good web design by... looking at it
Whilst I usually favour
the more cynical and amusing "Learn good design by looking at bad design"
approach of Web Pages That Suck (see web design
book reviews), there is undoubtedly some degree of pleasure and learning to
be gained from looking at websites which make you say "oh, I wish mine looked
therefore present the first New Media Studies "Wish I'd done that" award
to Spark, the online monthly
magazine of culture, media, new media and more.
Part of its secret is beautiful
photography used sensibly -- such as on the splash screens (left: top and fourth
from top) and in the corners of pages (see left). Having this great original photography
gives Spark a considerable advantage.
There's also the lovely
graphic design, such as the lovely logo thing with the plug and spark, in the
top left-hand corners of the main screens.
And there's also the great
layout, which makes super-intelligent use of HTML tables to create a gorgeous
visual effect. It may be a bit right-angular, but you can't say it's not brilliant.
At first, the Spark site
is upsetting because you think "My site will never look like that -- they
obviously have an army of brilliant graphic designers". But comfort yourself
with the thought that the Spark team are not paid for their work, and have not
achieved their nice design by spending loads of money. The success of the site's
design rests on judicious use of a handful of effective elements, such as the
plug/spark logo and general layout repeated in different, themed colours. Which
works extremely well.
Last but not at all least,
the site has lots of great, original content -- so it's not merely a pretty
thing to look at once, but a site worth visiting often for something to read.