Publisert av: thimmis | mars 30, 2009

Foto.no – an analysis

Foto.no – analyzing a picturesque website for photographers.

Foto.no is a website constructed to be a social arena and meetingplace for people of the discursive community with the common interest of photography. The site can be classified as a somewhat educational fan-portal. This would be a mix of the genres defined by Anne Cranny-Francis’ book «Multimedia», 2. Anne Cranny-Francis, Multimedia (London: Sage, 2008), 45.

As this is a .no site and it is completely written in Norwegian, it relates mostly to a community based in Norway, but could also be extended to include Scandinavia in some part. Some parts of the site are used to promote foreign photographers and their exhibitions (in Norway), this is a way for international photographers to reach a Norwegian audience, one could therefore claim that the site is more international than it first appears. On the other hand, the amount of information with an international basis is minimal in comparison to the Norwegian material.

The foto.no logo, placed in the top-left corner, is made of a minimalistic drawing of a camera and text that says «foto.no». The text is written with a sans-serif styled font. The text is based on clean, modern and creative styled lines that is repeated in the picture of the camera. One can also find the letters from the text in the camera which adds to the coherent look and feel of the logo. For instance you can see the «O» in the lens of the camera. The picture of the camera works as a connotation to the subject the site is created for. The camera represents the creativity and artform of photography.

The site has a style that tries to be clean and minimalistic, which also is represented in the logo.

If the user of the site is not logged in as a member, this is clearly stated on the top of the page. This emphasizes the idea that this is a social oriented website where the user is contributing to the site. This is know as positive network externality, which is a function used to describe the effect when user-contribution adds value to the site, which would make more users visit and use the site, and again make users contribute to the site. As Pearlson and Saunders would define it

«The concept that the value of a network node to a person or organization in the network increases when another joins the network.», 2. Keri E. Pearlson and Carol S. Saunders, Managing & Using Information Systems, A Strategic Approach (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006), 354. Although it is easy to use the site merely for the purpose of finding and using information, it is obvious that the site builds around interactions between users. A good example of this is the photocritique part of foto.no, where users presents their images and receives critique from other users on how they can improve the quality of their image.

The main menu displays ten options, which might be considered as breaking with the overall minimalistic style. The search button and the login-text at the top, shows the blue color that could be interpreted as the «theme-color» of the site. The color is repeated in the «hover»-effect used on the menuitems when holding the mouse over an element and the color of the text changes, and elsewhere on the site. But in addition to the blue color, quite a few other colors are used to present the user options. An orange color is used quite consistently to represent the decision made, and the current open option, this workes quite well. But there is also a red and a green color that is used on the site.

The problem here is that it is not used consistently, and when using the two colors red and green together, the users are most likely getting associations way beyond the intended meaning or the actual function the creator had in mind when making the site. When red and green are used separate, red can have wide specter of associations i.e. love, roses or communism, and green can represent environment, spring or fertility. But in modern life when red and green are used together, one associates it with stop and go, yes and no or on and off. But when you see it as two options on a website, the user might expect one of the options to work, and the other not. I.e. when using the green option «picturegallery» you might expect it to behave different from the red option «picturecritique». But to the user there might not be any immediate apparent reason why the two are different. It seems like the color green has been chosen since this is for all registered members, but the red «picturecritique» option is only for «special» members. Considering this, one could argue that the site is trying to build its own concept concerning the that red and green has and that the colorchoice works since it represents two different aspects of the site, one part for registered members and one for the «special» members. But this argument completely fails when the colors are used again in a different but slightly more logical way as another element of the site. When accessing different parts of the sites via the menu, another menu is displayed to the left with options concerning user interaction with the site. Some of the links are in green or red, but neither of them works if you are not logged in. The option is green when the link makes the user add something to a page, but since the same login-prompt is displayed as when clicking the red options the color difference gives no meaning to the user. It becomes a problem when the use of green and red, two colors with obvious , are used in so many different ways. This might add to an impression that the site is not logically built up and comes across as a bit messy. This might be enforced by the many different pictures in different styles displayed on the mainpage.

In focus on the top are the newest published articles, which has become a convention for the frontpage of websites where news are published. But in addition to this, many of the sites different functions are also displayed on the frontpage, which clutters the minimalistic and clean styled site. The firstpage actually has two similar «last photos» galleries in the frontpage. It also displayes several lists with links to different parts of the site. Although some of them are grouped logically, the amount of information displayed at the same time, reduces the functionality of the site. And hinders effective userbrowsing.

The foto.no site might be considered a great tool for photographers who want to develop their own skills by receiving constructive feedback or reading relevant information about photography. But as a website trying to promote an artform and something that should be pleasing to look at, one would expect it to be presented with a somewhat more esthetic design. The logo with its clean and slim look, gives an impression of a site that follows the same ideas. The design of the site is actually quite clean, but the messy frontpage and sometimes strange usage of colors ruins the expectations the logo gives the user. The site’s amount of advertisements have been totally ignored in this analysis, since most online sites need it to survive. Even though the foto.no site has somewhat terrible usability, the amount of wonderful pictures on the site makes it all worthwhile.

References:

Cranny-Francis, Anne. Multimedia. London: Sage, 2008.

Pearlson, Keri E. and Carol S. Saunders. Managing & Using Information Systems, A Strategic Approach. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006.

Wordcount: 1263.

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