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Website Review of Grassroots.org

This is a quick usabilty review of the website for Grassroots.org.

 


 

Congratulations! This is a free usability review from UsabilityInstitute.com. "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job.


The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.

 

  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
      Click for explanation
Hover for explanation
Comments
  1. Logo in top left, linked to home I Can Help It's there but not linked.
  2. Tagline Does the Job Yes, but I wonder if it's too figurative, not explicit enough. AHA... after reviewing the site for 1/2 hour I see the thing that SHOULD be the tagline: your "title" tag text: "Free services for non-profits"!!! See http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010722.html.
  3. Welcome blurb Undetermined/Not Exactly Yes, it's there: "The mission of Grassroots.org is..." but again I wonder if visitors have to poke around to figure out exactly what's in it for them: "One-stop shopping for non-profits to find online resources and services... effecting positive change through technology."
  4. Plain wording I Can Help Generally the site is straight-shooting, but right there in the first sentence is that phrase "leveraging modern technologies."
  5. No 'happy talk' Does the Job  
  6. Concise wording Does the Job  
  7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding Not Applicable The menu system shows that there are only about 15 pages, so it's not a factor.
  8. "Utilities" are easy to find Does the Job Register and login are the only utilities. I see a trend for login/password boxes to appear right on the home page of almost every site that has a secured side, so it's probably "the way of the world" to put those two fields right there whenever you do a rebuild. After all, it's all about members anyway... they're not some sort of exception case, right?
  9. Search on all pages, with box and button Great Work!  
  10. "You Are Here" indicator I Can Help No. for instance, when you are on "Partners" page, the Support top nav item is not highlighted.
  11. Breadcrumbs' as links Not Applicable Site isn't complex enough to have them.
       

 

If you've made it this far, I have a free gift for the first 100 visitors who reply. If you know anyone who's learning to read, email me and I'll send you a free copy of a kid's book I wrote. Please include "Poopy Phonics" in the subject line so I have a chance of recovering it if it goes to my spam folder. —Thanks, Jack

—No spam, no emails, no private info given out—

 

 

 


Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
1.

Sans-serif fonts

Great Work!  
2.

Appropriate background color

Great Work!  
3.
Appropriate color hues Great Work!  
4.
Visual representation of the information hierarchy Does the Job Sign up is the only interesting issue... it's actually not prominent or error-free enough. The main nav does a good job of arranging the content.
5.
Conservative quantity of colors Does the Job  
6.
Text sizes are "relative" Does the Job  
7.
Anti-aliased graphics Does the Job  
8.
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Does the Job  
9.
"Alt tags" used well Not Applicable  
10.
Links don't just say "Click Here" I Can Help There are a few.
11.
A style sheet (CSS) is used Does the Job  

 

Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review sponsored by RSIRescue.com ...

 


Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design


And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
1. Questions are answered Does the Job As someone not well versed in the non-profit world I want to understand where the money comes from, and I couldn't find it.
2. Search results get the job done Does the Job  
3. Effective 'click tree' Does the Job  
4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job  
5. Simple, outline-like site map I Can Help Even though I presume the site is as simple as the top nav shows, having a simple site map would confirm it and possibly help me see which pages I visited.
6. Primary navigation is obvious Does the Job  
7. Secondary navigation is obvious Not Applicable  
8. Contact information easily accessible Great Work!  
9. Links are clear Does the Job  
10. Intro panel or animation not excessive Does the Job  
11. Graphics used only for core message Does the Job  

 

Summation & Next Steps

Overall Rating: Strives / Survives / Great Work! Thrives

Overall the site is excellent and its small usability flaws are really not an issue. The main concern is the presentation of the Sign Up features and making the rationale more central on the home page.

Recommendations:

  1. In IE7 The big Sign Up Now graphic on the right is not active where the text is!!! The user has to point to right or left to get the "hand cursor" and click.
  2. The home page mission explains your mission but to the layman is a peculiar unanswered question... how?
  3. Explain the benefits of joining right up front. See http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010722.html.
  4. Enlarge the word free in the Sign Up Now link. Perhaps put the Sign Up link/image right at the bottom of the body after the answer to "why join?"
  5. Fix the link on the Sign Up Now page that goes to that same page. Look for similar problems.
  6. Change "click here" links to links that are simply the noun clauses of the linked target page.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen

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