Monthly Archives: April 2010

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

By Claire Napier

The shopping experience at my local “super” retailer often goes something likes this: I walk into the store hoping for a quick trip to pick up a roll of masking tape. After half an hour searching in “Office Supplies,” an employee finally takes me to find it in the hardware section.

When we’ve conducted web usability tests, we have seen a lot of people with experiences similar to my shopping trip. They enter a website with a specific task, then get frustrated when the information they seek is not in the expected section.

When web users get frustrated, they tend to give up. A recent report on university websites underscores the importance of easy site navigation:

  • 92% of prospective students will be disappointed or walk away if they can’t find what they’re looking for.
  • 65% said that they would be more interested in a college because of a good web experience.

In our research, we have found web users overwhelmingly prefer indexed navigation. The idea is similar to a sitemap, but instead of showing the whole site the navigation shows only the most relevant information. Indexed navigation eliminates much of the site users’ guessing by showing what kinds of things each category includes.

Image of indexed navigation.

Indexed navigation (highlighted) is organized by topic and provides users easy access to the information they seek.

When creating an indexed navigation it’s important to ask users what information is important to them, and where do they expect to find it. What kind of categories are they looking for in the main navigation? What kind of information do they expect to see under those headings? Does the wording in the navigation reflect what falls in those categories?

The answers to these questions may be surprising. External audiences often view your website differently. What seems obvious or interesting to you may not be important to someone who’s visiting your site for the first time.

When organizing a site, it’s important to show your users the big picture. The easier it is for people to find what they’re looking for, the better the website experience will be.

Examples of sites with indexed navigation

University of Minnesota

Boston University

Seeking Expertise

By Dan Woychick

During a recent conversation, a friend asked me “How do you get all your clients?” It got me thinking about the flip side of that equation: How do non-profit organizations search for and hire consultants or firms? More importantly, what can be done to ensure that they hire the right consultant?

While each organization has unique circumstances, based on our experience, taking the following approach offers the best chance for a successful collaboration.

Have a well-defined problem.
This has greater impact on the work than anything else. If the problem to be solved is unclear, the work will be too. Allowing time and budget for an experienced consultant to help refine the project brief leads to even greater clarity – and great work.

Be candid with prospective firms.
If an RFP must be issued, by all means include a budget. Providing complete responses to questions before proposals are submitted shows respect for others’ expertise and time, and indicates an interest in establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Hire the best expert you can afford.
Relevant experience and expertise matters. A consultant or firm is hired to solve a problem or seize an opportunity that the organization does not have the capability to address internally. What’s that worth? It depends how much a successful outcome will mean to the organization.

Define success.
Use objective, specific language to help both the consultant and internal team understand by what measure this project will be considered successful. All measures should be defined to allow acknowledgment of progress along the way to the ultimate goal.

Follow the leader.
Every project needs a champion with the authority to make decisions and the public, explicit backing of the organization’s leader. If you’ve watched much football, inevitably you’ve seen a close play at the goal line in which two officials run toward the ball carrier looking at each other without signaling a call. Your consultant needs to know who has the final say, and that person needs to be decisive.

When good intentions aren’t enough to address an organization’s toughest problems, it may be time to bring in someone to help. By following the steps above, the chance for a successful outcome will rise dramatically.