Practicality isn’t a strength of the art world. We’re better at the nonsensical, the impossible, the intentionally obfuscated. It’s no surprise, then, that we’re often so terrible at constructing functional web sites. Today, we’re offering up the worst of the worst for public humiliation. Later this week, we’ll be honoring the best. Hopefully, we can do some good: our post on the topic five years ago actually prompted changes by Exit Art and Luhring Augustine, and now Luhring Augustine’s like a big gallery with famous artists and stuff. That’s all our doing. Today’s worst offenders:
Bruno Bischofberger– Bruno Bischofberger’s website is, frankly, stunning. It’s difficult to know where to begin – the fact that the home page is all text? That it’s all caps? That every exhibition page, along with the “Works for Sale” page, includes the line “IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE ACQUISITION OF A WORK, PLEASE CONTACT MR. BRUNO BISCHOFBERGER”, as though there were some confusion about who runs the gallery, or how one buys art? Another big plus, of course, is the near-complete lack of content on artists, shows, or anything I could conceivably be interested in other than pictures of works for sale.
Techy types should note the Frontpage-induced mania of the index page’s HTML; perhaps two-thirds of it are unnecessary, and the other third is actively incorrect. It’s not even a matter of skillz, particularly, but of sloppiness – anyone who can include a CSS stylesheet can go so far as to name it something other than Ohne_Titel.css.
Bruno – you bought the back cover of Artforum. You can afford a web designer.
Pace – As I write this, a rotating news ticker on Pace’s website promoting a Jennifer Bartlett show is telling me that “Bigger Is Better”. Untrue. Pace’s website – recently redesigned – attempts to throw everything at the user all at once, and it’s a disaster. Unlike Bruno’s web site, the problem here isn’t a lack of information but its absolute uselessness. Press releases and reviews are stuck in teensy-tiny boxes, regardless of length, that prevent you from being able to copy them, link to them, or even read them effectively, particularly on mobile devices. Images can’t be used by most users because Pace has disabled the right-click menu. The design – which attempts to center itself around the idea of “Expanding” one topic into nearby panels – would be fine as an experimental site, or for something consciously organized around tags, but for a gallery it has the notable downside of being completely unusable for anyone who wants to find information quickly. Having a creative site structure doesn’t do you any good in most businesses: if I’ve been looking at gallery after gallery arranged around the same Artists/Exhibitions/News/Publications/About menu, I start to categorize my desires according to that menu; any other structure becomes disorienting and takes longer to navigate. There’s a reason why grocery stores all have the sugar next to the tea, and the butter next to the milk – these systems help people get things done faster. Having a drop-down nav menu is particularly jarring, because every other site on the web gave up on those ten years ago; of course, the space saved by not having a proper menu appears to have been spent on 16 x 16 pixel portraits of artists. Which we couldn’t do without.
Finally: what the hell is going on with their URLs? There’s absolutely no reason for them to be so long, and parts of them are clearly redundant. At the very least, I should not be annoyed by your web site before arriving on it.
Greene Naftali – Greene Naftali’s web site, being entirely in Flash, is unusable to the point of invisibility on an iPhone. To understand the importance of this, understand that a typical gallery trip for the AFC staff involves us standing sort of near art while tapping at our phones. On a desktop, the site at least loads – slowly; then, you get the pleasure of discovering that the home page doesn’t actually contain any information about artists or exhibitions. That’s all in a separate series of Flash pop-ups, with their own waits to load and questionable benefits when they do: the artist bios are minimal, and the photos are both difficult to navigate and, because of Flash, unusable for anything other than quiet contemplation. Awesome.
Special Achievement in Caution: Gasser/Grunert‘s website doesn’t look so bad visually, and works well enough, but they’ve made one oversight: the entire site is in the folder /test/. It looks good, guys. I think it works. Lose the water wings.
Special Achievement in Web Design for a Web Design Firm:
BASIK Group are the designers behind the Pace disaster, along with work for David Zwirner and Michael Werner. It took me half a minute of clicking everything on their page before I discovered that rather than using links, they’d simply placed every work in their portfolio on one page. What’s worse, they start about 800 pixels down the page – which is to say, below the fold on most laptops.
This usability stuff isn’t hard – grab a book by one of these guys off Amazon and you’re more-or-less set. Or, better yet, look to your peers – some galleries do get it right, so join us later in the week for a few sites that put these guys to shame.