www.shotinla.com/screen.html - NOT FOUND!

Individual issue comments

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://shotinla.com/may/may.html - NOT FOUND!

WARNING - MAJOR MALFUNCTION:
http://shotinla.com/june-july/june.html serves up the -April- issue!

OK, so going with the April issue since it is the latest one available.

Opening screen

Suggest adding tables to add margins.

Looked at a few departments and columns.

First general suggestion is to add some sort of Shot In LA header to each page. The reason for this is that while each page is usually seen in the context of the whole, there is no guarantee that a user will arrive at a page in the expected manner. Each page should 'stand on it's own' and convey that while it is an individual page it is part of a whole. In a similar vein, while some of the pages have 'back to' links at the bottom of the page, many have nothing, each page should 'operate' similarly.

Second general suggestion is to have each page convey a similar 'image', that is, for each page to appear to be part of the whole it should have certain attributes that connect it with the other pages. For instance, the april/columns/dollars.html has literally no title, no information to convey in the slightest 'what' it is. Another example is the april/columns/digital that has a title size very different from some of the other pages.

'Features'

-Very- good, chock full of content plus a few well placed images. Would suggest a few more images, at least one per page, to add just a little 'entertainment'. Similar suggestion to add tables to bring the margins in.

Summary

Content: -Excellent-, excellent, excellent.

Navigability: Except for a few rough spots, overall very good.

Speed: Given the exception of the few overly large images, -very- good. The emphasis is on 'content' rather than -just- glitz, and text loads much faster in terms of 'content per minute'.

Technical: There are minor problems throughout, mostly innocuous. Netscape crashed several times, my impression is that it was caused by the Javascript because there really doesn't appear to be any other problems serious enough to cause a crash.



Copyright 1996 jim barchuk
jb@jbarchuk.com
URL: http://www.jbarchuk.com/review02.html