Usability Analysis: Halfbakery.com

Halfbakery.com is a communal database on the web for sharing and commenting on so-called half-baked ideas. The site’s appearance hasn’t changed in the almost two decades it’s been up, which seems audacious considering how quickly web design trends change. Bakers, which is what contributors to the site are called, would likely be against any changes to the familiar aesthetic of the site. Somehow, this strangely compels my desire to analyze the site even more, maybe because it feels like fair game!

I evaluated the site for how well the site’s page layout, organization, and main menu contribute to it’s user experience for new and returning users.

Criterion

Page layout and organization

  1. How does this site perform against the school cafeteria segmentation rule?
  2. Are colors, font-sizes, headings, etc. used to effectively group different sections of the page?
  3. How well does the front page function as an entry to the site?

Menu

  1. Is it easy for the user to carry out various expected tasks using the available menus?
  2. How do the menus approach the job of representing all the different locations in the site?

Findings

Page layout and organization

Based on the school cafeteria tray segmentation rule, which I just made up, this site doesn’t perform so well. Determining how content is broken up on the page relies on the user’s ability to make out the eddies of flowing text, all sized the same.
This site does have plenty of whitespace which for being all text save one croissant in the top left corner of all pages (and limited illustration elsewhere), is to its favor. While whitespace is used to visually break up logical sections, the kind of “nesting” which Krug notes as saving information consumers from strain since the early print days is not as effectively used on this site as it could be. As you can see in the screencapture below, there are “gutters” to mark sections but it requires some effort to make the sections out. They don’t pop out at you.
screenshot of the bagel music overview page on halfbakery.com

Screenshot taken April 8th, 2018

The ideas on this site are organized by category. The front page assumes a utilitarian pose in presenting the user with the top-level categories along with the two most recent idea entries posted to that category. Ideas posted that week are in bold but a key isn’t provided to explain what the symbols next to the ideas mean. But, this site has the luxury of serving mostly return visitors, so this seems okay.
Louise Nevelson or Michal Johansson can get away with using monotonous colors to treat space, but for us mere mortals it’s probably better to use contrasting colors in order to create divisions. The divisions can be flexible; they don’t have to restrict us. They just need to keep our food separated.

Menu

Menu options are grouped into three comma separated lists: idea, meta, and account. This arrangement is well thought out and considering how few menu links there are, I think presenting them this way is acceptable. Considering the retro status of this site and it’s design, underlining the links to mark them as hyperlinks also gets clearance. Again, this site caters mostly to return users. I think it has earned the right to put new visitors through a little bit of pain. That said, the proof of this site having been around as long as it has is in the incredibly rich meta pages, which lay answer to many questions a new visitor might have about the site.

 

 

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