This Week in Web - 7.25.14

  •   Miki Pacifico

By Miki Pacifico

This week - reverse snobbery, fakecations, and breaking design conventions.

Preserve

As I went on a hunt for this week’s top stories, I stumbled upon what can only be categorized as a scathing review of Blake Lively’s newest venture, a website called Preserve. The review, penned by an Australian contributor to the Guardian named Eleanor Robinson, showcases not only the author’s inexplicable hatred for the wealthy, but also perhaps a poor understanding of American culture. 

preserve

Touted as part e-Commerce hub and part philanthropic effort, Preserve hosts articles about American artisans, a store where one can purchase the fruits of that labor, and a section for giving back to the community through a partnership with Covenant House, a non-profit organization dedicated to the aid and protection of homeless children and runaways. 

Based on a cursory tour through the Preserve site I feel like I need to mention to Ms. Robertson that this website stands for just about everything Americans love, right down the URL (preserve.US). The design aesthetic is rustic but clean, with imagery that speaks to the middle-American’s love of home and country. It promotes qualities that Americans hope to see in themselves: craftsmanship, prosperity, ambition, common sense, compassion, and generosity. You may not see it, Ms. Robinson, but this site houses the American dream, and to top it off, it's run by American royalty (because that’s how we see celebrities, obviously). 

The most insight I gleaned from that review was a hatred of the wealthy as a class. I won’t say that I disagree on all points, because when I think of American artisans, I think of small towns, craft fairs, little old ladies maybe. I certainly think that there is more to American artisanship than New Orleans or Brooklyn can portray. More mundane, everyday things like the hard work that goes into a piece and the low prices US consumers (and obviously Australian ones as well) expect despite the time, materials, and effort that it took to create it.

A lot can be said about how Preserve could improve, but helping out the little guys (both the artisans and homeless children) is a worthy cause, no matter how misguided you feel the messaging or the wealth of the creator. It is also important to note that while Blake Lively is the editor of the website, the content and creation of the website itself is more than likely run by a team of normal, hardworking and talented Americans. 

Overall I would say that Preserve is a beautiful site, I am interested to see what turns in approach it takes over time, and maybe we should just reserve judgement and take intentions at face value.

Fakecation

This morning I was introduced to the ridiculous new internet meme known as “Fakecationing”. Can’t afford a real vacation but want the beautiful Instagram proof of having been somewhere, anywhere, other than where you are right now? Apparently taking selfies in front of a large screen housing the vacation destination of your choice is the new, economical way to show your friends you are better than them. 

Facation

All I can say about this is… wow. What a sad state of our nation. Compare the US vacation time to any country in the European Union (go ahead, I’ll wait) and you will notice a trend. Americans are overworked. Clearly, not here at Inovāt, since we have a number of positions that scored very highly on work-life balance as I mentioned in my last article, but the rest of the country is starving to get away. As is clearly evident by this meme. 

Can I just say… Please don’t do this. It’s just sad. Ration out your coffee and lunch money for a while, save up a little and buy a quick cheap vacation somewhere. You can do it if you put your mind to it. Just sayin’.

Breaking Design Conventions

Recently, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA redesigned their website. This would normally be an unremarkable event, given the standard University website structure. Most school and university websites tend to follow the same navigational and visual lines. However, Bucknell took a different path, changing the way visitors navigate and absorb site content. 

Bucknell Homepage

Neilsen Norman Group ran a user experience survey to determine the effectiveness of the redesign, siting issues with navigation, the location of pertinent content, the total lack of use of the customization feature, and a decrease in overall user experience due to the modern design aesthetic. Reactions to this change have run the gamut, and I asked one of our own designers, Leeann, to take a look at give me her thoughts.

Here is what she had to say: 

Breaking user conventions can be great, but it's always a risk. Knowing your audience should be a huge factor in the decision to do so. Bucknell’s new site is pretty user friendly for a digital designer (namely me), but when a lot of your audience is going to be parents of teenagers in 2014, an abnormal browsing structure is just not going to have great results. 

Generally, the minimalistic approach works, but the big problem here is the break in convention from the typical navigation structure. Though I started to get comfortable with the sites navigation after a few minutes of browsing, these few minutes of adaption most likely cause confusion and frustration to students and parents. I do think that the conversions will be back to a more appropriate place after users have become more accustomed to the site; and the audience here doesn’t have much of another choice but to use it.

As designers and innovators we always strive to stand out from the crowd, and encourage taking risks so long as the reward is sufficient to counter it. Bucknell University make have taken a huge leap, and I sincerely hope their design team is prepared for a long battle of A/B testing in the year ahead to justify their decisions.

Header photo

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