As a reporter, I spend a large portion of my days looking up information online — background information, names, addresses, etc. You name it, I’ve probably looked it up. That said, I am constantly amazed by the lack of consideration a lot of companies, organizations and institutions have for Web design. It’s critical for attracting and keeping customers, but the vast majority of small businesses and non-profits have outdated, poorly designed Web sites that contain inaccurate information.
For example, I looked up the Web site for WVU’s Sierra Student Coalition the other day to ask a few questions about eco-friendly transportation initiatives. Good idea, right? WRONG. The site hasn’t been updated since 2006! What if someone who was new to Morgantown and WVU wanted to get involved? I realize they advertise upcoming meetings and host other activities on campus, but an organization’s Web site is its link to the world. It’s critical to keep it up-to-date.
Before it launched a new, overhauled site a few months ago, the San Lucas Mission — which I visited and worked with during my recent trip to Guatemala — had used the same elementary Web site since 2004. The design was terrible, the photos were terrible and the information failed to capture the wondrous work of the mission. The new site is modern, sleek and innovative. Even more important, it contains a wealth of accurate information that will likely entice new volunteers to pitch in to help out the people of Guatemala.
Another important component of Web design is ease of use and access to information. When I do manage to find up-to-date Web sites, it’s often difficult to find the information I’m looking for. I’ve noticed that this a particularly common problem with content-heavy government Web sites. You can have the most creatively-designed, data-rich Web site in the world, but if people can’t find the information they need, it’s useless. An example? The search engine on WVU’s main page. WVU’s Web site contains a wealth of information dating back to the 1990s, but the search tool is TERRIBLE. There’s no easy way to sift through the results, they’re poorly organized and you can’t sort through them by date. I usually end up using Google to access information at WVU’s Web site because it’s far more effective.
I could provide dozens of other tips and suggestions, but those are just a few of the Web issues that make my life more difficult. I’ll keep the rest to myself for now.