It's life Jim, but not as we know it


A Tale of two Sites

Lately I've been contributing to charities using their websites to donate money directly - rather than hand money to a chap on the street. 
The experience has been interesting to say the least. As you would expect, some websites are poorly designed, unnecessarily complicated and make it very difficult to donate. One website I used was actually misleading - getting the user to set up a monthly subscription when the user thought they were going to make a one off payment (if you didn't see the check box with the small print..). 
Most website design guides focus on layout/composition, colour, texture, typography and imagery.  Modern web designs will have you focus on social aspects - such as design for sign-up, on-going participation, collective intelligence and sharing. I'm not going to dig into these topics (it's easy to look up) - but the good and the bad are exemplified in the two examples I've chosen to illustrate the experience.

I will apologise here for making an example of the bad (the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) - but in doing so I hope this will be seen as constructive criticism that will have a material effect on direct website donations. 

Remember: my objective is to donate money, quickly.

The Bad:  Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

This site is confusing. The site serves 4 purposes - informs users,  get donations, get visitors involved and providing practical support for sufferers of blood cancers. 

I'll highlight some of the main issues
  • Objective: the intentions of the site are hidden or downplayed.  The "Donate" and "Resource center" links do have a prominent place on the page - but are easy to miss and could be better promoted.
  • Readability : small font, small controls, poor contrast and branding all affect the readability of the site. The multi-toned brown background with blue text serves no purpose and detracts from the readability of the text.  The tiny navigation controls are a challenge for anyone using a mouse (never mind a finger on a tablet or phone).
  • Structure: there is no page structure and information is arranged haphazardly across the page. There are no clear regions on the page for the 4 objectives of the site. 
  • Content: the content on the site is misplaced. First the "contact and information specialist" - sits in the middle of the page - (when on most sites it would be at the bottom) - and there is no clear indication of why you need to contact a specialist. The second issue is the news feed - that mixes up genuine news with requests for users to get involved.
  • Social: Focus on sharing or communicating to others is a small icon bar at the foot of the page. 

Once you click the Donate link - you are navigated to a second page full of text and links. Unfortunately the donate page reads like a contract. 
True, there is more to giving than through an online donation - but how much do you lose by forcing the user to read through this and click again to donate? 
All that text makes the site less engaging. 

The Good :

By contrast, is a much simpler and easier to use site.

  • Objective: clearly identified with two large buttons on the top of the screen - "Donate" and "Get Involved". 
  • Readability : big font, big controls make this site easy to read and navigate around. branding is kept to a minimum and does not dominate the page or style.
  • Structure:The page cascades down giving you more information as you work down the page. The page is laid out like a tabloid - with the headline dominating the center of the page, and the lower half of the page being simply structured in 3 columns.   
  • Content: the content on the site is well structured. The 3 columns have a clear purpose - facts, news and follow on actions.
  • Social: The foot of the page is dedicated to sharing. the badge is large and difficult to miss. It boldly says "Follow Us" and asks you to engage.

When you click the "Donate" button on the page - you are taken to a page to capture your credit card details to make a donation. Simple. 
Instructions to donate by other methods are also displayed on the screen.

Design matters in everything. Whether the site is an internal intranet or a public site - take time to focus on the objectives of the site and try to incorporate the good elements of web page design. Don't try to inflict your personal or corporate style on others if that detracts from the objective of the site.

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