Intuitive Design, but at what cost

Trying to explore usability testing my friend and I reviewed the Trade and Medicine website of the Council on Foreign Relations. First I was drawn to the various options displayed on the top of the screen. There were options to share via social media and to bookmark the page, which is nice. There were a couple links, one opened up in a new tab and the other didn’t seem to lead anywhere.

The first think you see when opening the website

I scrolled down the page and was pleasantly surprised by how text, charts, pictures, and slideshows were all integrated on the page. Some of the added media had an interactive element. The slideshow, at the top of the page, allowed the user to click through pictures. More impressively, there was a graph where the user could change what data was compared. This is a great addition because it allowed me to learn as well as be entertained.

Navigation was lacking on this website, but it was intuitive. The few navigation options were at the very top of the page and had large buttons. Only one of those links seemed to function properly, with no real way to “search.” The primary method of navigation was scrolling and the website was long. Again, this website is strong in its use of nonlinearity with a new hyperlink every few sentences. It was great to see all of these links opening up in a new tab. At the bottom of the website there is one link and it provides all of the necessary information on website contacts.

The website followed all of the navigation and design tips, unfortunately except for all of the scrolling. It was easy to navigate, simple, and it kept my attention.

Next, I brought my friend Troy to explore the website. He commented on how the website was pretty bland and that the scrolling was fairly annoying. He also spent awhile playing with the interactive graphs and thought they helped a lot.

His navigation pattern was the same as mine; top-left to the right, clicking all of the links and then scrolling down. As soon as he was at the bottom Troy found the contact link straight away. Troy thought that website had a really intuitive design, so much that the website appeared bland. He thought it was strange the website really didn’t link to other information sources.

Both Troy and I had some problems with navigation, with the scrolling and related links. I found the website to be more functional than Troy did. I thought the bland layout was made up with pictures and graphs.

The website should keep the simplistic layout, with the necessary information in easy access. Obviously, they shouldn’t change the hyperlinks or nonlinearity aspect of the page. It adds most of the backing behind the page. They shouldn’t change the initial view of the website, when you start up the page it gives the top navigation, the title, and the slideshow.

I agree with Troy that the website should provide some additional information and related links after the article. It would give the page more context and wouldn’t feel like a dead end. The scrolling issue also needs to be dealt with. This could be done simply by making everything smaller; it all seems unnecessarily large for the amount of scrolling there is. Finally, I think there needs to be a search feature or a way to link back to the Trade and Medicine page without going through multiple links. This will make it possible to link outside of page, most of the links just link to internal arguments of the page.

Overall, this website design it actually quite impressive despite the few complaints I have. It was difficult to find problems with the website because it follows most of the navigation and design tips to the letter.

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