Something about the value of your institutions website (and how you might improve it)

University Website

The image above from xkcd.com webcomic was doing the rounds on Friday.

I’m sure you recognise parts of your institution’s own website in this diagram, in particular I usually find more joy in finding faculty members phone/email addresses on Google rather than on the official site.

A couple of tools which sprung to mind when I saw this diagram were Google’s Browser Size Tool, which let you see contours of the the average percentages of users browser window size. This helped Google discover that 10% of their visitors couldn’t see the download button for Google Earth without scrolling. You can also overlay these contours on your own site. I’m sure many web admins are also already using Google Analytics click overlay to work out where visitors are going (and if they are on the ball assigning goals and click values).

If you want to chuck some formal/informal evaluation techniques into the mix Mike Nolan has been using a modification of Nick DeNardis’ EDU Checkup turning it into ‘Slate My Website’ in which groups collectively perform first impression and ~5minute reviews of a sites design, content and code (more info in this post by Mike).

If you are looking for something a more formal usability technique I’ve always been fond of ‘cognitive walkthroughs’:

The cognitive walkthrough method is a usability inspection method used to identify usability issues in a piece of software or web site, focusing on how easy it is for new users to accomplish tasks with the system. The method is rooted in the notion that users typically prefer to learn a system by using it to accomplish tasks, rather than, for example, studying a manual. The method is prized for its ability to generate results quickly with low cost, especially when compared to usability testing, as well as the ability to apply the method early in the design phases, before coding has even begun.

The topic of maximising and streamlining institutional websites featured in a couple of presentations at IWMW10, including Ranjit Sidhu’s ‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams and Paul Boag’s No money? No matter – Improve your website with next to no cash.

I’ve embedded Paul’s presentation below who suggests that one of the best ways to make sure you get the most out of what you’ve got is to simplify your offerings by automating the removal, hiding or review of material.