Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art in America Online: A Knee-Jerk Review

Art in America's new online venture looks like it will seriously give the artforum.com, artnet.com, and artinfo.com folks a run for their money. AiA certainly has the freshest feel of the lot, which, for online media, only means it was designed within the last week, but its directory is still a few months away (fair enough, I'd say, especially as I know galleries just got their annual questionnaire a while ago) and of course its archive would stand to be a phenomenon if it included anything more than back issue covers and the odd (and oddly placed at the bottom of the home page) back-issue story.

Navigation-wise it is superb in my opinion, letting you easily burrow down without losing track (and without anything so tacky as crumb trails). Its list of links is meager though...and yes, I fully understand why they wouldn't include a link to the blog of a dealer, but with dozens and dozens of great art blogs out there, the nine they currently have looks as if they either added them as a placeholder for a more concerted effort later or aren't sure they'll stick with the idea. They would be the first of the major art magazine portals mentioned above to have a meaningful links section if they fleshed it out...a smart move in terms of building traffic, I would encourage them to note.

The calendar, however, is perhaps the best indication that the folks behind this effort are on the cutting edge IMHO...this is undoubtedly the feature with the most potential and easily sets them apart from the herd. As with the links and the directory, they need to hire some interns or something and quickly populate this feature with more content before folks grow too weary of waiting though.

I like the idea of the library of video interviews, but once there are more than the few dozen they currently have, they'll need to rethink their navigation here. The "Most Viewed" idea is perhaps too cute (and not entirely as relevant here as it is in YouTube where the subject material is so broad...I'm not sure that there's anything significant to know about which interview was watched more than the others). I also think they should have an anchor above the fold to "More Videos" on the video home page...who scrolls any more? (just kidding, I do obviously or I wouldn't have found it).

How much data you get in the the search engine results is nice, but probably going to be frustrating when they have more content to return. Perhaps a view toggle here would help, letting users switch between the photo/paragraph model and a more streamlined headline model would be prudent development to consider for down the road. Also the "Type" designations need some further consideration: "Other" is doing a lot of filler work there.

One final, nit-picky thing: the six-sided gifs for "print" "email" or "share" at the bottom of stories...other than sharing the same color as your navigation highlight, they are the only element in the design that jumps out at me as already dated. The rest looks fresh and well integrated...those look a bit 1998.

Overall, on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being top), I'd give them an 8.5 (which is high in my esteem). Great work folks...looking forward to seeing that content added sooner rather than later, though.

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Anonymous christian said...

Hey Edward - thanks for calling our attention to the site - great!!! They do need a 'favicon' though.

3/10/2009 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

Also glad to hear about the site. I'm finding it harder to read the magazines that seem to arrive before I've read the last issue. Art in America is the biggest guilt-inducing one for me, so I'm looking forward to keeping up online, which offers so much more content and connection.

3/10/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

I'm excited about this new site. I do wish they'd make text easier to read, though. A few clicks of View/Zoom helps, but the contrast is still too low. A darker gray, please. And being able to view a larger image by clicking on an article's small illustrations would be nice. It's supposed to be all about the art, isn't it? Nevertheless, I hope this new site just gets better and better.

3/10/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger mm said...

Yay, good site! The magazines pile up and get tossed

Archive is promising, fingers crossed it will evolve

3/10/2009 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

yes, thank gawd AAmerica hired designers who actually went to school for it! Being in the 'visual' industry requires good aesthetics and navigation. Paper mags will be around but will be like records.

3/11/2009 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All true about good design and whatnot. That said I have been disappointed with the copy editing. Lots of typos. Misspelling artist names (Doug Aitkin, really?) just should not happen on a website like that. The Dan Graham interview was also almost incomprehensible at times--a little editing for clarity would have helped.

My guess is that they are understaffed like everyone else. But for a major magazine that should be up to snuff. Hopefully this will be improved as the content starts to fill in.

3/12/2009 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Thanks for the heads up. I had long ago given up on AiA having any decent presence on the Web.

3/13/2009 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I agree with the comment on the text readability. I tried to read the Gerhard Richter story and gave up after the second para - small font, long lines, narrow leading, and a text color that is more than 50% white, what are they thinking?

In terms of the art calendar, meh, I don't see how the layout can handle more than three events a day, a busy night in NY has well over fifty openings... I've become a huge fan of artcards.cc, I use it every thursday. Quickly choose a dozen or so openings, hit print, and off you go!

3/15/2009 10:48:00 PM  

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