Website Survival Report
This is a 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.
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
for explanation |Comments
in top left, linked to home
||Most pages are, but
the various function login pages do not appear to be linked.
||Yes, but there appears
to be two: 1) "Focus on Your Business Objectives and
Leave the Technology to V-SPAN" and 2) "Virtual
something like "The world's leading provider of enterprise
video, audio, and Web conferencing, bringing together employees,
customers, and business partners." Possibly put it
inside the top of the gray oval, centered. (It's not a slogan...
it's for people who have no idea what you do.)
pages are distinguished by link color-coding
instance, after reading each Bio on the V-SPAN Management
page, one can't determine which ones have been visited.
(The internal HTML style for visited links has been customized,
preventing the "visited" color-coding.)
are easy to find
map and Contact Us seem like the only utilities. Perhaps
"Fast Facts" might be considered another utility
since there are so few.
on all pages, with box and button
||At first I thought
that this omission was of minor significance. Then, as I
navigated more pages, I saw that the links on the right
point to another level of detailed pages. For instance,
a casual visitor would have a hard time re-finding the "Awards"
page or the "White paper: Traditional Travel vs.Conferencing."
Are Here" indicator
||For instance, when
you are in the Streaming page, the "Conferencing"
menu header is not highlighted in any fashion (such as color-coding
or an arrow). The breadcrumbs provide roughly the equivalent
information but highlighting the section is a benefit.
gets at least one blue ribbon.
Students and Professional Developers:
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Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review
Summation & Next Steps
Bottom line: Great site that
needs a some work to be awesome, but it's mostly easy touch-up
General comments: VSPAN.com
meets the toughest of all general criteria for websites in that
it provides a true online presence, not just static content.
This is because, as a distance technology company, its site
provides interactive functionality for the company's core services.
So our valuation of the site as a whole starts with very high
marks and from there we found a handful of easy things to fix.
Most are typical issues that arise as content is added to a
site over time and 'turf battles' occur.
The biggest item of concern is whether the
site—basically the home page—should cater more to
customers or to prospects, and what to do about it. After careful
consideration, I've determined that sites in general should
initially cater to prospects since customers already know what
the site's about. Of course customer functions should only be
one click away, or perhaps right on the home page, but not steal
Notice, when looking at the home page that
the images are all very small, and since they're photographic,
their message is in intricate detail not bold shapes. Also,
since there's no Welcome statement (different than the motto
at the top), non-techies might not really understand what V-SPAN
does for them. Keep in mind that you might think that videoconferencing
is obvious to everyone, but exactly why one needs a company
to help with it is probably unclear to a lot of corporate decision
makers. Even with my 20 years in technology, I for one didn't
fully appreciate that companies need the bandwidth, production,
and logisitical capabilities provided by V-SPAN. It stands to
reason I'm not alone.
The combined effect is that the basic sales
message is not heavily enough allocated the home page. Of course
you might say that most of V-SPAN's business is sold face-to-face
but that doesn't absolve the site of serving its maximum sales
role. Specific recommendations for this and other issues follow.
- Get a graphic artist to create better linkage between the
V-SPAN logo and the slogan, "Focus on Your Business Objectives
and Leave the Technology to V-SPAN". Perhaps use italics
for the slogan, but if italics are used, consider a graphic
so that pixelating does not occur.
- Add Press kit and Press Releases to top menu. The press
is among the most frequent visitors to corporate sites and
you want to make them extremely welcome.
- Move "Site Map" and "Contact Us" to
the top right side of the page, perhaps immediately above
the menu bar. Make them plain text, not graphics. Consider
adding either "Fast Facts" or "Press Kit"
to this small group of "utility" links.
- On the dropdown menus, consider changing from images to
text, perhaps Verdana, bold which seems popular. And re-enable
the rollover display of the destination page name in the Windows
Status bar;it's being deliberately hidden.
- In the Meeting Center box, move the "I" (information)
buttons to the right of the "Go" buttons. Either
make the shape, font, and shading of the new "I"
buttons identical to the Go buttons (possibly with a different
color, perhaps blue), or make the new "I" buttons
identical to Microsoft's standard lowercase white I in a blue
circle. Another option is to widen the moved buttons and use
the word "Info."
- Consider eliminating the three photos at the top, or converting
them to drawings of the various media. Only convert them to
drawings if an artist can come up with a very stylish motif
that also conveys the message.
- Consider changing from 16 mini-images to a series of full-size
images that are bright enough and clear enough to show the
solution in action. Consider embedding text descriptions into
the images. Take a look at http://www.documentum.com
for a good allocation of space to a "feel good"
image. It cycles through several images with overlaid text.
- The item, "Leading Companies to Gather for V-SPAN User
Experience >>" needs an explicit link. The whole
phrase is currently a link but not underlined. If underlining
is not preferred, use a "More..." link instead.
- The News & Events item needs, somehow, to be bounded
by a box that is connected only to its heading.
- If the IP-Video-Connect link at the bottom of the page is
important, put it in the News section.
- To the right of "Why V-SPAN," eliminate the graphic
effect of the three gray squares. The page already has tremendous
visual style, and these are not such a strong theme that they
- In the "Why V-SPAN" section, the link to drill
down needs to be distinguished from the three blurbs above
it. Eliminate its check mark and the gray background; center
it; I'm not sure how to make it more clear that it is a link,
whereas the other three bolded text blurbs are not. I just
don't think the ">>" succeeds as a cue. Perhaps
eliminate the blue/bold-ing from the other three items.
- Consider—if security is not a concern—adding a page
or set of pages that really show off (via photos) the physical
plant of V-SPAN, from the production floor to studios and horsepower
rooms. Visiting the brick-and-mortar site really impresses upon
a visitor the wealth of logistical support that they are enlisting...
a resource they couldn't possibly duplicate for the price. The
web visitor is cheated of this tremendous sales message.
- Logo on this and other login pages is not linked back to home
- Move the "Choose a different Product >> "
to the bottom-center and eliminate the ">>".
Perhaps simply make it a Back link if the only access to this
page is from the home page. It's not clear that this is the
On all pages with secondary navigation, as a quick fix, add
a heading, "Section Contents." Perhaps there's a more
V-SPAN Page: Correct the Alt tags on right-side menu.
Demo page:Change the coloring of the field names and backgrounds
to match the Contact Us page.
Customize the Internet Explorer icon, so that when visitors
save a favorite it shows some distinction and reinforces corporate
identity. For example, notice what happens when you save a favorite
from this page. For instructions see Jessett.com.
I can make an icon for you, to play off of the "V" if
- Eliminate the blue backgrounds behind the level 1 links.
They disguise the fact that the items are links.
- Put links to all pages on this page. For instance, the whitepaper
is not on here. This is the place to be exhaustive even if
it means scrolling. People are on this page because they couldn't
find what they wanted.
- Consider changing from alpha order (which has already been
overridden) to conceptual. In other words, follow the order
of the dropdown menus as much as possible.
- Use only indentation and font size (not blue bars, not centering)
to indicate subordination of topics. For instance, outdent
"Company Info" and indent sublinks.
- Eliminate the hyphens, or if you keep them don't underline
Hope this helps and let me
know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com