Either website design is so pervasively awful that even the art world cannot escape it’s dark shadow, or art enthusiasts are completely out of touch with the principles of design. Having spent copious amounts of time surfing gallery websites over the last couple of days, I have come to the conclusion that more often then not, it is the latter. As a result, today I review gallery websites.
Let me begin by saying that it really isn’t that hard to make a decent website. Choose a nice font (readable), make the information on a site easy to find and voila, you’re done. Since most of us subscribe to a functionalist aesthetic, chances are if you do these two things the website will look good (well, unless you decide that your favorite colors are red and black). As such AFC’s award for the worst website in the city goes to Luhring Augustine Gallery. Wait, what’s that? Request not found? Funny you should say that…I noticed this a week ago, and it still hasn’t changed. Aesthetics aside, nothing beats a site that doesn’t work. Good job Luhring Augustine.
Coming a close second is Exit Art who wins the AFC award for worst New York gallery website that actually exists. I guess Exit Art is going for an Aqua Teen look, but that will win points with a few mid twenties indi boys and that’s about it. Whip Boy, crazy eyeball, the big mouth/little mouth have to go. Why does a the eyeball mailing list link have to jump around the page? Why does the whip have to make so much noise? Why can’t I read the menu??? If all of this weren’t enough, under current exhibitions they have only one image up for a show that has over 50 artists in it, AND the name of the artist who made the work is not listed!
Also on AFC’s worst dressed list (so to speak) is a Perry Rubenstein’s site designed by exhibit-e. Now, exhibit-e makes nice looking websites (for just about every gallery in the city), but they tend to follow a formula. Usually there is a picture of the inside of the gallery, and some menu that rolls down with standard gallery headings. To their credit, this time they designed a site using the artist’s work as a background thereby retiring the tired metaphor of the virtual home, but everything else about this site sucks. The menu and link icon format is the biggest issue with this website, because it doesn’t really do an effective job of organizing information. In this case, there is a faulty assumption that the user will ignore the image boxes scattered across the screen (which are obviously links), and go straight to the menu. Since the menu loads last and is light in color, the natural inclination is to click on one of the larger picture boxes you just spent the last ten seconds load. As it turns out the main purpose of the menu is to prioritize these link icons by heading. The menu also provides a pop up window for every heading you click on that you pretty much have to ignore and close (see artists) to get to the stuff in the links. It’s an awfully involved process just to look at some art. And if you want to read about some art you can forget about it. The scroll function in the text window moves the text so fast you’d have to have the reflexes of Billy Mitchell to be able to work the thing properly.
Today’s worst dressed post closes with Pace Wildenstein, a gallery who’s website looks like a hand me down from Home Depot (a chain that has a much better website than you would think). Wildenstein’s site is plagued with bad font choices, scale problems, and a color blind designer. Aside from being ugly as sin, for some reason the index page menu, is sized differently then the rest. Really all this means is that the user has to move their mouse up a quarter inch when they click off the home page, but it make the site kind of annoying to use, and it’s a sign of amateurish design.
In general, the biggest issue I have with gallery websites is the over use of flash programs. You have to wait for the program to load up (boring), it’s hard for users to link to pages they like, and for some reason it usually means looking at transparent bars of color moving across the screen before an image materializes. In many ways, Flash seems to function against the way we use the internet since waiting for anything on a computer is like an eternity in hell.
There are however, sites that are designed brilliantly, and those need to be discussed. Guess what tomorrow’s post is about?
****UPDATE****Although Luhring Augustine did not write me to say that they had read this post, I will note that within a day of this post, a notice was left on their site reading “coming soon” and that five days after this post exhibit-e had their website running for them. I have to say, that is an excellent emergency response time.