Carolyn Mendelsohn Website

Carolyn Mendelsohn

Carolyn Mendelsohn is a talented artist, working with film, photography and performance. Her work has been described as "enchanting" "haunting" "magical" and "moving". She recently appeared as a finalist on the Channel 4 show Picture This.

Her work speaks for itself and the visual design of the site was kept purposefully simple to allow it to do just that. Behind the scenes however there are a few features worth highlighting here.

Flash Usability & Avoiding the Pitfalls

Although I'm more of a web standards kid at heart, Flash is a poweful tool with a lot of fantastic applications. If not carefully managed, however, the flexibility of the Flash platform can quickly have a negative impact on the usability and user experience of Flash websites. For most people the way traditional HTML sites work forms their 'mental model' of how a website should work. For this site I spent time considering the features that come with HTML sites 'out of the box' which are often overlooked in Flash sites....and then made sure we took them into account. These were:

  • Ensuring 'Back' and 'Forward' browser buttons function in the same way as in traditional HTML-based site.
  • Scrollbars consistent in operation with traditional browser scrollbars, i.e. with a dynamically resizing handle to visually indicate 'at a glance' the amount of content that can be scrolled through.
  • Cut and Pasteable text.
  • Unique and logical URL's to allow inbound links to specific content as well as allowing individually bookmarkable pages.
  • Unique and logical page titles in the browser title bar.
  • Tooltips for graphical navigation bar icons.
  • Logical tab sequence within forms.

Immersive Experience

The concept for this site was to develop a window through which to view Carolyn's work that would allow it to speak for itself to best effect. As such we wanted a 'full-screen' feel, but bandwidth and differing screen-resolutions make creating content that feels 'full screen' tricky. We didn't want to neglect the (still) significant number of users who view sites with a small browser width (Those on older laptops or those with browser side-bars switched on for example), but equally we didn't want her creative industry friends to be looking at a postage stamp-sized website on their super widescreen displays.

The solution was to design and build a site that could actively adapt its layout horizontally and vertically to a wide range of screen sizes, anything from 800X600 upwards. 'White space' is generated such that the site appears to have been made for the specific screen size any user views it with.

To make the design even more immersive, we included a 'full screen' button on all pages which removes the browser window and allows the site to entirely fill the users' screen. Great for viewing films and photo slideshows.

Other Considerations

  • Carolyn specifically requested a 'splash page' with a link to enter the site. This is not a technical requirement for loading purposes or plugin checking.
  • Fast download times - The timing of various site elements loading in was carefully chosen so the experience was still bearable for dialup users. This has been enhanced with simple preloaders for feedback on expected load times for larger items.
  • The site is limited to users with Flash installed but we've included suitable informational messages for users that don't have Flash installed or JavaScript switched on. We've also ensured that the containing code validates as complient CSS and XHTML 1.0 Strict.
  • The site photos, videos, text and the navigation structure are all pulled into the site dynamically which means the site is very flexible and all site content updates can be made in XML without needing to open the Flash authoring environment.
  • Custom 404 'Page Not Found' Page.
  • Google Analytics for site tracking.