Web Critique #10: Behance.net

by Inspiredology

on October 15, 2012

in Web Critique

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Web Critiques is a take on examining a current piece of web art and breaking it down. We show off the good, the bad, dos and dont’s, why and how it works (or doesn’t), and the list goes on.

With every Web Critique we choose to focus on things that are relevant to the website and how they’re trying sell their brand while pushing a website that is product-centric, functional, and looks great.

There are a lot of outlets for designers and artists to go to find their fix, both from inspiration and in “gallery form”; From sites like dribbble, thefwa.com, and this time, Behance.net. So with Behance.net’s relative new redesign, how does it stack up in design and function? Does it make it easier to do what it does best– show off artists’ work and discover new projects? Lets find out.

Behance.net

When you show off any work, its important that it is easy to get to, easy to understand the project, and of course most importantly, see the work in its best glory. Behance’s (for article sake I will let go of .net) newest iteration in the artist-portfolio-community-platform (whew that was a lot) proves an even greater success than its predecessors. Behance delves into what makes simple navigation an incredibly rewarding experience of talented artists and discovery.

Behance gets away with having some strong branding, even if it doesn’t seem as prevalent as Smashing Magazine or Mashable. This is because they have control over their color scheme, becoming synonymous with Behance. The subtle gray gradients, black navigation bar, and blue icons, links, and subheadings round out the Behance color scheme—simple but not to a fault. This less extravagant approach ensures you aren’t taking anything away from the art you are trying to showcase, and when you have a lot of users who simply want to “discover art”, this is an appropriate direction. Their footer is clever and just about as perfect as you can get, but we’ll talk about that later.

Style & Function

It is no secret how popular Behance is to our design community. The quality of work that is brought to the community eclipses the paltry 400×300 graphics you find on dribbble. Behance brings intelligent designers to the forefront and disavows the one-hit-popular-wonders. Part of their huge success is their simple design and how they allow you to showcase your artwork.

Don’t be deceived, while the navigation may look simple, it is pretty complex. When you arrive on the homepage, they put two key things infront of the user: sign-up or discover. It quickly forces an interaction or experience, engaging the user. Beyond those specific call to actions, you’ll be shown plenty of artwork, likely increasing engagement as a user navigates each project tile—it doesn’t hurt that these are typically some fantastic pieces.

Navigating through Behance isn’t complicated. If you’re on the homepage, you can use their clever and easy navigation system to discover other artists. Effective and to the point, doesn’t get better than that; if you’re feeling a little more risky, you can navigate manually, page by page (just keep your eyes from drooling). This is an effective, if not tedious way to navigate, if doing so manually. Unforunately its remains as one of the best ways to consume large amounts of art without knowing what you are looking for.

When you go through to the next level, the experience is just as rewarding, if not more so. These “product pages” bring the best the user has to offer. No distracting ads or awkward links to take away the experience. A subtle note: they keep their breadcrumbs with each page. This is the little textual navigation (site-mapish) at the top and serves to show you where you’ve gone, what category you may unknowingly be in, and where your next step might be. This is great if you stumble upon a project and want to keep looking within that category, the breadcrumb trail makes it easy. Keeping with navigation found on the homepage, the site stays familiar and doesn’t confuse the user.

I absolutely love the side profile of each project authors. It is clever and simple. Most importantly, it brings you the information you want to know first (as most users will read it from top to bottom). Bring together some great icons, this is a winner. My only gripe is the issue of having to scroll back up to see the information. I think it would have been more effective, both for the visitor and author, if this section floated with the user as they scrolled. Maybe it is a technical issue or some other reason I have not forseen. It should also be mentioned that Behance is not a responsive site—I am fine with this and think it would otherwise detract from the experience.

Closing the Navigation

If you follow the Web Critiques, you’ll see it is no secret I like a good footer. This is because a successfully designed footer proves a conscious designer. Often neglected, bringing the footer in, ties the rest of your site together; also allowing your users to continue relevantly navigating once they hit rock bottom.

Behance’s footer closes the navigation. It builds the site like a sandwich, and the behance branding and the dark black areas are the bread. Its a cohesive experience and feels like one brand, unity, and site. This use of repetition enhances their branding and tells why they don’t have to worry about plastering their logo everywhere and making it big. The site contains the experience and you are part of it, you navigate between the black areas—something I hope was a conscious decision.

Your Turn

The idea here is to take real world examples and explain what we think were the design decisions and share those thoughts. This is a great way for novice and veteran designers to find things to debate and hopefully learn from.

We also want to encourage user submissions—break down a fan’s portfolio or website—submit it and we’ll take a look. Recommendations or suggestions just send us a tweet @inspiredology@MikePuglielli.

What do you think of Behance.nets’s site and platform? Let us know in the comments below!

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