The Department of Writing Studies website has some issues that need resolving in order to make it easier for visitors to use. I will outline a few of these issues in this blog post along with suggestions for change:
One of the biggest problems with the site is its distinct lack of headings for important information. The homepage includes a letter of welcome from the department chair that does include some useful information, but it is obscured by the fact that the information is not separated into headings. Separating content into different headings has a number of benefits, including:
- making information easier to find
- making the text less dense
- improving overall readability
Redish points out in chapter 12 of Letting Go of the Words that research shows link titles with 7-12 words were best in helping people find the information they wanted. While perhaps the Department of Writing Studies site does not need link lengths that are even that long, most link names are only one or two words with only one of them having five words.
Link titles like "About", "Courses", and "Undergraduate" do make quite a bit of sense given the context, but more informative titles would help. "About" could become "About the Department of Writing Studies", "Courses" could become "Courses Offered in Writing Studies", and "Undergraduate" could become "Undergraduate Programs and Information".
The only pictures on the site appear to be mood pictures. Mood pictures can be helpful in establishing a site's character and personality, but the site designers should be careful of whether or not the images they are using really convey the personality they want.
The first image on the homepage shows some students walking along the mall. What does this say about the Department of Writing Studies? It has no relation whatsoever and does nothing to give the reader confidence in the department. This might be a good place for a group picture of people in the department.
A good example of a mood picture is on the "Courses" page. This picture shows a student smiling while working on a piece of writing, which creates a positive association with the courses offered by the Department of Writing Studies.
Another mood picture is found on the "Undergraduate" page, but all we see is a hand writing in a notebook. Because we cannot see a face, the image feels impersonal and all it tells us is that an undergraduate program in writing studies will involve writing. A picture like the one on the "Courses" page would be better here, again to create a positive association with their undergraduate programs. While the site designers might be concerned about having pictures with little variation, there are times where having a consistent theme is to their advantage.