II-3. Tips for Websites
Separate from the subject matter of the content of a site is the question of accessibility and ease of use. Regardless of how interesting or relevant a web site's content might be to prospective users, the information's utility will be diminished if the content cannot be accessed quickly, easily and in a way that is subjectively pleasing.
This simplicity dictum suggests that nonprofits need to be wary of attempting to have the most sophisticated, technologically advanced web site. The focus should be on the user, not on trying to win design awards or providing bragging rights so that managers can claim their organization's web site is better than a competitor's. A well-designed web site is one that works. Rajani and Rosenberg, in another recent analysis of web design issues, observed:
What came to light in this study is that users were possibly impressed by novel ideas and high technology, but not necessarily concerned that the capabilities of the technology were used to the fullest. If the technology was there, they found it interesting and fun to be able to use multiple channels in the interface [but they also found some elements distracting, such as disturbing sound] íŽ.. the generally held assumptions that sites rich in color and animation with high tech sound to provide a " truly" human experience are good íŽ have been shaken.
What should a nonprofits look for as indicators of simplicity in design? The various benchmarks found in the usability literature fall into four broad categories:
- Systems Compatibility.
Is the site's configuration technically compatible with the largest number of browsers, monitor sizes, screen resolutions, color systems, and modems that might be used by target publics? An elegant and sophisticated web site that requires high-capacity DSL or ISDN telephone lines to work optimally fails from a usability perspective if the majority of targeted user still rely upon ordinary twisted-wire telephone lines providing low bandwith or ordinary 28.8 or 56.6 kps modems.
- Speed of Use and Decision-Making.
Dose the site allow for quick selections of desired items and timely decisions? Web sites that require excessive loading time (because of large graphics files), long scrolls of text, or huge menus of choices (which require contemplation) are likely to be cumbersome and less satisfying for users. When given others choices to access information, users are likely go elsewhere.
- Ease of Navigation.
Dose the site allow users to move easily from page to page, aided by navigational devices that order the information in ways that are easily understood and intuitive to the user? A wide range of design features contributes to navigation. These include navigation bars and icons on every page, color and/typographic coding of similar classes of information, backlinks to tops of documents and main pages, key section breaks, and simplified main menus.
- Accuracy of Use/Success of Search Rates.
Is the site logically organized and intuitive to users? Errors and abandoned searches can be minimized with logical and clear labels, consistent use of language, a search feature, and an on-line help capability-all features designed to assist users in finding desired information. A logical, layered architecture that guides users to desired information and uses the fewest number of decision points also helps users to find the information they want or need. Successful searches lead to satisfaction, assuming the information ultimately obtained is complete, accurate and relevant.