As it turns out, you can analyze a website just as you can analyze a piece of writing. You can examine the genre, purpose, and design choices that make up an effective site, just as you can dig into a text and critique an author’s use of language, tone, and form. Below is my rhetorical analysis of the website Darling, a print magazine that is “about redefining beauty and empowering women.”
Audience: Darling writes for women looking to live up to this manifesto, who perhaps have never dreamed of changing the status quo or viewing their femininity this way. They write for women who want to grow. Darling identifies several personas women want to embody: hostess, dreamer, confidant, explorer, beautician, intellectual, achiever. More specifically, Darling seems to target middle and upper class women who value personal development, traditional values, and balancing the areas of career, relationships, and care for self. It attracts young adult women, especially in their twenties and thirties, because of its emphasis on traversing the stage of life where career, dating, and style are priorities.
Purpose: Darling’s online presence serves to gather a readership online to spark interest yet encouraging buying their hard copy magazine subscription. They want to inspire conversation and empower women. They categorize their articles by persona thereby encouraging women to develop themselves into better versions of themselves. It doesn’t offer self-help as much as it does encouragement and reassurance from a community of women who have your back. They espouse values like authenticity and kindness, shown by their manifesto, article content, and promise to never retouch images in the magazine.
Context: This is located both on the web and in hard copy, each offering a pleasant aesthetic but online is more accessible. I initially saw Darling on my friend’s coffee table, almost as a statement piece. They use bright, high contrast photos for the cover to evoke the Darling personality and encourage readers to seek out more beautiful images. Readers will likely prefer reading it on a computer or tablet to fully appreciate the images and scroll through articles. It updates on a monthly basis, so there is a leisurely approach to reading it, as if you might read it on a break, an airplane, or a lazy afternoon for inspiration.
Author: The implied author is a team of motivated, passionate women who want to motivate others. They have a “Meet the team” tab with black and white styled photos, brief bios, their personal definition of both Darling and the word “Contentment.” It evokes their individual personalities and augments the brand as celebrating uniqueness.
Genre: This website is part e-commerce, magazine, lifestyle blog, and community forum. Its beautiful images make it formalized, but the articles anchor the content to show it has more substance than just the surface. Users can expect encouraging content, inspiring images, and uplifting, artistic typography. They include their readership by ending their articles with questions soliciting comments. For example, at the end of an article entitled “5 Ways to Prevent College from Making You Self-Absorbed” they ask, Are you in the middle of a hectic college season? How do you find time to focus on others through it?
Emphasis: There is strong contrast and emphasis on the personas mentioned about as well as phrases like “who she is” and the bold subheading “the art of being a woman.” They are strongly conveying their values and aesthetic. They define what being a Darling woman is like because it is so contrary to the way women are portrayed elsewhere.
Contrast: There is black and white contrast, but also bold color contrast within the images. The pops of color add interest and whimsy to the otherwise calming neutral design. There is a lot of white space, almost as if they left it to have our minds fill it in with our impressions. They don’t crowd the space because they want the reader to be calmly captivated, not overwhelmed or intimidated by a perfect palette.
Organization/Alignment: The elements are fairly geometric. The uppermost section reads left to right, with several tabs and social media links on the far right. Directly below are a series of photos that rotate automatically, but can be scrolled through manually as well. Then there is a headline article with a bold larger image and a description below, with three other stories on the right side of the screen. Below is a chart of “Latest Articles” tagged by persona so you may see many different articles to read. Then you can “Click to shop” their three most recent print magazines. And below is even more articles, followed by a bottom tab that has the address of Darling in LA, employment opportunities, etc. It is a logical flow that has the most pressing and captivating images and articles at the top, but you can easily navigate lower as your interest holds.
Proximity: The font chosen has significant space between characters, but the paragraphs and article links are close together, but not cluttered. It looks like a well-curated collage. There is enough separation between elements to see clearly and without much effort. There is a bit of clutter with the date and link to share the article right below each one on the home page.
Design Thinking: It is clear that the audience and aesthetic was well formed before executing. The purpose is clearly accessible from several pages and presents their whimsical manifesto and personality. The audience and problem they want to solve (oversexualization of women in fashion magazines) seems obvious in contrast to this website, especially because of their diverse models and professionals. It is difficult to convey the true authenticity with all of the polish, however. I am still a bit intimidated by these styled, high power, go-getter women. They could do a better job capturing them in their natural state, rather than imitating Vogue. This applies to their lifestyle columns too–if I am a real women that is not obsessed with a perfect space, why does the place look like it has never been lived in?