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From James Fisher <jameshfis...@gmail.com>
Subject CouchDB brand identity and design of couchdb.apache.org
Date Tue, 13 Apr 2010 11:12:20 GMT
Hi all,


I've recently fallen head-over-heels in love with CouchDB.  However, this
(my first) email will probably be at best, constructively critical, and at
worst, offensive, but:

Does the CouchDB project have any agreed visual brand identity, or is it
being worked on?  I speak mainly of the pages at
http://couchdb.apache.org/.  I'm the kind of person that judges a book
by its cover, and it took
considerable effort for me to stop my eyes being repelled from that page.
Compare it, for example, with the simple design at http://www.mongodb.org/ ,
where many newbies (like me) to document-oriented DBs will be making an
active comparison.

CouchDB's slogan is "relax", but that web design gets me all agitated.
There's no room to breathe: logotype squished into a corner, small font,
subheadings imprisoned in dark green cells.  No ample footer telling me I've
reached the end of the page and where I should go next; just a niggardly
copyright notice.  Rather than relaxing, the guy on the sofa looks like he's
trying to squirm as far away from the page as possible.

The sofa logo I'm not particularly opposed to, but: entirely saturated
primary red?  That's the universal visual symbol for "PANIC!".  I have this
passage from The Vagina Monologues indelibly imprinted on my memory:

---
Then he began to undress me.

"What are you doing, Bob?" I said.

"I need to see you," he replied.

"No need," I said. "Just dive in."

"I need to see what you look like," he said.

"But you've seen a red leather couch before," I said.
---

... blech.

And: who could ever relax on such an angular sofa?

The index page just doesn't sell it.  A needless <h1> "The CouchDB Project"
tells me what I already know from looking at the logotype.  The messy design
schema, which could be a quirky feature (though its appearance on the first
page is questionable), instead sits awkwardly on top of other headers and
squashing text out of the way, with an inappropriate yellow background that
together with the green suggests vomit (oh dear, on my nice new sofa).
There's no big bold text telling me that I should use CouchDB.

The first paragraph:  "Apache CouchDB is a document-oriented database that
can be queried and indexed in a MapReduce fashion using JavaScript. CouchDB
also offers incremental replication with bi-directional conflict detection
and resolution."  This jumps into jargon way too soon -- as a prospective
user, the first thing I want to hear is something simple, comforting, and
whetting my appetite: "CouchDB is a new kind of database; it will change the
way you work; come with me, and I will take you on a tour of its secrets."

Next, the colour scheme.  Red and dark-half-saturated green (I'm not even
sure whether that colour has a name)?  Under no system of colour theory is
that an appropriate combination.  I suspect it hasn't consciously been
decided upon as a palette -- the red appears nowhere else.

What's with the needless breadcrumb trail across my entire 2000px-wide
screen?  It might be appropriate for a massive site where getting lost is
easier than finding anything, but not here where every page is easily listed
down the left.

And the diagonal pinstripe background -- that's so 2003.  Nothing else on
the site implies that 45 degree angle.  Get rid of it.

Futon displays a different scheme: red with shades of grey.  The slogan,
"relax," sits in a different place to the same slogan in the logotype on the
website.  The text sits under, rather than aside, the sofa logo.  The
"contract the sidebar" arrow inexplicably points up rather than to the
right.

I'm getting into nitty-gritty now, but I hope I've made a point: CouchDB is
surely losing users by pushing them away with bad design.  The main slogan,
"relax," I really, really like, but it unfortunately doesn't come across
anywhere.  It should.  The whole visual design specification should use this
one word as its starting point.

I don't just want to criticize.  Perhaps I can help -- I have no experience
with Erlang, and I'd be much better suited to PR in this case.  AFAICT the
site is hand-written static HTML/CSS, so a redesign is not a massive
undertaking.

Opinions?



James Fisher

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