Friday, April 25, 2008

Thinking...website design




I have very often heard this statement… “The Customer is Always Right”. This statement has been interpreted in different ways by different people. But I must say that this statement has always triggered me to provide the most suitable solution to the customer in the given circumstances.
I recall one such instance where we were working on designing a website for a leading humanitarian organization that is dedicated to fighting poverty and social injustice. The goal of designing this website was to offer newly-hired staff with a more streamlined and consistent on-boarding experience.
Through this blog, I want to share how the design-related challenges that we, as a team, faced and the way we came up with an appropriate solution. The final solution not only delighted the clients but also gave us repeat business.
One of the first challenges was to design and develop this website in-house without vendor support within a limited budget. Second challenge was that this organization had been supporting more than 1,000 poverty-fighting projects in 71 countries to reach more than 65 million people. Most staff members (who were also the SMEs) were very keen to share their valuable experiences with the new employees through this website. So NIIT was instructed to accommodate all these experiences, thoughts and ideas into this website.
The team got together to understand and explore how best to accommodate all essential information into the website. The points listed below provide a quick recap of the design elements we integrated into the Web site. I am sure all of us are quite familiar with most of these elements. However, they will help you evaluate how these design elements were accommodated into the end product (once you actually look at the end product shared as a link at the end).
1. Easy Navigation: This website was designed in such a way that the main links were placed at the top of the page, drop down menus were created along with “bread crumbs” to ensure smooth navigation. This way the end user would not have to click on one page in order to find a link to navigator to another page. The layout used was very similar to the New York University website.
2. Quick Downloads: We know the end users do not want to wait to get to the right information. Use of high quality graphics and rich interactive media makes the site look attractive but slows the load time of web pages. So the graphics were constructed only for those instances where they added maximum value to the website's information. This way we achieved faster loading time for the web pages.

3. Attractive Color Scheme: This is an important and underrated area in web design. Use of bright backgrounds like red, yellow and green draws much attention from the users but also distracts them from what is important on the website. The users want to feel comfortable and relaxed while going through this website. Thus, the team used warm, attractive, earth colors that complimented well with each other.

4. Page Layout: Layout of web pages was consistent ensuring navigation took place from the same location. All important information was prioritized and located in different headings and sub headings in a manner that was easy to find. These pages had a common theme throughout the site.
5. Avoid Sideways Scrolling: We know that websites with horizontal scrolling is not user friendly. It is very likely that the users will not scroll and may miss valuable information. So all vital information like the important contact IDs, site addresses, information of their Country Offices, talks about the successful projects/achievements, etc were included as a separate link.
The biggest constraint was to accommodate 16 pages of content received from SMEs all over the world. We could neither disappoint the SMEs nor single out any one of them. They were all very enthusiastic to share their thoughts and ideas with the new joinees.

That is when the team’s creativity and “out of the box” thinking came to work. We introduced the Perspectives column in the Home page of all main links, included the photographs of the SMEs and wrote their ideas in form of two links- “ What I wish…” and "One tip to help you…” This was a major breakthrough. We not only delighted the SMEs by adding their photos (that gave a personal touch) but also included most of the contents provided by then. In fact NIIT team received a special appreciation in the Credit link of this website.

I have added the Perspectives column in the beginning of this post to help you visualize its layout and functionality. Please feel free to access the link below to visit the website:

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