June 16, 2009

Member-friendly websites

Maybe I've just been evaluating websites even more critically lately because of my job/previous internship, making me extra persnickety, but certain large-scale sites' lack of effort to cater to members over potential members has sort of annoyed me more recently. As is also an issue with libraries, tapping into the not-yet-member population is a big interest for profit-generating companies, but unintentionally alluding to your already-members that they're not as important as the people who don't care or don't yet know doesn't send the greatest message.

I had a short list of company websites that I thought should fix this, but because I did not write them down, I can only remember one right now, unfortunately: Netflix. First of all, for a very well-known company, you'd think it wouldn't really even be necessary to cater more to non-members, but they do. You navigate to the front page and it's so easy to start your free trial, but those who are already members have to make an extra step by clicking the smaller button in the upper right corner for "Member Sign In" and then log in from there. Anyone who does anything with web sites has most likely already read, multiple times, Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug; and it's true, the visitor (myself included) does not want to have to think -- or think as little as possible -- about how to navigate the site. Thoughts should be saved for content. They're spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the site the most user-friendly, but essentially alienate those who are already supporting them.
Layout and navigation really can send a message to users either directly or subconsciously and is an important factor to consider when re-designing or updating sites.

Here are some resources I've found useful for design and tenets of usability:
http://www.digital-web.com/articles/principles_of_design/
http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/02/17/bell
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/indefenseofeyecandy

If affiliated with the University of Arizona, you can get access to free tutorials including web design and specific programs: http://uacbt.arizona.edu/ (originally directed here by The Steadfast Librarian!). Also: UA Resources for Webmasters