Website Review –

“Good website designers pay attention to file size, because the bigger the files, the longer it takes to load a screen.”

Our pick for this month is a really nice example of a loan originator website: While many of the premier players in the lending industry are prone to fanfare in their splash screens using big screen movies and sound, Brian Farley, president of Pride Mortgage, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, uses a subtler theme for his home screen. If I had to pick one word to describe the theme, it would be “Sincerity.” In the header, an animated gif (graphic image file) displays alternating pictures of happy, satisfied clients. The gif file includes a text box with alternating messages that support the perception of a customer comfort level-“With Pride Mortgage, we assure you comfort, savings, and service,” along with a picture of Brian. The background color subliminally portrays trust: dark “true” blue.

The home page loads extremely fast considering the animation and graphics that it uses. Good website designers pay attention to file size, because the bigger the files, the longer it takes to load a screen. Here, they did a clever thing with the graphic in the header. It has horizontal black lines running through it, which creates an abstract affect. (Imagine you see someone standing behind window blinds.) A benefit (in addition to the effect) is that it cuts the file size down by a third. Black does not require much memory compared to color, and the more colors used, the more memory required. The gif also uses 32 colors, which still gives adequate resolution while keeping the files size down. The result is a modest 30K file. The picture of Brian is a jpeg file, which has more definition, but is still only 7K.

I like the layout, it is one of the reasons that I picked this website out of many good ones. I have to admit that I am getting tired of the stereotyped web design. (Header, option button screen left, and body lower right.) The Pride Mortgage site is fresh. Brian’s picture is on the left. The center of the screen is a column of text saying good things about the company and the options are on the right side of the screen. Instead of the traditional buttons, they are laid out in a column of nice bold, italic hypertext with the addition of really zesty crescents that add texture. A mouse hover turns the target bright red, leaving no doubt that a click will link to something interesting. There are five option links: Apply Online, Online Calculators, Interest Rates, Contact Us, and Our Team. The first three are active components. When you want to add these to your website, you face the same dilemma is a home shopper. Should I build, buy, or rent? Do I contract a web master to create proprietary calculators and application modules? Or, do I buy or lease a pre-canned website? Or should I rent the components? Brian opted for the third option.

The application, calculators, and rates are links to Mortgage 101, which provide highly functional modules. Although the jump to another website appears relatively seamless, you can see the URL change. It changes to Mortgage101/Partner scripts. When loading the new site, and ID is verified to make sure that the link is from an authorized site. If you like trivia, the Mortgage 101 application module starts with https (instead of the more common http). The “s” denotes a secure site where the data is encrypted. This makes sense if you are taking a loan application on the Internet. Something that you lose with this option is a break in theme continuity.

Look at the other two options, Contact Us and Our Team, and you see how the theme and navigation are retained. Our Team is a really nice example of something that should be included in any service-oriented business. The screen is a thumbnail style layout with pictures of (almost) all of the production and management people at Pride Mortgage. Just like Brian’s picture in the home screen, everybody looks happy. Below each picture is the person’s name in hypertext. A click brings up an e-mail to the person. Another idea would bring up links to profile screens of each person.

This website is rated as extremely good because of the presentation and image that it presents. The judicious attention to file size makes it load fast. Although not proprietary to the site, the rented calculators fill the functionality requirements. The general layout and design of the website is extremely well balanced, attractive, and focused.

by Thor Skonnord