A blog in general about Romania and my feelings at the moment, with a focus on design, branding, art and anything else that inspires me.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Hall of Shame of Romanian web design

So, I thought I'd start off by talking about Romanian branding and it's status at the moment. I've seen that in the last two years especially, Romanian design has increased in standard by a great amount, and now matches that of Western Europe in many cases. There are some great Romanian companies out there who have established really good brands - hot design, successful marketing, etc. Basically, I'm talking about Connex, Orange, Astral, Grapefruit, TVR, BeYou Trend and several others.

There are some other ones who are really disappointing, though. I'm talking about high-profile companies, many of them state-owned, who have virtually-inexistent marketing strategies and ugly websites, and, more disappointly, they affect Romania's image abroad. For this, I have to name them! I have especially picked on sites which may be viewed by non-Romanians, because the aim here is to improve Romania's image abroad. So, here's the Romesperi 2005 Hall of Shame of Romanian Web Design:

  1. Bucharest City Hall - really disappoint to see that, unlike most other cities in Europe, Bucharest doesn't have its own easy-to-use, professional website. The site at pmb.ro is terribly confusing and doesn't actually give tourists, foreign investors or even Bucharest residents any particularly useful information. It's also terribly organised. Basically what I'd like to have is a central site for Bucharest (e.g. www.bucharest.ro, I know it's taken), where the City Hall would clearly put information about Bucharest, links to services, and whatever else needs to be included. It would also be great if the sites for the 6 sectors of Bucharest could be better integrated into this structure. Oh, and did I forget to mention - good, professional-looking, effective design! Come on, if Budapest and Tallinn can do it, then why not Bucharest?
  2. Căile Ferate Române - Train travel is a great experience, but too bad that CFR can't embody that. Yes, I know it's a public company. Yes, I know it's strapped of cash. But that still doesn't justify it's total lack of consideration for marketing and design. I'll start by looking at its site. That site, again, is extremely confusing, like pmb.ro. No other site I've seen for a European railway operator is that muddled up. I think the approach of dividing the site into five sections with a splash page is very wrong, and way outdated. I'm not expecting them to create an ultra-design site, just something that is easier to use and looks good enough. A site to admire in this industry is Slovenske železnice . Main point here - timetable is available on the front page! That's important because people mainly go to the site because of the timetable.
  3. Radiocomunicaţii - a total disregard for design, even though the structure isn't that bad as the two sites above. The design is just so inherently unprofessional that I had to list it here. For a company of its size, it should do a bit better. If Romtelecom managed to do it, so can they.
  4. Romanian Tourism - I should have listed this first. Well, what can I say... Romania seems to be the only country in the region without a proper tourism portal. There are like two "official" tourism sites (see also 1), some abandoned, others terribly cluttered and confusing. The Romania Tourism site doesn't have all that bad a design, but there is virtually no content and the repeating About Us button is an eyesore. If I were a tourist, what do I make of this site? Romania could do with much better branding in tourism - it actually needs an integrated brand for web and other media. Other countries have done it - I like Bulgaria's attempt, as well as the Estonian tourism site. The unofficial Romanian Tourism site and RoTravel are better, but still lacks in comparison to the aforementioned sites.
  5. Ministry of European Integration - poorly presented, not all that well structued and many of the techniques used are so old-school. I mean, splash pages! Frames! For something as important as European integration, they could do a better job. Maybe they could try something like InfoEuropa or the Romanian Mission to the EU.
Just an overall tip for all Romanian public sites - there are two things that can be worked on extensively. One is structure. Romanian sites are among some of the most awkwardly-structured and therefore unintuitive I have ever seen. That's changing, but laggards remain. The other is language. I appreciate that most sites are now in English as well as Romanian. But, the English is usually not up to scratch. I don't mean the actual grammar of it, but rather the words and language used. The sites don't actually use marketing/advertising language, and therefore they don't persuade successfully. For this reason, many visitors give up.

If anyone has any more sites to add, please do so! Conversely, if you know any more well-designed Romanian corporate sites, go ahead and post them, because coming up will be the Hall of Fame. I'm also preparing a post on how different city hall sites fare.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree on the bad sites. This is Romania and I think that web design will be among the last things to escape from "nepotism". There will always be a general manager who has a nephew who knows how to use Front Page. This scales up to the corporate sites where the nephew has a web design firm and gets the contract from his uncle. Or if he does not have the firm he quickly establishes one :)
So hell yes!
Let's make some Halls of Shame. Yelling is all we can do...


Blogger romesperi said...

Yes, unfortunately that's the truth, about nephew-uncle connections which undermine good design. As to "Yelling is all we can do...", the purpose of this blog is not so much to yell and complain about some bad things in Romania, but generally to offer constructive criticism and alternatives. The other thing is... there will be a Hall of Fame as well :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe some bloggers could volunteer to fix some of these shameful websites. They know what they're talking about. They found the problem and I think they have the solutions. Good luck!


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