Friday, January 16, 2009

A Website Close to Perfection

There is much debate going on about what qualifies as a good website in the art and publishing world. The dialog includes points on how to create a strong and unique voice without distracting attention from the work on display, what features make the user experience gratifying, and what facilitates the work of selective professionals, ready to be bought by the presentation.

Twitterrific icon creator David Lanham's website seems to unite all of these positive features. An inviting design that is easy on the eye provides extremely convenient navigation. There is no clicking through wittily (and obscurely) named sections in futile search of the gallery: the portfolio is always but one click away, wherever you find yourself on the site. And the chances of getting lost are slim: rich but not overbearing content guarantees that your dynamism won't be suffocated by too may bits and pieces. Coherence and ingenuity are the key words when it comes to describing Lanham's website.

The Home page gives an instantaneous overview of what's new and what's important. The About section offers a succinctly worded bio and contact information with just the bare necessities, letting the work speak for itself. For those eager to find out more about the artist, there is no shortage of interviews linked to. Sketches constitute a separate section, ranging from life drawings to fantastic creatures with a sense of cuteness.

And now the gallery. The touchy point of all sites. In one word, it is brilliant. The quirky* cartoonish style is nicely complemented by the simple layout, while the photo album framing adds a personal touch to the display. This creates an interesting contrast with the mostly digital, futuristic / sci-fi themed pictures. The designs and their themes are not uninfluenced by animators such as Hayao Miyazaki and illustrators like James Jean. Lanham takes advantage of the features of vector art: tiny icons (details of images) serve as thumbnails on the navigation panel discreetly and decoratively placed on the left. Another advantage of this is that you can size up the gallery with one glance.

Each picture has its own separate page and individual URL. (Halleluiah!) Far from being paranoid, Lanham released wallpapers of varying resolutions for many of his pictures, varying from widescreen to iPhone displays. Download, whether as PDF or JPG, for Mac or PC, has never been easier. Ordering prints, regular or mini, takes a single click from the image's own page with a built-in PayPal feature, but visiting the shop is also worth a click. Fabulous animations and rotatable vinyl figures spice the gallery.

Lanham works at Iconfactory and has also released icon packs with a touch of "crazy" and attractive themes for computer and iPhone. It is no wonder that the popular Twitter API Twitterriffic has his bird as its emblem as well.

In one word, much consideration went into this website, and it is obvious that the maker has had to deal with less pleasantly structured ones. The only point to criticize is the small gray font used for the News and the menu throughout the site. However, the build-up is so intuitive that reading is almost unnecessary for navigation.

*By "quirky" I mean images worthy of descriptions such as "The strange love-child of a jet pilot, a bee and an unsuspecting vacuum cleaner."

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