Archive | July 2012

Review – The UberReview

Web page: http://www.uberreview.com/

Accessed on Tuesday, 31st July 2012 @ about 4:30pm GMT+1

The UberReview screenshot

General overview
The UberReview contains some gadget reviews, but also many posts showing the widest (or wildest?) range of inventions and gadgets.

Finding the web page
The address itself is quite easy, if you already know the site. The www part is optional.

If you know the site but don’t want to guess the address, it is very easy to find it on other search engines. If you use the keyword “uberreview” to perform a search you will discover it among the very top results (usually at the top). Be careful, though, as you need to make sure you put two ‘r’ characters; otherwise, you may still find the site, but through some internal pages.

Loading speed
The page loads pretty fast, considering how much is in it, but seems to have a fixed size, not allowing the best usage of screen estate.

The posts’ background may take longer, making it difficult to read the first posts while the page is still loading.

Use of technology
Technology is used mainly to connect to social networks.

There are some usual flash adverts.

No special abuse of useless and often harming technology has been found there.

Abbreviations
Hardly any abbreviations can be found and they can be considered common language.

Logic structure
Quite good and effective.

Fitness for purpose
No problems there, either; no “About” section present from the home page.

Search function
Very simple, but effective.

Site map
None available. This can make it difficult to find certain sections of the website, particularly taking into account some issues explained in the next section.

Graphic look
The page looks nice. Some writing is dark on a darker background, reducing contrast to the point it may become unreadable by certain people and/or devices.

No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements.

Drop down lists
There were some and they may be easily missed. Lacking a site map and a good contrast colour scheme means you may have to rely on the search function to find something you know should be there somewhere, or make sure you look carefully at the page and its active elements.

Accessibility statement
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one, particularly as this site may pose a bit more issues than the ones reviewed so far (without being too bad, though).

Validation
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.

Using W3C validator, the page showed as HTML 5. The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.

This is not uncommon, particularly in complex pages like this one. No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt and it would be worth the effort.

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Review – Blinkbox

Web page: http://www.blinkbox.com/

Accessed on Tuesday, 31st July 2012 @ about 8:15am GMT+1

Blinkbox homepage screenshot

General overview
Blinkbox is a website where you can find movies to watch; some of them are free, others are not.

This review will not comment on the movies themselves, but only on some aspects of the web site.

Finding the web page
The address itself is quite easy, if you already know the site. The www part is optional and if you type .co.uk instead of .com you will be automatically redirected to the main address.

If you know the site but don’t want to guess the address, it is very easy to find it on other search engines. If you use the keywords “blinkbox” to perform a search you will discover it among the very top results (usually at the top).

Loading speed
The page loads pretty fast, considering how much is in it, but seems to have a fixed size, not allowing the best usage of screen estate. In fact if you click any extra space at the sides, you get a new window or tab with a web site related to the advert used as background.

Use of technology
Technology is widely used throughout the site, but appropriately so.

There is a flash advert at the top and one near the bottom (if you don’t use flash, you don’t miss much there), there is a powerful search tool, there is a place to save movies to watch later (similar to YouTube in the way it functions); however it works even without logging in.

No special abuse of useless and often harming technology has been found there.

Abbreviations
Any abbreviations can be considered common language and should pose no issues to native and non native English speakers.

Logic structure
Quite good and effective.

Fitness for purpose
No problems there, either; however, some content has poorer resolution and sound that you would expect.

Search function
Very powerful and simple at the same time.

Site map
Quite basic but acceptable, given the type of site.

Graphic look
The page looks nice and suitable for night use, watching movies. It is also very effective and fairly easy to navigate.

No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements.

Drop down lists
There were none.

Accessibility statement
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one.

Validation
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.

Using W3C validator, the page showed as HTML 5. The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.

This is not uncommon, particularly in complex pages like this one. No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt, particularly knowing any issues can be fixed without too much work.

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Review – Explaining the Future

Web page: http://explainingthefuture.com/

Accessed on Monday, 30th July 2012 @ about 4:30pm GMT+1

Explaining The Future home page snapshot

General overview
This is a very interesting web site explaining where today’s technology and science could get us if we already had tomorrow’s wisdom.

The site is full of videos and the language used is both simple to understand and scientifically correct, coming from Christopher Barnatt, a guy with strong scientific background and possessing good communication skills.

Finding the web page
The address itself is quite easy, if you already know the site. You can add www if you so desire and you will be automatically redirected to the main address.

If you know the site but don’t want to guess the address, it is very easy to find it on other search engines. If you use the keywords “explaining the future” to perform a search you will discover it among the very top results (usually at the top).

However, if you slightly distort the name (e.g. Explain instead of Explaining), it virtually disappears from the search result (is this due to lack of funding for Search Engine Optimisation?)

Loading speed
The page loads pretty fast, but seems to have a fixed size, not allowing the best usage of screen estate.

Use of technology
Technology use is appropriately very limited (yes it’s a website about future technology, science and society, but, due to the content, frills are redundant). It contains many videos, but that’s nearly it. A few extra tools could have been useful (e.g. a search tool).

This site is an excellent example of how correct use of simple technology may be better than random use of special effects. If you click the top banner (the heading) from any internal page, you get back to the homepage (like many sites), but if you’re already in the home, you get the “About” page. Very good.

Abbreviations
There are very few abbreviations throughout the site and they are quite well explained as you encounter them (at least following the logical path through the topics).

Logic structure
Couldn’t be better. Logical, simple and effective.

Fitness for purpose
No problems there. You can argue about the content itself, as it may be somehow controversial or cover not too simple topics, but only to the minimum extent possible, taking the subject into account. In my personal opinion, it’s difficult to disagree with any of Christopher’s statements.

Search function
There is no search feature, despite the site is not tiny. You are not likely to get lost, though, because the site is not too big and is very well organised. Lack of funding?

Site map
None present. It would normally be acceptable, as the site itself is almost organised as its own site map; however, there are circumstances where a web site, even a well organised one, is not as accessible as a site map. Adding one would not hurt.

Graphic look
The page looks nice. A bit old style and simple, but this is why is also very effective and easy to navigate. The white background, although is very common and pleasant, may cause excessive background brightness for some users.

No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements. There are some round elements that may resemble buttons, but they are not.

You would be forgiven for thinking not much priority has been allocated to professional graphic design, which may be OK for this type of website.

Drop down lists
There were none.

Accessibility statement
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one.

Validation
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.

Using W3C validator, the page showed as HTML 4.01 Transitional. The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.

This is not uncommon, even in simpler pages like this one. No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt, particularly knowing any issues can be fixed without too much work.

Annoying Orange

After lemons, now it’s time for something lighter:

Orange…

Enjoy this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN5PoW7_kdA

Mat Watson (CarBuyer) Review

This is the review of a car reviewer, Mat Watson from CarBuyer.

No, we’re not going to review a human being, just make some comments on one of his reviews.

Mat Watson has reviewed the Mercedes M-Class at the end of March 2012. You can find his video here: http://youtu.be/Nosd5t4Xj10 (link opens in new window).

Looking at many car reviews from different sources, we often came across some common pitfalls:

  • All you learn from the review might have been learned from the official adverts and marketing material. This usually happen when the reviewer does not actually drive the car or has not enough time to assess its qualities. Mat seems to have looked at the car quite in-depth and mentioned a few things you would not necessarily learn from Mercedes. I doubt they tell you the steering is very slow and there is quite a bit of travel before brakes engage.
  • The review is biased by need to keep manufacturers happy, because they send the cars to test and they buy advertising space on the magazine (either online or on any paper version). Without having tried the car ourselves, it’s impossible for us to know whether the review is biased. However, there are some non-obvious negative remarks that usually are avoided in biased reviews.
  • The (video) review is too short to cover all the main factors. In this case, the review lasts between 5 and 10 minutes (6:05). Many short reviews are 2 minutes or shorter, but the most comprehensive are longer than 10 minutes. Time, however, is used wisely and not wasted in pointless scenes. In fact, Mat uses nice tricks to save time (see clapping hands). This means there are some aspects that haven’t been covered thoroughly and we must hope any serious issues would have been pointed out (which is probably the case). For example Mat shows the boot size, but also the lack of lip and the flat surface when seats are folded. Many reviews overlook some of these aspects. He doesn’t mention volumes, though, as he just states the boot is massive. Same thoroughness when he shows space in the back seats. With such a short review, you have to do a bit of guesswork. For example, the car is driven on some very mild off-road track and Mat says the car can cope with tougher scenarios. Not showing it, I guess it’s not a pro off-road car and you have to be careful if you attempt nasty tracks.
  • Some key information is missing. Mat has covered most aspects; however, you may argue some extra details would not hurt. For example, Mat mentions the 4-cylinder diesel version returning 45 MPG, but he states this is an official figure. What about a test? Mat is actually driving the 6-cylinder diesel, but he did not state MPG for that version (though it may be a bit less critical, due to the typical customer of such an engine). When Mat mentions the optional suspension system, he states it is needed as the standard one is a bit firm, but he does not state how good is the car with the air suspensions. Again, we can guess it would be fairly good.
  • The review is boring. This is personal taste, but we find Mat’s reviews, including this, among the very best in the UK. Entertaining, informative, professional and fun. They don’t sound like parodies, but are engaging and anything but boring.

As far as the review style is concerned, we enter subjective judgement, again. Mat is our favourite reviewer on YouTube and no-one comes close.

YouTube videos – Just For Laughs Gags – Tricked Into Helping Robbery Prank

This is not a standard review. It’s just a way to bring something found on YouTube to your attention.

Every now and then we will post video links (another one following very soon) with a short comment.

Tricked Into Helping Robbery Prank

This is one of the very many videos on the Just For Laughs Gags channel.

Most of their videos contain next to no spoken words, so that they are viewable by people regardless of their spoken languages; in fact I often watch them with the sound off.

Arguably, all people in the videos are actors, including victims; however, in some videos this is clearer than in others.

Tricked Into Helping Robbery Prank is one of those video you could believe is genuine.

Meta Search Engines

Meta search engines are search engines that show result coming from different search engines. For example, if you insert the keyword “car” in a meta search engine and you search, results from Google, Yahoo and/or other search engines are displayed as if you manually searched on all engines supported. Some meta search engines can even allow you to personalise them by adding new engines for result searches.
When many engines have similar results, the quality of a meta search engine may be more about the way results are merged together and rated for relevancy.
Personalisation and powerful functions may also be score winners.
If the meta search engine is not good at sorting the results, has the wrong set of features and layout or is not easy to personalise, the final result may be worse that the best of the engines it uses to gather results.

Review – DuckDuckGo

Web page: http://duckduckgo.com/

Accessed on Sunday, 29th July 2012 @ about 7:50am GMT+1

DuckDuckGo screenshot

General overview
This is the homepage of a very smart search engine. You put your keywords in and search; the web site will perform equivalent searches on different search engines, like Google or Yahoo and combine results together.

The page is very simple and improves on the original Google concept of less is more. Results, instead, can be very sophisticated, including definition, recognition of official sites, content from Wikipedia and so on.

Such search simplicity helps speed and clearness.

Finding the web page
The address itself is as easy as they come. You can add www if you so desire or change .com for other suffixes like .co.uk and you will be automatically redirected to the main address.

If you know the site but don’t want to guess the address, it is very easy to find it on other search engines. If you use the keywords “search engine” to perform a search on Google, imagining you’ve never heard of DuckDuckGo, you will discover it among the very top results (after Dogpile, a similar engine result aggregator).

Loading speed
As expected, the page loads pretty fast.

Use of technology
Technology use is appropriately very limited. Mainly, there is only a drop down menu for specialised searches; selecting an option enters a special keyword in the search field to instruct on the specific type of search (for example, “!gi” is added to search on Google Images). This also allows learning the keyword.

Abbreviations
There were no abbreviations, which was expected, being the page so simple.

Logic structure
Couldn’t be better.

Fitness for purpose
The web page does what is says on the tin and is mostly fit for its purpose.
Some issues with the layout make it less accessible than such a simple page could be (more on that later).

Search function
The search feature is the whole point of the web site and is powerful and easy to use.

Site map
None present and none required.

Graphic look
The page looks nice, playful and modern. The white background, although is very common and pleasant, may cause excessive background brightness for some users. The site look is built around a three-colour scheme (green and red on white background) plus grey/black for text.

No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements.

The search button does not have any text equivalent representation, making it difficult to use for those who cannot see it properly. Same issue for the search options and the links at the bottom of the page can be overlooked.

Drop down lists
There was a drop down list that may cause problems to screen reader software.

Accessibility statement
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one.

Validation
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.

Using W3C validator, the page showed as HTML 4.0 Strict . The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.

This is not uncommon, even in simpler pages like this one. No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt, particularly knowing how easy it would be to fix any issues.

Review – This is Money

Web page: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/index.html

Accessed on Sunday, 29th July 2012 @ about 3:30am GMT+1

This is Money screenshot on 29-07-12

General overview
This is the homepage of one of the most important British financial news sites.

The page is quite rich of content that appears to be database-driven; this means there is a database of news and they are displayed on the pages using templates automatically.

It has mainly a three-column layout and it is quite easy to browse. There are some widgets to show financial and trading data in real-time.

Finding the web page
Although the page address is a tiny bit longer than the minimum strictly necessary, on the occasion, this is not a problem, because you can access the same page by just typing the web site address without the final money/index.html part.
As such, the general site address is easy to guess. If you know the site, but not the address, you can also use search engines to find it easily.
A different story is if you do not remember the name or do not know the site at all. Searching for “money” on different website including DuckDuckGo, which automatically searches on different engines and merge the results, the site was not on the first page of results, which means many people may not find it or learn about its existence.

Loading speed
Considering how rich of content the page is, it loads quite quickly and there are no major problem with most of the elements; however, the real-time index and currency widget takes time to load data. This is not a big issue as its size is clear from the beginning and the rest of the page can load and show without delay.

Use of technology
Technology used on the web page includes dynamic content, for the whole page and for specific elements, the presence of some dynamic graphs, buttons to browse elements without leaving the page and some Flash elements, mostly adverts.
No major issues or abuses found here. Particularly commendable the fact the page does not reload itself automatically and does neither load nor play audio or video automatically.
For those who have no access to Flash or disallow Flash content, it’s good news, too. You just miss some adverts, although you may not see pictures that link to specific tools like the investing planner. If you blocked Flash content, you can still access the planner if you click where the Flash content should be displayed. Putting and alternative text link nearby would solve the issue.

Abbreviations
There were plenty of abbreviations, which is quite common on specialised news web pages. Here they may be more tolerated due to need to optimise space on the page and to the fact the page audience is usually expert of the field. This does not mean, however, that many people would not benefit from choice of easier language.

Considering the fact some news are presented more than once on the page and some are relatively old (although usually still relevant), the excuse of saving space is slightly less acceptable.

Logic structure
The page itself as well as the whole site appear to be logically structured.
This is good practice and is not as common as one may think; particularly for pages created automatically by some software.

Fitness for purpose
The web page does what is says on the tin and is mostly fit for its purpose.

Search function
The search feature is both accessible and correctly functional. You can search for articles or shares and, on the result page, there are filters to refine the search.

Site map
At the bottom of the page there is a link to the site map, which is good practice.
The map itself is very clear and easy to use; however, it is possible to believe you can reveal sub entries clicking the triangular icons on the left of each entry, but this is not the case. If it was, it would have been easier to access more specific content in fewer clicks.

Graphic look
The page looks nice, modern and elegant enough and fits the topic. The white background, although is very common and pleasant, may cause excessive background brightness for some users. The site look is built around a three-colour scheme (dark purple and blue on white background) plus grey/black for text.

No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements.

Drop down lists
There were a few drop down lists in a form near the bottom of the page. This may cause problems to screen reader software; however, on this page, the form needed a click on the Submit button to operate. This may sound as bad news as the form is not posted automatically, but in facts it’s good news. Firstly, it is possible to review choices before submitting them; also, it is possible to set all three fields without reloading the page on each change; last but not least, many screen reading programs can cope well with drop down list, provided they require explicit submission.

Accessibility statement
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one.

Validation
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.

Using W3C validator, the page showed as XHTML 1.0 Transitional (which is not as good as the Strict coding and is not the latest version). The choice of XHTML is appropriate and the page should show reasonably well on a variety of browsers and devices. The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.

This is not uncommon, particularly for dynamic pages (those created by databases on the fly). No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt.

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