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Ah, the relief of a little lucidity on the web

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I was searching for architects'websites and struggling through the opaque RIBA directory of practices.

http://195.13.80.89/ribafind/. It has this insane ambition to get you to search by postcodes rather than boring old names and produces 'syntax or access violation' error messages when you try to jump to the next page of an alphabetical list of architects. If I ran a practice called, say, Cavallero, I'd be in there at Portland Place trying to rip the throat out of the geek who administers the pages, or at least ringing up the Client Advisory Service and jumping up and down quite a lot.

A random site found during the above RIBA search is that of Abacus, www.abacusarch.co.uk. The main feature of the home page is three unexplained black and white mug shots complete with moire patterns looming in the blackness of the background, together with a bit of lacklustre marketspeak. There are some page names, slightly out of line, on the left.

Deploying AJ-honed forensic skills, I took a gamble and clicked on one of these.There revealed was the practice address and the names of the three principals who might or might not have been the mugshots on the previous page. It's a mystery. Design credits go to Harrison Design.

Somebody suggested I take a look at the Haworth Tompkins site, www.haworthtompkins.com, they of Royal Court Theatre rebuilding fame. It was said to be simple, pleasant and lucid. It is and it does all the right things: it's reasonably fast, downloads mostly thumbnails which you click for bigger versions and is generally convincing. The really interesting thing, though, is that this site navigates sideways rather than up and down. Too many site designers imagine that our screens magically expand to become as wide as the images they want to show us. In this case, instead of jiggling about, you just keep pressing the right and left arrows. Neat.

Sutherland Lyall, lyall@dircon.co.uk

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