Help Me Critique Fleming Creative Group

Most readers don’t know this, but I’m in an Internet Marketing and SEO class. The first time I told a friend this, his first question was where I was teaching. When I told him I was a student, he burst out laughing. When he finally recovered from the laughter, his only reply was, “I feel sorry for the teacher.”

I suppose asking why I’m taking a Langara College course in Internet Marketing and SEO is a legit one. I’m hoping to learn one or two new ideas that I may not know about or haven’t tried. If this happens, then the $349 class would easily pay for itself. If it doesn’t happen, then that’s OK too. I got to meet some nice people.

Anyway, I’ve received my first homework assignment. I have to review a fellow student’s website. Her site is call Fleming Creative Group. I know what I think of the website but I want to hear what you think of it. I’m sure Fleming Creative Group would be very interested as well. Here is your assignment.

Identify the website and give a brief description of its purpose and intent. Critique and suggest fixes for the websites overall design, page layout, HTML code, writing and content, meta tags and search results in Google and MSN.

This assignment is due tomorrow so critique away! Tell me what you think of Fleming Creative Group. Do you like it? Do you know what the site is about once you open it? Don’t hold back! Tell me everything!

Fleming Creative Group will be reviewing John Chow dot Com. I can’t wait to read it. πŸ™‚


38 thoughts on “Help Me Critique Fleming Creative Group”

  1. Greg says:

    This guy is cheating, dont make me tell Andy! hahaha

  2. Ryan says:

    First off this looks like something about designing for real estate?

    The text under the main ‘Fleming Creative Group’ is both hard to read and comprehend.

    The divisons popup menu needs some kind of border to help make it easier to read as it kinda blends into “The story through design” (Speaking of that quote, is the TM really necessary, or is it required to show off all the money spent to reserve it, :D)

    I’m not keen on the light text for the top content paragraph and the links on the right hand side (hard for my 23 year old eyes to read).

    Overall this site has the feel of a hard to use flash-only site, but in reality a majority of it is HTML. My biggest suggestion is to make it easier to read (unless, of course, the target market uses 640×480 πŸ˜‰ )

    1. Nomar says:

      yeah Ryan, this is odd

  3. Samer Bazzi says:

    Site is clean and simple, i would have a form for contact us rather than a link which executes your default mail client. Be careful with small text, i have great vision, thank God but be careful about that. I would also get some customer testimonials which really gives you a better image that you have worked with others, it automatically makes youi credable.

    In general i like the site, Great work and Good luck.

    Good luck on yoru assignment.

  4. You’re so evil, you don’t even pretend you’re not cheating.

    1. Jane May says:

      I was thinking the same thing…are you asking your readers to do your homework for you John??? Shame on you :p

      1. TheAnand.com says:

        Well, the question here is:

        Who is the ROOT OF ALL Evil ??????

        *winks

  5. Soultrance says:

    It’s a nice looking site, but at 1280×1024 the fonts are all far to small. The standard text should be the size of the headers and the headers should be a few steps bigger.

    From looking at the site, there is no clear indication as to what they do, not immediately at least. Could be because the font under the name on the header image is to small and distorted to make out very well too.

    Also, this is more a matter of taste than anything else, but I don’t really like the flash in the right. Maybe if it blended into a logo or something, it would make sense, but it just seems like it’s their to be pretty and take up space right now.

    All in all though, it’s a very clean and pretty looking site. With a few tweaks it could be very good.

    Cheers

  6. Alex Shalman says:

    I am going to have to agree with Greg on this. John, are you going to be using quotes from your readers in the paper you hand in?

    I’m enjoying your articles. You always keep me coming back for more.

    About Fleming: A quick look at the site (which is what most people give a site before they decide if they like it or not) makes it seem clean cut. However, I am not sure what their main purpose is or what they do when I give them the 5 second look over. I think they should make this even more apparent somewhere in the header or footer in one easy to read sentence.

    AS – http://www.alexshalman.com

  7. Ryan says:

    Damn this is genius, not only does your blog make money, it does your homework for you too!

    I like the design of the site, it’s nice to look at, the graphics are done very well. But I didn’t spend very much time looking at the site because the text was so damn small. The small text made me just click around and come back here to leave a comment.

  8. John Chow says:

    No I am not using your quotes in my assignment (the teacher reads this blog).

    This is an add bonus for Fleming Creative Group. By showing what you think of their site, you provide feedback that would normally cost a lot of money if they had to do focus groups and stuff.

    1. Jane May says:

      Yeah, that’s true. I have had to conduct a few focus groups and trust me, the transcribing, analyzing and theme development do cost a pretty penny…

  9. John,

    Make sure to tell us what the verdict of the John Chow dot Com review ends up being. πŸ™‚

    Ben
    http://idleprofit.com

  10. jim says:

    This site needs more authoritative backlinks, currently according to Yahoo there are only 51 backlinks with the most authoritative being a Wikipedia link for Logo development (nofollowed). They need to work on boosting their backlinks so Google can give them some PR, considering they’ve been around since July 2005, it should have SOMETHING.

    And as Samer Bazzi said, that text is just way too small… perhaps that design-y angle works from a visual perspective but it’s tough to get information across if people are struggling to read.

    As for on page stuff, they need to work on their link structure. Instead of taking the easy way out and putting ‘/newsarticle.php?year=&newsid=4′ for the url of their news pieces, they should go the route of WordPress’ permalinks.

  11. Simon Gynn says:

    I have to admit, I got a headache within ten seconds. I think they’re a design consulting firm. No tagline ala “The Miscellaneous Ramblings of a Dot Com Mogul.” The three divisions as presented makes me feel like it’s a three-person shop, or at least it’s three partners each with their own business who cross-sell to each others client base.

    Three quick fixes that should take no more than an afternoon:
    1. Why should I care, in 7 words or less.
    2. Replace the “Fleming Design” and “Switch Interactive” buttons with services-oriented buttons such as “product packaging,” “multimedia services” and “real estate collateral”
    3. Make the font size a little bigger for those of us running at a resolution better than 1024×768.

  12. Ms. Q says:

    I did a quick click-through on their site and I found it clean and very stylish. I did find the “fireworks” header a bit annoying but I’m not a fan of animation or Flash-driven websites.

    Despite this, the header IS nicely done and would probably impress potential clients.

    I agree with Ryan about the font size. TOO tiny. I like the size and font used for your posts which on my screen is probably Tahoma 10. Just guessing. I also am not a big fan of light-colored fonts. I’d darken that faded blue-gray font a tone or 2.

    I concur with Alex’s assessment – the site should be clearer about what service it is offering. At a quick glance it’s not obvious.

  13. Simon Gynn says:

    My first attempt at a comment got eaten, so I’ll be briefer this time: the site gave me a headache, and I couldn’t figure out what they did for a good minute or two because the “what” is buried in the downstream links off the buttons at the bottom.

    Three quick fixes:
    1. No tagline?? “Ramblings of a dot com mogul” gets the point across. 7 or 8 words should be more than sufficient.
    2. Some people use monitor resolutions better than 1024×768 – the font is too small.
    3. Ditch the three divisions up front, nobody cares about your financial structure. Make the buttons text say stuff about what you actuall provide, such as “real estate collateral,” “packaging design” and “multimedia design services”

    Good luck with the site.

  14. They are wasting a lot of “above the fold” space with that huge header.

    I agree the font is waaay too small.

    I am not at all sure I get what they do… They say Designs for Real Estate, then mention doing packaging for Nintendo?

    They have a lot of font noise going on.

    Anyway, let us know what they say about johnchow.com.

  15. Bob says:

    1.The header is to way to big.
    2.The body text is too small.
    3.Mom say’s do your own homework.

  16. Mark Johnson says:

    Are you trying to have us do your homework Mr. Chow? πŸ˜‰

    1. Jeff says:

      That’s exactly what I thought, hah!

  17. Purps says:

    Newbie here.

    The flash box does my head in. They need to make the transitions less aggressive.

    Others have commented on the text size. Good luck getting a design firm to change that. It’s an industry blind spot. The up side is you can tell the site was designed by a designer. The down side is you don’t read the site.

    The site has been designed by Fleming Creative Group from their perspective. Hence the focus on their divisions. As others have said, no one cares about their internal structure. What we want to know is “What can you do for me?” The main message of the front page needs to be: “We can do any of three things for you” (not in those words, of course.

    The three things are currently buried behind excess verbiage, the Nintendo name drop and the “Business in Vancouver” plug. They are:

    1. Corporate Branding – full service print, interactive, and environmental communications;
    2. Award-winning interactive entertainment solutions for movies, TV, and video games; and
    3. Integrated sales and marketing collateral, including sales centres and interactive sales tools for real estate marketing.

    Note the order follows the order of the three boxes (unlike the current wording). In fact, I think the three sets of words should be more closely aligned with the three boxes, requiring a redesign of the page.

    The heading “The Story Through Design tm” obviously holds meaning for the Fleming Group, but for the rest of the world it stands alone and inscrutable on the front page. What follows is neither a story nor an explanation of the phrase. It should be deleted and replace the heading “Divisions” on the “Divisions” page. (It turns out that the “Divisions” page is actually all about their mission / the story angle. Suggest renaming the Divisions tab “Our Mission” or “Your Story” or “Design Philosophy”. Anything but “Divisions”.)

    The first sentence “A multi-disciplinary design studio based in Vancouver, Canada, Fleming Creative Group has been delivering compelling online and offline campaign solutions for over two decades” holds their tagline. Suggest replacing the heading with “Compelling online and offline campaign solutions”.

    I toyed with “Designing compelling online and offline campaign solutions” but it is more wordy and the “design” aspect is communicated both visually and by use of the word elsewhere on the page.

    The first paragraph (in light grey – again, a designer thing, but it buries the information) might then be whittled down to:

    “Fleming Creative Group – a multi-disciplinary design studio consistently ranked by Business in Vancouver among the top five design firms in British Columbia.”

    This could go either before or after the three boxes with their service descriptions (as above).

    I like the News on the front page.

    Finally:

    1. The site confuses two corporate structures: the partnership and the company. Which one is it? If a partnership, delete all references to “the company”. If a company, the “partners” should be “directors” and the full company name (or names – the word “group” is used in corporate jargon to refer to multiple related companies) should be on the site, at least on the contacts page. My hunch is that it’s a partnership. If the structure is more complex, work out a clearer communication strategy.

    2. The old “Divisions” page, with its new heading “The Story Through Design tm” should begin with the second sentence: “We believe that every client has a unique story to tell; it is our stated mission “To harness the tools of design to tell the story.”” It’s stronger.

    3. Suggest the “Corporate” tab be renamed “People” or “Talent”.

    4. They have 3 fabulous sites, one for each of their divisions. But the only link to those sites is the tiny, light grey text under the blinding, flashing images on the page for each division. The client needs to be guided from the home site to the sub-site. Suggest you add text to achieve that. I wonder how many of your readers actually missed out on seeing this, for example:

  18. Andrew Kuo says:

    Never said he couldn’t use the Internet for resources… I think this a great idea to use the community. Besides it’s doing Fleming Creative Group more good than they would have expected from just John.

    Anyways, I also agree with the text being too small. Yes, the site is interactive with the user and that’s very good. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen lots of interactive flash sites with small text. Even I tended to “prefer” small text when designing flash content and forgetting it’s about the user’s experience. On the right track with interacting with the user, which will keep the user on the site longer, but if the user can’t read text…well, you get the point.

  19. Samer Bazzi says:

    I think everyone agrees about the common issues with the site, great feedback.

  20. John shouldnt you be teaching the class?

  21. Tony says:

    They should 301 the non www to the www. version they are spreading any boost they get over the two different pages. They also link to the index.php and should only link to the root this spreads there google pr over 4 different pages and doesn’t concentrate them all to one page.

    They could change the menu to a nice clean css menu this would help in spidering the site. Make 2 sitemaps one for users and the other for the search engines.

    There is no title or alt tags for any of the site.

    Use mod-rewrite or isapi to clean up the news articles to have sef url’s

    Plenty of others but that would help straight away.

  22. Heywood says:

    Really nice site,
    I wonder how much they would charge to give my site a facelift? http://bigbignews.net

    Maybe we could trade favors!?

  23. Carl says:

    This is the type of site I would turn away from as soon as it loads. Looks completely generic, like it was taken from a book called “How to build a MULTIMEDIA website in 2003” or something.

  24. Derek says:

    The font size on the website is extremely small. I currently use 1680 x 1050 as my resolution and it pretty much leaves the text completely unreadable without squinting.
    There is too much header space Although blank space helps make the site appear clean, the top is way too large.

  25. Jane May says:

    I tried to be as objective as possible without having other peoples’ comments interfere with my perceptions.

    As soon as I saw it, the name of the site didn’t stand out to me. The name was as big as the titles in the text below the header.

    I liked the header. Very clean, simple and direct. Nice use of color, perceptually I saw the text stand out from the header color.

    Nice organization of links below header. Very simple again.

    The thing I would work on is putting an emphasis on things you want to stand out (i.e. Name of site, titles, features, links, etc.).

  26. Nomar says:

    Interesting, I need a lesson in SEO and internet marketing to πŸ™‚

  27. Brendon says:

    The Flash header has no benefit for the visitor – get rid of it.
    The main heading is not descriptive and/or benefit driven – change it.
    I’d guess their target market is 40+ yo execs – the font is too small – make it bigger.
    The initial copy bores me to tears – I don’t care about you and your site. What’s in it for me?
    Change the graphical headers to text (and make sure their searchg engine relevant).
    Group Divisions – don’t care about there name – tell me what they do.
    Header is way too big – make it 1/3 of the size at least.
    Title tag – change to search engine relevant.
    Have home links go to http://www.flemingcreativegroup.com (not index.php)
    And lots of stuff already mentioned.

    That text size is terrible and I can’t look at the site any longer!

    Cheers.

  28. martinezg says:

    1) The header banner is taking up too much real estate, I would cut it in half.

    2)The font size is too small I would increase it a bit.

    3)Clearly identify what kind of site the user has landed on; I know its something about real estate (due to the images) but there should be something like “About Us”

    4)WTF NO Johnchow.com link in their site! no wonder its lame πŸ™‚ (jk)

    1. Marc says:

      “4)WTF NO Johnchow.com link in their site! no wonder its lame”

      I completely and wholeheartedly agree! πŸ˜‰

  29. Marc says:

    All the images that could easily be text are a big negative. They don’t even have alt tags which is bad from a usability standpoint, but I’d just replace them all with regular text anyways.

    While the header is exceptionally large, it is visually appealing. Unfortunately it conveys nothing about what they do. I had to read quite a bit before I even got an inkling as to what these people do. Even still, I’m not sure what they could do for me if I was interested in their services.

    Why not make the location map clickable as well? It’s become fairly common to be able to click on an image to make it bigger. People are used to it and it’s not much extra on their part.

    This is a very “pretty” site. I deal with these types of sites from time to time where I tear out all the unnecessary imaging and flash and replace it with well structured CSS, reasonable link text, good titles, etc… to get them onto a solid SEO base.

    They’re not far from a reasonable SEO base, but some changes would need to happen in order to get there. Then the real fun could begin πŸ˜‰

  30. Catherine says:

    John et al. This is incredible feedback — can’t wait to get the final report. I really appreciate the spirit in which the critiques are being given and will consider our revamps with the same deliberation. This site is really the corporate ‘umbrella’ site — intended for the bankers, corporate CEOs etc. who want to check out our credibility and determine if we’ve got the experience, track record they are looking for to either do business for us, or with us. For that reason, comments on font size, usability etc. are very relevant — thank you! For marketing our services internationally, we go out under each of the three divisions with ongoing independent camaigns etc. The clients of DfR (Real Estate) don’t want to know about Switch Interactive’s clients. Too confusing. So the sales and marketing efforts are completely different. It’s worked pretty well; we’ve weathered all the ups and down of the econony for many years. If real estate is down, gaming is up. Or packaging is down and the film industry is up. So, in answer to one person’s email — the divisions are actually more external than internal. Internally we’re all one big conflicted, chaotic and generally content family. That takes feedback with gratitude. Thanks to all.

  31. Kalle says:

    The site has a nice layout. But as someone mentioned, the text in the logo is hard to read in a 1280×1024 resolution.

    Other than that, I like the site. It has got a good looking layout and it looks professional.

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