Think about your users when writing your content
Thursday, October 20, 2011 2:20:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Ignoring the aspects of design, SEO duplicate content, underlying code and tone of language, as a content editor you really should give consideration to your user and what they're looking for. I generally steer clear of critiquing -or even commenting on work that isn't our own (or when being asked by the creator) but sadly there still seems to be a real misunderstanding from clients on what makes a usable website.
We recently launched a website for local award winning pie makers - Elm Tree Foods and as a result we've spent a lot of time dealing with other local providers websites/council websites and I'm left stunned by the horrific experience they're offering their users. What riles me more about this though is the fact that most of their users are the sort that need to be helped through the process as they aren't often familiar with the internet (somewhat of an over generalising I realise).
A good example I came across today is Herefordshire's main tourism website: www.visitherefordshire.co.uk. It's well ranked for the search term of "Flavours of Herefordshire" (a good start) but it's then down hill from there. I was trying to find out where the Elm Tree Foods stall would be and when the festival was. We've seen signs locally saying it's at the Hereford Race Course (there's some debate over whether it really is) but we weren't sure that was the case for Elm Tree Foods.
You can try this yourself, see how long it takes you to find out where and when the Flavours of Herefordshire food festival is purely be using www.visitherefordshire.co.uk. Ideally you want all the information on one page.
Step 1: The Landing Page - Homepage
Message on the homepage - good start. Or is it? Take a closer look and you may find that although you've got the dates (and if you continue reading a time) there's still no indication of where the festival is:
Step 2: This week's events in Herefordshire
Clicking the only apparent link on the homepage (I didn't want details on the other events -rather the Flavours of Herefordshire event) takes you through to the listing page which has the Date, location, contact details but no time (which was on the homepage if you remember?).
So we're set? We have the location and the date/time, what more is there?
Step 3: The Flavours of Hereford event landing page (version 1)
Well, not knowing Hereford that well, I don't know where 1 King Street is so need to find that out. Logically I click through onto the event's page and I'm taken to:
Putting to one side the MASSIVE white space on the top right, again there is no mention of when this glorious event will take place. Presumably they were going to put all the clear location/date/time information in that large white space at the top of the column -but were overwhelmed with their workload forgot.
Another point with this page is that the content talks a lot in the past tense which is very confusing, was this page meant to be released after the event?
I still don't have a single page with all the information on so lets pop back to the homepage to see if that offers anything else.
Step 4: Back to the homepage
Back in the homepage for another look and it turns out the title, although not completely clear, is also a link.
Step 4: The Flavours of Hereford event landing page (version 2)
Clicking the title, I'm taken to this page:
Ok good, I've got loads of helpful information here: "Hereford Race Course for the weekend of Saturday, 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October, 2011 - 10.00am to 4.30pm each day" -exactly what I was after (even though it's hidden away in a paragraph of unnecessary fluff)!
But hang on, I thought it was at "Discover Herefordshire Centre, 1 King Street, Hereford, Herefordshire"? What's this about the Hereford Race Course? Also, the other page didn't mention anything about tickets or prices, does that mean I have to pay now? I'm now confused.
Imagine if you didn't know it wasn't at the race course (as I previously did), you'd now be going to the Hereford race course, paying £7.00 to get in and left disappointed at not getting to try Elm Tree Foods' award winning pies. Bad times. To be clear, I won't know until this weekend whether it is at the Race Course or not (or indeed what will be at 1 King Street) so if you're interested, follow me on Twitter to find out first.
"But it's complicated because we have so much content"
We've all heard it from larger organisations when getting them onto the web. It's not hard to confuse the user -and it's also not difficult to help guide the user either; regardless of how much content you have, you just need to give consideration to the user's journey and what the important messages are at each step.
Although it is still having work done to it, here for comparison is the Elm Tree Foods homepage and event details page. Even when resized, the important information is largely available:
But good design costs too much
I don't know how much www.visitherefordshire.co.uk cost to design and develop however, one thing I'm almost certain of is that the user could have been offered a much better user experience than they are currently receiving.
If after reading this you're concerned about your user's experience, contact The Site Doctor for a website check up.