For this week’s assignment, I am looking at two sites that I (used to) go to quite often, which means I spent a lot of time being frustrated (in one case) and being pleased (in the other case). Both try to appeal to a large and varied audience, which is a challenging task, and I found it interesting how one seems to succeed while the other fails miserably. See if you agree.
The Marine Corps website (www.usmc.mil) necessarily must appeal to future, current and past Marines, as well as civilians looking for information about the Marine Corps. As a current (reserve) Marine, I have found the website easy to navigate, usually getting where I need to go in 3 clicks or less.
The website is also laid out in a format I can understand. There is a place for News, Photos, Becoming a Marine and a tab simply labeled “Marines”. Admittedly, this is the catch-all tab for current Marines – and guess what – it actually works as a catch-all! Within that tab, current Marines will find a link to just about any other link that they might need, whether education, administration, information or other portals (like Marine Online). When I don’t know where to go, I go here first.
I also quickly searched as if I were interested in joining the Marine Corps. There is a link to becoming a Marine which takes you to a page loaded with information for potential recruits, their parents and teachers. Prominently displayed in the middle of the page is a video about becoming a Marine and all the great things it will do for you.
Granted, I am a completely biased observer. But I offer these two notes: first, Marines are usually the quickest and harshest critics one will find, so if the website were NOT useful, we’d make sure everyone knew about it. Two, check it out for yourself, and see if you agree. Do you find it as user friendly as I do?
The website I don’t like – The George Washington University website (www.gwu.edu). Another website that tries to cater to a wide and divergent audience: future, current and past students, this website fails miserably. I was a graduate student at GWU in 2009, and remember how much I disliked using the website. I could never find what I was looking for. These included simple things (or so I thought), like renewing my library books. Why should it take 6 clicks (and that means I clicked correctly each time; if I got “lost”, it took several more clicks) just to renew my library books? Why couldn’t there be a portal linked to the library, labeled: “library” on the front page so that I can login?
I found most university websites to be equally confusing. There are the obligatory tabs for “academics” and “administration” and “university life”. I find these nomenclatures nebulous and nearly worthless. Where do I go to find class registration? After a few years in the system, I now know that it falls under “administration”, but it makes more sense to me to fall under “academics”. I think that tab could just as easily say “school”. It conveys approximately the same level of information.
And I always got confused that as a future student, I need to look under “academics” for programs in which I was intereseted. It made more sense to me just to have a tab that said “future students”.
Now, perhaps you are thinking I am too harsh, or that I get easily confused. You are likely correct! But then I think that’s exactly the point – we are trying to design websites to make it easier for the user to navigate and to find the information. But then perhaps that is why I am in the class – I don’t know too much yet about web design!
Regardless, I enjoyed this particular assignment, as it encouraged me to go back and identify WHY I liked or disliked a particular website. Hopefully I can use some of these ideas in the none too distant future.