GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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Usability, usability, usability

Once again, we have to harp on the fact that just shoveling content up on your Web site is not enough. You also have to pay attention to how that material is presented. Will the intended audience easily understand the text? Is the page layout pleasing to eye? Can the site be navigated with minimal effort?

More than mere beautification, such effort is essential in conveying the information you wish to communicate.

Case-in-point: Today's Washington Post features an article about how a student intern redid the Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov site to make it, in her view, more useful to citizens.

For her internship at the Federation of American Scientists Emily Hesaltine, a sophomore at the University of Virginia, analyzed Ready.gov, which DHS set up to instruct the public on how to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks. She found numerous weaknesses with the site. Many were factual errors and omissions, but she also pointed out more than a few deficiencies in how the material was presented. The site suffered from 'generic advice, unnecessarily lengthy descriptions, and verbatim repetition of details on multiple pages, all encapsulated within a confusing navigational structure.' (Hesaltine's own corrected site is ReallyReady.org )

We won't pile on DHS here, but if you want to learn about how to make your Web site more user-friendly, there are a number of places to turn for tips. When it comes to simplifying language, there is Plain Language Action and Information Network, a group of volunteers who work to help agencies improve their written communications. Also, check out Webcontent.gov, a collection of best practices offered by the Web Content Managers Advisory Council.

--Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Aug 10, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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