Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Harding gets a face-lift

Designing a website is really difficult. It requires a unique combination of a good eye and technical know-how. I have plenty of know-how, but if you’ve seen any of the websites I’ve designed, you know that’s where my talents end.

Harding recently redesigned their website. Shawn Spearman spear-headed the project, and I think he did a really good job. You can see the before and after screenshots below.



Since I’ll be teaching principles of website development (as part of my Internet Dev class) when I return to Harding next year, I thought I’d put my critical analysis cap on and list some things about the new site that I liked, and some things that I thought should be changed.

What I like:
  1. The logo at the top with the background composed of photos from around campus- very clean and professional.
  2. Letting Google do the searching. Previous versions of the website used their own in-house searcher which did a very poor job.
  3. Intuitive navigational menus which seem very well organized.
  4. Phone numbers and addresses prominently displayed throughout the website.
  5. Nice photos arranged on the sides of pages.

Some things that need to be changed:
  1. The root page is too wide which causes some users to have to use their horizontal scrollbar to get access to the Search box (a big no-no is to make users scroll horizontally).
  2. Not enough width was given for actual content. If you take a look at this page, you’ll see the content is mashed to the side with only 3-4 words per line. If you were to print out this page, it would take 20 pages when it should only take 2. I would recommend scrapping the left border which is functionally useless, and/or using a smaller sized font for the main content.
  3. The links on the left side of each page are the same color (black) and size as the text next to it. The links aren’t underlined, so users must guess what is and what isn’t a link. Although most links are on the left, they also appear on the right which makes finding the links a real pain.
  4. Some of the navigational links contain deep hierarchical menus which should be avoided. This rule is of course violated in Windows (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Off to see the wizard…), and so it’s trained others to think it’s ok. Well, it’s not. I dare you: Try to select Future Students > Adult Ext. & Ed. > Not for Credit > Kids Kollege. It took me three times.

For those of you who want to know more about designing usable websites, here are a couple of useful links: