Architects: Your Websites Suck. Read This Post!
There is not much green about this post; you can consider it a rant or perhaps a public service. One of the joys of this gig is that I get to look at the work of a lot of talented architects and great green design; one of the horrors of it is that I have to look at a lot of their websites. For some reason architects think that if they can design a building, then they can reinvent web design; Every day I have to learn a new way to navigate through a site, get stronger glasses for the tiny type, and endure interminable flash intros. Sometimes I never actually do find anything at all, it is so hard to get around. If they designed their buildings like they do their sites, people would go into them and never be seen again.
Richard Frankland designs both buildings and websites for a living, and suggests that "the web design process is really no different to an architectural project. As with a well designed building, it’s good to improve on your previous work and explore new technologies, but it shouldn’t deviate too much from what simply works."
screen shot of the website of Australian architect Casey Brown, who just won a big prize in Australia covered in Dwell. I wanted to write about it, but can I find it?
Frankland agrees with out my biggest complaint:
"Architects often want to make their websites experimental and innovative, but this easily ends up as an unnavigable site that just frustrates the visitor. Animated Flash introductions can be tedious when a visitor simply wants the office phone number. Keep it simple — concentrate on clarity of information and ease in finding it." Read more at ::Building Design
Youmeheshe are probably one of the most talented architecture firms around, but when I first visited their site I wrote "Those of us who toil at our keyboards promoting good design pray for the end of Flash websites and, to quote Number Two in the Prisoner, "we want Information, Information." They have since dumped all the flash and turned it into a collection of PDFs- a great improvement.
One of my favourite architects, Kohn Shnier, explodes into a new window that takes over your screen, but uses only a small portion of it to teach you how to navigate a band of moving images-wait, I want that one, slow down, come back!
Renzo Piano does much the same thing. Steve Rose wrote about this in the Guardian: "Take Renzo Piano. One of the world's greatest architects, no doubt, but try to use his website and you'll see what I mean. See how long it takes you to find the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (one of his lesser known projects). It took me a good 10 minutes to work out there was any info at all. Only by dragging your cursor over the "Renzo Piano Building Workshop" logo do you fleetingly access the secret portal. Then you have to negotiate a succession of moving maps, mystifying symbols and surprise pop-up menus to find anything. It's like a highbrow version of Tomb Raider."
Steve Rose also provided a nice list of great architects with lousy websites, including Will Alsop, where I chased a yellow ball for five minutes before I noticed a dash in a box on the upper right corner of the table. See more of them in the ::Guardian
Cartoon image by Tim Sanders from BDonline