Site URL: sensorial.org/captious
Subtle earthy tones are always a welcome colour scheme on a website because of the way they make a visitor (me in particular) feel mellow. This website is no exception. The green-coloured sidebar is too pronounced compared to the rest of the layout, but in general a relaxing overall look is achieved that ultimately flows well. The layout loads quickly which means I can get straight to the ‘content’ of the site.
I have my doubts somewhat about the placement of the sidebar. When I first visited Captious Pedants (in IE6) I read about your trouble with an Internet Explorer bug and assumed before reading further that it was the position of your sidebar giving you trouble. It wasn’t until I opened the site in Mozilla Firefox that I realised that this positioning was intentional. I think the sidebar should start further down – where the colour is obviously different to the content area. Not only would this bring more focus to the top-right corner (which is where the “eye candy” is) but it would make the top few links easier to read.
On the topic of links: yours are insufficiently different from the other text. On a CRT monitor at college the links weren’t so bad, but on a TFT (flat panel) and my laptop screen there was little contrast between the links and the rest of the text. Links placed mid-paragraph (such as “review” and “Archive Page”: entry 22nd May) are almost invisible – they blend in. I would suggest using something other than a slightly lighter colour to make link text stand out.
Still on presentation – because you’re not using paragraph tags properly to separate paragraphs (which would be more semantically correct), the page has a run-on effect which will put of a lot of readers. For someone validating at XHTML Strict level, you should have started using
<p> </p> appropriately by now! A paragraph is one block of text, not several blocks separated by line breaks. Line breaks should really be used for one new line only. Even I am intimidated by the seemingly endless page, and I don’t usually mind long pages. At the same time, the headers don’t see to be suitable breaking the text into sections as they should – I feel there should be a larger space between the end of one paragraph and the header than there is currently; you should do this by customising the margin in the CSS (not the padding, which is what you are doing.)
The serif headers don’t tie in with the design at all. If you’re going to use a sans-serif font for normal text/etc, it’s usually good practise to continue the theme through-out the headers, although there are exceptions to this rule. Maybe it’s because they’re uppercase – this looks out of place and ‘rough’ (like text without anti-aliasing), which the design certainly isn’t.
On to content – generally I see well-structured English with good usage of the right punctuation and good spelling (although there were a few typing errors littered amongst the reviews). I did see a few things which really made me cringe though: on “About Site” What we really do is insulting you. would be more appropriate as What we really do is insult you. and We will most likely to offend you would read better as We will most likely offend you. On the main page your accuracy and perfectionist tendencies are let down a little by Rilla (entry: 20th May). She seems incapable of using punctuation/etc only once – three exclamation marks in the title, continuous sets of three full stops (…) where sentences would clearly be better ended with one, two equals signs which have no place in that particular sentence and a lack of a question mark after Why do you people have to use strict… etc, etc. If she cannot present her English better than that, she shouldn’t be allowed to post to the front page – it corrupts my first impression.
There’s not much I can say about most of the other pages – Current Staffs (should be Staff) contains adequate information on reviewing styles and website preferences and Credits is exactly that. Although, I was a bit confused why anyone would want to credit things such as what FTP program used/etc – no one really cares about it and I’m sure the people who made the program won’t thank you.
In some ways I envy your style of reviewing – you are choosy about who you review which means that time-wasters are weeded out. If I were a little more selective about who I review I might not end up with 20 (exaggeration) people in my queue at any one time. My one criticism of your reviewing style is that it seems to take you a while to decide if you’re going to review a site – a more immediate decision would make a person feel like there’s less time to wait overall.
Your reviews are in-depth and accurate. I was impressed by the use of demonstrative graphics to get a point across where a simple description will not do, however – remember to use appropriate alternative text for those who turn images off if you do not back up images with text – one word alt attributes won’t help anyone. I did happen to notice that outside articles are usually quoted to aid a reviewee in parts of their design; while I do this myself it can often put a person off because it seems like additional reading on top of an already large review. A brief description or explanation of the article or tutorial that you have linked might prompt a little more curiousness in the reader which should hopefully encourage experimentation.
Coding-wise you boast Valid XHTML Strict. While your pages are all valid in terms of tags/etc, some of your coding isn’t the most appropriate for the job. I’m talking about the use of
<br /> that I mentioned above. Because you’ve used a
<h2> for the header “Fine Print” (it certainly isn’t fine, and would look better either smaller or with less emphasis) the
<h3>s used in the “middle” of the page become semantically incorrect. A page should flow h1, h2, h3 etc. I personally would change
</h4> or get rid of the header altogether and knock down the Copyright information a size.
Another use of innapproriate and superfluous coding can be seen in most reviews where reviewees coding is quoted – you’re using
<div class="quote"><em class="code"> to display coding differently which is really not required. Whatever happened to using purpose “built” code such as
<code>? You are not emphasising the code, you’re quoting it.
Anyway, back to the ‘real’ code – Comment #56 (/news_comments.php?id=14), Comment #57 (/news_comments.php?id=12), Comment #12 and Comment #15 (/news_comments.php?id=6) have unescaped “special” characters in them. If you code your own comment system – it wouldn’t be hard to implement the PHP function
htmlspecialchars. For example,
$comments = htmlspecialchars($comments); (providing that the comment is assigned to a variable after posting). You can read more about the function at the official php site. Alternatively you could just shoot the person who seems to be unable to express an opinion without littering their comment with meaningless twoddle otherwise known as emoticons.
Rilla has used (what I assume is) an em dash (/index.php?start=10 – entry 19th April) without the proper name/number twice, this should be replaced with
—. You seem to be discussing this in the comments of that entry but haven’t done anything about it?
Your review site is of high quality in terms of your ability to review at a suitable level. Even though a few general mistakes here and there are clearly visible to an outsider, you seem to have grasped the basic concept of tidy presentation and clear English which is a refreshing change from so-called expert review sites (see: bedazzled.twiskers.net) who don’t actually know what they’re doing. Captious Pedants is young (and maybe a little nieve about the dedication required to reviewing) but I look forward to seeing how this site progresses and I hope you stick around long enough to make an impact on the general quality of the websites you review.