Website effectiveness (part 2) – using stats and analytical tools

This is the second part of a three-part series looking at approaches to judging website effectiveness, based upon my approaches and prep notes for a meeting I had with a colleague on this matter. See introduction post.

Website effectiveness (part 1) – defining success of a website

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague recently about how we judge the effectiveness of a website. I thought I’d share my pre-meeting notes here and the approaches and considerations I have to judging the effectiveness of non-ecommerce sites.

Website effectiveness (part 3) – users, social networks and tracking

This is the final of three posts on the subject of how I go about judging website effectiveness. I decided to write these posts after preparing for a meeting with a colleague on these matters and thought how it might be useful to post such ideas (see introduction). In these posts I’ve established how I look at effectiveness in two ways: content and navigation.

Usability fail: timesplus.co.uk – the new Times Premium Content site

A few months back, you may remember the heads-up that Murdoch was going to make parts of the Times newspaper website pay-per-click. Essentially, requiring paid-for subscription to access news material (exclusives, popular, etc.). We will refer to this content as ‘premium content’.

Website design analysis case study: The York Dancesport site refresh

This post is supported by a video overview of the site and the changes from the previous design:

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I outline here the approach I have taken in a quick refresh of the University of York Dancesport website, at yorkdancesport.com.

Key points

  • Website logo and title in the top left. This is now a convention which most web users will expect.
  • Photo featuring as part of the design, top right of the site, to avoid the site being too text heavy or blocky.
  • The nav bar now is restricted in the number of links and the links are only one/two words long, to aid in clear and quick navigation. Previous navigation menu on the left removed as it was too detailed to feature on every page, and hence more difficult to use. One example is the photos section, which used to link every album on every page on the site. Now the photo albums are only linked from photo-related pages.
  • Lessons block, detailing time and style of lesson, moved to top of the left column as this is the information most commonly wanted by users of the site. Following from Jakob Neilsen’s eyetracking studies, the f-shape pattern shows that the top left of the page is the most commonly seen by users. So, providing what users want where they first look makes their use of the website more efficient.
  • The Twitter feed has been promoted above the fold, to feature on the first page of the site (without scrolling. This reflects the importance of the short, regularly updated postings.
  • Links down the bottom left are rarely used, however need to be present on the homepage. These links will only really be used upon explicit direction from the committee in a lesson, so they can tell their members directly where to click. These links are used perhaps no more than once a year.
  • Middle part of the homepage: the ‘What is Dancesport’ squished and some text removed, but it’s still essential. Room made for a visual, square banner associated with recent achievements, or upcoming compeitions and events.
  • The blog posts which form the rest of the homepage content, reduced to two items to avoid content lingering on the homepage if the site doesn’t get updated. E.g. over summer/holidays.
  • Large footer used, however not with the usual bombardment of links, but the ‘About us’ text which is also helping boost the Google rankings with the useful, contextualised keywords. The video is now no longer recent, so that’s relegated to the bottom of the page. Traditional email and postal details present on the homepage. This is especially important on a .com domain to show local relevance, especially as there is a Canadian York University as well as a UK University of York.
  • Facebook and Twitter links embedded throughout the site, to reflect the audience of the site using mutliple platforms for their web information browsing, sharing and interaction.

Technical

The site is hosted on Drupal, which meant that the theme (look) of the site could be quickly updated, the blocks of content easily moved about and navigation structure altered using Drupal’s menu system.

Previous design

Previous yorkdancesport.com design

Unfortunately I didn’t save a proper screenshot of the old York Dancesport site, however Google Chrome captured this for the home screen. If you whip out a magnifying glass you will see the lengthy navigation menu on the left, lessons info on the right, and the majority of above-the-fold space dedicated to static content which never changes. All three major design elements are hence moved in the rejig.