This question is important if you are doing a web design course or design related course at university and you need to write an academic assignment on that. Critiquing a website is as important as learning to design it.
It helps you in developing your objective assessment skills as well as determining the flaws so that you can rectify them. This is a necessary skill to become a better website designer. You need to remember that the ultimate purpose of a great website is to serve the requirements of the users and deliver them a great user experience.
There are two focal areas of criticism. One is about the utility of the website- how well is the website responding to the needs of users. This includes questions related to ease of use, features etc. The second aspect about the website is about the design and its aesthetics. Therefore as a critic, you need to be objective. You would need to point out the good features of the website, which enhances or adds to the above functions. You would need to identify weaknesses, which can be improved on. That is the primary objective of a critique- an objective analysis from all possible angles. It should avoid bias and judgement on the basis of personal likes or dislikes.
The ultimate test of the ability and usefulness of a website is by checking out its functionality. Is it easy to navigate? If the designers are giving more importance to structure and form than function, chances are that the navigation would be difficult to follow and become a pain instead of pleasure. Are the links visible? Are there call-to action options? Is the user interface attractive to users and able to capture their attention? Is the site navigatable? Are the links accessible and visible? Is the content serving the purpose of the website? Does the website address the needs of the users for whom it is tailored? Can it be read smoothly? Is it accessible? Are the multimedia easily uploaded? Difficulty in loading of multimedia can also hamper the user experience. If it does not answer this question satisfactorily, you may need up with visitors who do not stay on the website landing page long enough for any conversions to occur—which defeats the purpose of your website.
The aesthetics of your design is the other issue over which your criticism is tailored. When evaluating a website on its design elements, check out whether all the primary features of the website are laid out in a way, which enables them to capture the viewer’s attention. The colours and the font must be in line with the branding concept and should add to the visual experience. They should be clear-cut and appealing. The website should not be stuffed with content as that can be off-putting to the audience. The number of navigation elements should be right. Too many – it can lead to confusion. The organisation of the website layout- kind of navigation, menus and sub-menus, use of site maps and other features must be analysed and described in terms of effectiveness. If there are too many sub-pages and too less navigation elements, it is an evidence of improper planning. Check out the effectiveness using other measures such as contrast, alignment, repetition and proximity.
Check that the website design and content is suitable for the audience you want to target. The concept and content should complement each other.Once you have carried out the objective analysis of the website, the next step would be to put it in writing. Any academic assignment would require proper structure, organisation and formatting. So your website critique would need an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The introduction is where you will mention the website you are critiquing and the purpose of the critique. The body is where you will actually present the whole of the critical analysis in an orderly and methodical fashion. The conclusion is where you would mention the salient findings of the analysis as well as future plans.
Remember that, academic rules have to be followed for all assignments, regardless of their nature.
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