Rebuilding a Home (Page)
“Keep it simple!” is the general recommendation of the pros who took a look at this month’s featured site, which belongs to Rebuilding Together Alexandria, a Virginia-based organization that repairs homes at no cost to qualifying, low-income community members.
Our analysts — eTapestry Web professionals Wesley Street, Web site developer; Josh Esslinger, manager of Web site services; and Phillip Allen, manager of Web services/sales — applaud the site’s strong black-and-green color scheme and good use of the vertical navigation bar on the left-hand side.
But they also agree that the home page has a lot going on graphically and lacks a unified design. For example, RTA uses four or five fonts on the page. When it comes to Web site design, Street says, the simpler, the better.
While the information on the home page is relevant, it isn’t all placed in the most logical manner, the pros say. The entire right fifth of the home page and drill-down pages is occupied by large, unlinked logos for supporters such as Countrywide Financial and Freddie Mac. Street recommends RTA list these supporters at the bottom of the page and make their logos smaller.
“I know that those organizations give money, but I think giving up that much of your home page … crowds out a lot of other important information,” he says.
Allen suggests switching placement of the logos with that of the sign-up for the organization’s e-mail list, which appears at the bottom of the page. Another disruptive element is the oversized “thank you” banner at the top of the page, the experts agree. Not only does it push more important content farther down the page, but rotating photographs in the banner and a static photo above compete for visitors’ attention.
In addition to being graphically overwhelming, the site is too text-heavy, as well. Esslinger says there’s a trend in Web design in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors to employ short, scannable text. Visitors to your site should be able to figure out within five seconds who you are and enough about what you do to decide whether they’re interested and want to learn more.
The site employs fly-out menus in the navigation, which Esslinger says can be cumbersome and is usually only necessary for sites that have an enormous amount of content, such as USAToday.com or ESPN.com. Street agrees that the feature is clunky and out of sync with the main navigation. The typography on the main menu buttons is thick, while the fly-out typography is small and plain. The fly-out menus also don’t align next to the menu buttons in a uniform way. Consistency is important to maintain a professional look on your site, he says.
Including prominent “volunteering” and “donate” buttons above the fold on the home page and each drill down page is excellent, but it takes three clicks to get to the donation page. And when visitors click on the “volunteering” button, they are taken to an intermediate page that includes another link to the downloadable volunteer form but no information about volunteering. Esslinger says if a visitor is interested in volunteering or donating, he should be taken directly to a page that allows him to immediately take action in one click.