Broken suggested that I post here, so I guess this is the right place.
I think a few details could help improve the overall look of the Blender3d.org site, and help to put it more on the level of some of the higher end packages.
I'm sure some of my suggestions are purely personal preference, so take them for what they are worth.
Looking at the home page:
1) My guess is that the nav buttons are on top so that you can tell they are semi-transparent when the drop down. The menus are GREAT, but personally I would like to see them below the logo area.
2) Is the Free Blender Fund still going? It has roughly the same visual weight as the Blender logo, distracting from it and potentially causing user confusion. It also kind of gives the impression that Blender is a project that needs to be *saved* - not the image of a leader. If the Fund is still operational, fine. Otherwise I would recommend dropping it.
3) Negative space. There are insuffecient margins on the page, mainly on the line that ends in the word "improvements". Also the four category buttons on the left hand side could use a couple pixel nudge off of the edge.
4) The bottom text navigation. Let me preface my comments on this with the statement I heard that defines elegance as the state of having removed everything that is not absolutely essential.
4A) Contact. I know the project members probably don't have the time to deal with lots of email. So I would suggest either ditching it all together or putting it where it belongs - in the support section.
4B) If you design web pages you know what XHTML compliant means. But whether you are a web developer, and especially if not - who is going to really care or be impressed. Unnecessary - drop it.
4C) Design by matt. Ok, I know this is being real anal - but it seems a little like "designed by my buddy for free". I think "Design by MKE3" would look a lot better.
5) Order of the left side category buttons. The first listed is the link to this site. I doubt that you want most prospective users ending up here. I don't think it is necessary to have such a highly visible link to the development site, perhaps that would be better located in one of the top sections?
6) Lack of message. If you glance at the first page of Blender3D.org what is the message you get? What would you know about Blender?
7) Why is the logo banner taller than on the home page? Personally I like the taller space - why not make the home page to the same spec? BTW - the graphics in the logo banner areas are VERY nice.
The stripey design above the secondary navigation on the left hand side. These look like they were just stuck there to take up space. They don't flow with the design. To me it is distracting and breaks up the visual rhythm of the page.
9) Left hand side secondary navigation. I'm not saying that these need to be buttons, but I think they need some sort of graphical treatment. It just looks to low-tech and generic. Blender3D is an exciting and cool product, the site should be too.
10) Changing colored backgrounds for major text areas. I don't have any problem with the changing color themes for various sections, but why the text area. Black text on a white background is most readable, and generally will give the most professional impression. Let the other colors change - but leave the main text area white.
Assorted things that bother me:
1) The "professionals" section. I understand the concept behind why this is there, but something just feels like: Look, we are not just a hobbyist tool - really - I promise - see these guys whom you have probably never heard of use it.
2) User forums. I think the forums on Elysiun are great. Very helpful community. But why the heck are they on a third party site? Is there a good reason why they can't be or aren't on Blender3D.org?
Well enough of that. Really, I'm not trying to trash talk anybodies hard work. They site is really good. I just have been really impressed with Blender and think it deserves more attention. I think that the website can help to achieve that. I would be happy to put my HTML where my mouth is and put together a mock up of these changes - if the people who make those sort of decisions are interested.
Oh my, I really need to get to sleep.
Great feedback, thanks! Some of the things you mentioned I think are subjective, some I quite agree with, eg. the margins on the front page - there should be a 40px margin-right, but maybe ton didn't apply the style in his last update. I'll fiddle with that as well as the side link block things (this has always been a contentionus area
- a hang-over from the old site). I also agree Blender should be introduced much more clearly.
Anyways I'll go through all this in greater detail as soon as I get a moment of free time to spend on it. The more people here who know what they're talking about, the better
If you'd like to make some mockups, please feel free to, however keep in mind if they are implemented they may not be replicated down to the letter.
Here is a quick concept of some of the suggestions mentioned for the home page. I stole the blender3D thing from a post by Landis over on Elysiun - I think it would look cool with some subtle flash effects in there too.
Sorry it took so long to get around to doing.
Looks good! I will see if I can come up with something as well.