For this peer review, I looked at Laily’s blog What’s Your Critique. She describes her website as a way to document her process on expanding her media consumption and also a place to review the shows and movies she watches. According to her About This Blog page, the purpose for What’s Your Critique came about because of her tendency to rewatch the same shows and movies over and over again, which I completely relate to, so I was excited to dive deeper into her site.
Theme, Layout, and Customizations
For her blog, Laily used the WordPress theme called “Minimalist Blog”, and I think the name reflects well on what the theme has to offer users. From my first impression of the homepage, I appreciate the simplicity and cleanliness that the theme is focuses on. The grey-ish blue colour she chose for the site header creates a really pretty contrast with the amount of white space displayed. Contrast is one of five design principles that Mauvé Page outlines, and is executed well by Laily as it facilitates readability and visual interest from site visitors. However, it might be beneficial to narrow down the number of focal points to one or two to create emphasis, for example, on a featured post or graphic. Nevertheless, I understand that customizations of this kind may not be possible due to theme restrictions.
Other design principles that are applied nicely to Laily’s homepage are balance and proportion. As I previously mentioned, there is a lot of white space used to achieve the minimalist essence of the WordPress theme, which I think helps make the layout understated and easy to navigate. Proportions of the thinly-outlined boxes further helps create a visual balance, as the page is generally split into an even 2:1 ratio that encourages readers to explore the posts first, and consider additional blog features such as tags and categories secondarily.
Still going off the homepage thus far, What’s Your Critique clearly adopts a standard blog layout, with the noticeable blog title and menu near the top, and the posts featured as you scroll down. Personally, I am a fan of this layout because, to put it simply, it works. However, according to Travis Gertz, blog templates of this kind may be contributing to a general standardization of typical blogs today. It seems that these machine-made templates, along with a “copycat culture”, has eliminated a lot of design originality in the modern blog. However, one could rephrase this by saying that these templates and copycat culture has helped simplify and open up the general practice of blogging to regular people who may not have the qualifications to be coding and designing a site from scratch. Speaking from experience, I would certainly not be blogging if not for my easy-to-use WordPress theme, regardless of its originality.
Site Structure and Usability
As I have briefly touched on, the site is structured in accordance to a typical blog– blog title, menu, timestamped posts sorted into categories, etc. The standardness of this structure makes it intuitive for site visitors to browse and use the site as intended. This intuitive design reflects the concept of affordances. Donald Norman explains that affordances are employed in design by “providing strong clues to the operations of things”. When properly implementing clues such as clickable buttons and hyperlinks– as Laily has throughout her homepage and in posts such as her Peer Review #1– the site visitor should be able to intuitively understand how to use the site. Therefore, usability does not appear to bring up any major issues. However, I would recommend implementing more elements concerning accessibility, to further expand easy usability to all people.
While the type used throughout What’s Your Critique has no glaring or detrimental issues, there are a few areas that could be improved for overall better user experience and aesthetic appearance. Using Page’s lecture resources to base my feedback on, the first thing I noticed was that there seemed to be many inconsistencies in upper and lowercase letters between post titles and tags. To achieve a more polished site, eliminating these inconsistencies would be a quick and effective fix. Additionally, I would change the blog title at the top of the site to match the URL, otherwise it may be confusing what the real site name is: Laily Reviews or What’s Your Critique?
Looking at the paragraph text across the blog, I think the colour contrast ensures good readability. However, the long line length may be counteracting against the decent contrast. If the blog theme allows for it, I would recommend additionally tinkering with font size, line height, and different type faces with slightly more dynamic contrast to strengthen readability and visual appeal. A less textbook-y font could give the blog more personality, as well.
An interesting feature of multiple posts is the insertion of images within text boxes, which creates an interesting rhythm and overall visual engagement. I think this effectively achieves a fun variety and freshness to the otherwise clean-cut design of the blog. However, it may be beneficial to make the images more strategically placed to account for a clean alignment of text that optimizes readability.
Laily’s blog is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, but I would be really interested to see more personality shine through its design elements. This could be achieved by switching up the typeface, as I have already mentioned, or featuring more images and graphic visuals. Integrating social media is also a great way to generate personality in a blog. Furthermore, aiming for more structural variety could help to add layers of uniqueness, and a fresh quality that any blog could benefit from.
What’s Your Critique is on a good path of growth at this point, and I am excited to see what’s next in store for Laily!
Gertz, T. (2015, July 10). How to survive the Digital apocalypse. Louder Than Ten. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://louderthanten.com/coax/design-machines
Kaptelinin, V. Affordances. The Interaction Design Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/affordances
Page, M. (2023). Web Design and Type on Screens [PowerPoint Slides]. Department of Publishing, Simon Fraser University.
Website accessibility archives. APLN. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://apln.ca/category/website-accessibility/