NDA Website Review

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michael Devney

National Dance Agencies (NDA’s) branded themselves as “Dance Hubs” last year; providers of information, support, advice and all manner of wisdom on matters related to dance. One way of judging how well they can provide those services is by having a look at their websites and seeing just how much information you can gather from the outside looking through their online window on the world.

Recent statistics show 35 million folks in the UK are online at some point or another during their week and 700-800 million world wide. What kind of impression would all of these people get if they had a look around an NDA’s website this week?

The websites have been assessed on the clarity of the information they provide, the range of information, standards of design, frequency of updates and just how easy it is to find their telephone number. We are also looking for any special features or technologies that may make the website stand out from the crowd.

It’s reasonable to assume that many visitors to an NDA website will be looking for information about dance classes and perhaps a little background on what types of classes are available and the differences between the styles. Further to that; visitors may be looking for an explanation of what an NDA actually does and why as well as details on performances, local companies and anything else that may be dance related.

Our aim with this review is not to find a winner but simply to assess the relative merits and shortcomings of each of the sites.

Reviews:

Dance4 [ www.dance4.co.uk ]
Design The opening page has the Dance4 logo square in the middle the text of which looks very rough and there are four links to other sections to the right of this logo. Under the text is a brief explanation of what Dance4 is and where they are based. Under this description is some basic information on recent events including a job advert and details of an up and coming festival.

There is a long list of links down the left side of the screen some of which are clear (What is Dance 4) some of which are not clear (Development Districts). Links don’t react when the mouse pointer is moved over them.
Information The design is so confused it is difficult to determine just what information you can garner from this site about Dance4 or what they do. There is an artist’s newsletter and a resource library which is not available online except for an alphabetical listing. The what’s new link provides the most up to date information but no dates are provided.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary This site has major flaws in design and the quality of the information provided. Links are confusing and unclear as to where they lead or what use the information is to the person reading the site. A serious problem is that out of four of the main links next the index page logo, three of them do not work and cause “page not found” errors.

Overall it’s a muddle of information some of which may be useful but after thirty seconds of trying you just want to beat yourself on the head with a stick. Little or no images on most pages, poor typography, different design on every page, if you can call it that. The whole site is a mess, probably does more harm than good.
Tel. Number Found in one click on the contact page.
Score 1/10

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Dance East [ www.danceeast.co.uk ]
Design Index page has graphic links to the main sections of the site. Links react with a drop down menu when you move the mouse pointer over them offering further options. Confusingly the links do not work unless you select one of the options that appear unless there are no further options on the links.

Pages of information are presented in columns just like a newspaper does but with some very small text. Each section of the site is linked to on every other page using a menu strip across the top of each page. There are few images on the site.
Information Details on classes, workshops, youth groups and performances. Class guide has a frequently asked questions section with details on what to wear to class and the differences between each of the styles on offer. Support to artists page has minimal information and is of little practical use.

There are details of BDE04, which was in February this year so why it is still prominent in the site is confusing, and the agency’s capital campaign to build a new facility features prominently. Performance details are organised into a “Dance Diary” in an easy to scan matrix design.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary Design is less than inspiring and the confusing drop down menu system does the site no favours. Images, when used, are small and lack any kind of captioning. The multi columns display of the text is a poor choice in typographic terms because you have to scroll up and down the page to read the information.

Websites are not newspaper and should not be laid out as such unless the coding is sophisticated enough to deal with it, such as the design for the International Herald Tribune website. The “support us” page is completely blank so Dance East must have all the support they need. Provides information that is of use but it’s wrapped up in an uninspiring package with poor typography and awkward navigation.
Tel. Number Found in one click on the contact page.
Score 4/10

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South East Dance [ www.southeastdance.org.uk ]
Design Opens with a fairly hideous purple index page with the NDA”s name and logo in the middle of a diagonal group of links illustrated with circular images that are too small to make out. The text links highlight when the mouse pointer moves over them. Pages of information are laid out with text in a single column on the right with links on the left again with a background of purple.

Links within each section are above the information on each page. Images are positioned above the text and they are medium sized with single word captions. Some links on the pages react to mouse activity some do not. Clicking on the NDA logo takes you to what we assume is the second index page with a brief description of what they do and a badly rendered Arts Council England (ACE) logo.
Information Details of professional development, for professional dancers, dance for screen, education work, information services (includes downloadable newsletters in PDF format). There is a page called “tracking” which contains details of news and events, there appears to be no logical reason why it is called “tracking” however. Links page to other dance related websites or websites they consider to be of use, there is no link to Article19. No class listing or performance listing that we could find.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary Although they provide a lot of information and a lot of contact details it is hard to find and poorly organised and there is no search facility. A lot of the written information is of little or no practical use to the average user seeking guidance on dance.

Many pages state at the bottom if you want further info then you should give them a call thereby negating the whole point of having a website. The design itself is dull and uninteresting with poor use of images.
Tel. Number Found in two clicks clicks on the contact page.
Score 3/10

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Swindon Dance [ www.swindon.gov.uk/dance ]
Design There is none, it’s just a page on Swindon Borough Council’s website.
Information None
Last Update Sometime around the dawn of the last century by the look of it.
Special Features none
Summary Utter rubbish, a single page and nothing else.
Tel. Number That’s the one thing they do have!
Score 0/10

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Yorkshire Dance [ www.everybodydances.co.uk ]
Design The introduction page has to be heard to be believed. Upon loading you are greeted with the Scene from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and a very crackly version at that. Once you click the skip intro page you are taken to a white on black website with a nonsensical arrangement of images along the top. Under these images is a row of coloured boxes that react when the mouse pointer moves over them.

It turns out that these boxes are the navigation buttons and it’s not until you move the pointer over them that they reveal what section of the site they will take you to. Each page of information is held in a frame with a static image underneath the scrolling information. For reasons past understanding there is an image from “The Matrix” in one of the top line collages.
Information History of the NDA, classes, workshops, courses, performances and community activities. Most of the information is practical in terms of class times, costs and so on. Information for professionals is limited to a single page that details available studio space and some basic information about support programs. There are no news or latest information pages.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary If you get past the horrific intro sequence what greets you inside the website is not much better. White text on a black background is a big mistake in terms of readability. Typography is poor and the non moving image under the text makes reading almost impossible in some cases. Using multi coloured buttons that make navigating the site into a magical mystery tour is another basic design faux pas that could easily have been avoided. The sites only saving grace is the fact the information is, for the most part, of practical use.
Tel. Number In two clicks from the Discover Dance link.
Score 3/10

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The Place [ www.theplace.org.uk ]
Design Has not changed one bit since we last reviewed it over a year ago. Opens with a splash screen that requires you to click a button that opens a separate pop-up window. Layout is broken into two sections. Top section has navigation elements, bottom section has the content and information.

A column of three, square images features on every page. Clicking on the navigation heading reveals further options for that section underneath the main heading. All navigation links react when the mouse pointer moves over them.
Information Pretty much everything about The Place you could want to know from the London Contemporary Dance School to Richard Alston Dance Company. There is very little in the way of practical information and depth however.

There are no class listings that we could find. There are complete listings for what’s happening at the Robin Howard Theatre (The Place Theatre) with descriptions of the work, times, etc, etc.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary In our last review this site scored highly for its’ design when compared to other sites for dance. This time however we need to be more critical. The Place website is nothing more than an online brochure with precious little information of any practical use and no depth whatsoever. The images although many in number are small and not at all engaging.

Navigation is simple and effective and this is the only NDA website that has a message board for members of the public to interact and leave comments. The typography is inconsistent throughout the site. It’s a nice layout but the site overall is shallow and without merit.
Tel. Number Found in two clicks under Discover Dance and then Contact Us
Score 5/10

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Dance City [ www.dancecity.co.uk ]
Design After you get past the splash screen you are taken to a small, central website with four main links across the top that lead to the main sections of the site. Clicking on one of the links reveals another two columns of links to information within that section.

The content is held in a small section underneath this navigation. Each section has its’ own colour scheme and all links react when the mouse pointer is moved over them. A pulsing graphic constantly animates in the sites top right corner for no other reason that to annoy this reviewer.
Information All about DanceCity and those that work there, replete with baby pictures that should be removed and then burned. Complete class and workshop information is available along with a glossary detailing what each class is.

Listings are available although they appear to be selective with some recent performances missing. Details of professional opportunities and support and various other bits and pieces of information most of it is of little practical use however. There is a news page but there is nothing on it!
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary One of the clearest and well designed websites for an NDA although that’s not saying much considering the company it is keeping. The navigation is clear and easy to follow and the practical information is there for those that choose to look.

The sites main problem is the fact it has been crushed into a central box contained by frames, so there is endless scrolling to be done even for the smallest amounts of information. Pictures are small, colorized and poorly implemented and someone seems to have a Spirograph® obsession judging by the number of pointless shapes on this site.
Tel. Number Found in two clicks through contact then enquiry
Score 6/10

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DanceXchange [ www.dancexchange.org.uk ]
Design Contained in a central rectangle and utilises a script that makes the browser window jump around the screen on Mac computers. The actual effect is supposed to expand the websites window to fill the users screen but this only works when using certain types of web browser.

Navigation is down the left hand side and split into sections covering what DanceXchange is and what they do. The site uses frames so page content is loaded to the right of the navigation and underneath DX’s wavy banner logo. Images are small and situated to the right of any text. Typography is consistent throughout and fairly easy to read.
Information All about DX, classes, performance info for their own theatre space The Patrick Centre and details about BareBones, DX resident company. There are also details of the facilities and how to hire them. As well as their own performance information DX has a “dance diary” page that lists all performances happening around the area covered by DX, it is searchable using a number of criteria and it’s two years out of date.

We feel sure that Motionhouse’s dancers would be a little upset to find out they have to perform Fearless all over again! DanceXchange also has a links page and to add insult to injury Article19 is not on it!
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary A strong contender for first place although again we have to state that this site is not up against very stiff competition. Navigation is clear and simple and the practical information is clear and easy to find. Let down by the frames orientated construction of the site and the listings that are two years old.

The DanceXchange “Films” found on the site are utter rubbish and have a special place in film making hell reserved for the maker. There is no latest news page and no way to know when new information has been added.
Tel. Number Once click away on the "How to find us" link.
Score 6/10

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Dance North West [ www.dancenorthwest.org.uk ]
Design Index page has a nicely laid out design with a couple of images and some nice colours. Six text links lead into the main sections of the website.

Page design for the information is basic with text to the right and links to the left. None of the links react when the mouse moves across them. Other than the homepage there are no serviceable pictures on the site.
Information Some basic information on Dance Development (whatever that is) a news page that has not been updated since last year and a lot of other bits and pieces that are badly organised and of little practical use.
Last Update unable to determine
Special Features none
Summary Another tragic effort. The homepage is promising in terms of design but it all falls apart when you explore further.

For no practical reason clicking on the links opens the pages in new windows so pretty soon you have a screen full of them. Lack of updates and coherent information make the site completely useless.
Tel. Number Missing since the contact page produces a "page not found" error.
Score 1/10

Conclusion.

It’s a poor show from the “Dance Hub” brigade over all. None of the above websites is a shining star for dance that entices the user to come in and enjoy all that dance has to offer. Universally poor use of photography and no video media available on any of the sites makes the user experience dull and un-engaging.

DanceXchange makes it easiest for the user to find class and performance details and they do it with a bit of clarity. Yorkshire Dance provide the same level of information but the design is so horrific we would be surprised if anyone persisted long enough to find it. Swindon Dance should be flogged, tarred and feathered for the utterly dismal failure to provide any kind of website at all, we will be seeking an explanation by return of post. All the websites in this test go away with a slap on the wrist and a report of ‘must try harder’ a lot harder.

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