The Olympics are supposed be a carnival, I know – ‘Triumph of Human Spirit’ and what have you. And truly, the spirit and the excitement have been high and contagious this time round. The carnival carousel has been turning smooth and well-oiled thus far.
So I make a side trip to their official website – www.london2012.com. First off, you have that London 2012 logo, which reminds you of a falling rocks warning (and mildly reminiscent of Thing, the stone-clad superhero from the Fantastic Four). The web design tries to carry this visual metaphor of the angular forms into it. Visually, It’s colorful and carnival-ish, bright and gay (gay as in celebratory) but the forms look so sharp you could cut your eye-fingers just looking at them. So you wonder about this overt celebration of masculinity – what happened to grace, rhythm and elegance, those reportedly feminine qualities!? The whole experience seems driven by testosterone without any estrogen to bring about a balance.
Anyway, the carnival goes on – and it’s more akin to a village Markt – the page literally Teeming with stuff. If there is a sense of organization, it seems to lose out in the breathless cacophony of a hundred things screaming for attention. For a bit of respite, scroll down the page – where things get a bit calmer and white space finds a hesitant voice.
The site, by its own admission, tries to cater to all – the ‘normal’, the visually impaired, the dyslexics and the non-English speakers. ‘For all Humanity’, cries out the Olympic spirit. But you can’t escape the feeling that these noble and worthwhile sentiments have found only a partial translation in terms of sites structure, page organization and elemental focus.
Right at the top, an icon call’s itself the ‘dyslexic style sheet’ and when you switch to it, all those loud-mouthed colors quieten down into a muted beige palette. This brings the text and links into sharper contrast – fair enough – but dyslexic friendly? I am not so sure. I get the feeling that dyslexics are perhaps better served by increasing the font size, increasing the character tracking and making everything else more subdued. But that too would be a compromise – they would probability find a less crowded, more organized page with higher figure-ground contrast more fit to their needs.
And lastly, those much celebrated international sports symbols come to the rescue of non-English speaking audiences – like the way finders they are supposed to be. Although, what exactly these non-English speakers lose out in experience by not knowing the language, only they can tell in their native tongues. Not to crib too much, but here too the colors are high-strung. I am sure those who designed the site carefully chose to place bright pinks and active blues next to each other and gleefully watched their cockfight. They are obviously intended to jar and clash in their high chromatic screams. May be the designers thought it’s an apt metaphor for the competitive spirit of the Olympics. But I don’t have to like it, and I don’t.