Community Improvement Through Website Design

November 23, 2013

Kai Gilding
21 Oct. 2013
FD2
Word Count – 1174

The Kapiolani Community College webpage acts as the online location for information about the school such as its academics and services. It caters not only to current students of the college but also to those who may be looking to apply or even those still deciding. The site is meant to attract a wide array of future college bound students and even encourage those who may not have thought of college as their future path. In addition to accomplishing the above, it must still cater to the current students and help to keep them involved and encourage them to continue furthering their education. Part of this encouragement is promoting the college as a community, which the students are a part of, and instilling a sense of pride in being a part of this community. [THESIS]The site must accomplish all of this while being informative, simple and user friendly.[THESIS]

Problems

One of the first features to look at before the content of the site is the overall layout and usability. The National Education Association says that “Over time, web users come to expect certain conventions – for example, that key navigation is either at the top of the page or on the left side” (“10 Principles”). The current KCC layout has some very important navigation links on the right side of the page. If viewers were looking for any of the information in these links, they would normally scan the right side of the screen first.

KapCC webpage layout.

KapCC webpage layout.

This ties into the problem with the navigational links on the right having information cut off and not visible to the visitor. Vitaly Friedman says to “Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.” The left navigation bar looks extremely cluttered and is extremely unintuitive for the user. Some of the links end earlier than others, and sometimes there are two links on one line and other times up to three. Most importantly, nearly all of the categories have links that are cut off with ellipses to show that there are more links if the user were to click on the main category link in the first place. This makes the front page of the site very user unfriendly, and it continues on nearly every page.

Starting from the front page, the site fails to promote the feeling of community. The news links and information about upcoming events are shown in extremely small text, making them a minor part of the page when compared to the link for the Chancellor’s Newsletter. Much of the information about each event is cut off with ellipses similar to the navigational links, leaving nearly useless text under the link and forcing the user to click to learn anything about what is happening. The news section is small and squished, leaving white space around it to separate it from the other parts of the site rather than marking the divide. The links for Twitter and Facebook, which are a major part of social life today, are pushed off to the bottom of the left navigation bar.

Solutions

To combat the problem of the misplaced links around the page, the links such as the Student Topics could be moved to the left navigation bar below the other links. This would make these links available to the user from every page on the site rather than only the home page. Placing them on the bar under the already existing links would extend the bar and, as a result, the whole page, leaving more space in the center for additional information. A college student, Nicholas Kinoshita, says that he likes another university’s website: “Its[sic] easy to go through the website because all the tabs and directions are right there so its[sic] easy to find.” This is a good reason to better organize the page.

To improve the navigational bar’s usability, it could be made to match the new Student Topics links, which would be moved over to the left. The main categories could be given icons similar to those used by the student topics links, which are much less intrusive than the current rows of links. When giving an example of a website following this principle, Friedman says, “Once the icons are hovered, additional information is provided.” In order to keep the information available, the links could be provided in a pop-out menu when the categories are moused over. This way every link is available to the user since the pop-out menu would scale to the amount of available links for the category. This would also shorten the navigational bar’s length slightly, which would make more room for more links. The search box would also be moved to the top, alongside the outgoing links and be embedded in the top bar.

Next, in order to promote a sense of community, the banner could be enlarged to accommodate pictures with a scrolling action, presenting information for events on campus or about students or alumni. This would focus on current events around campus and help people see, at a glance, events that they may want to attend. The giant link for the Chancellor’s Newsletter could be moved into the sliding bar and help free up space on the middle of the page. This would also improve the balance of the page as the main section in the middle would be in line with the end of the top banner. This extra space would allow for short summaries of the announcements and news. This information would also be more accessible if it were on a page with the same layout as the suggested front page.

Conclusion

This proposed website redesign would help to make the site more usable and visually appealing, which is the first step in attracting not only visitors but new students as well. Making the navigation bar easier to use and more powerful makes every other page on the website more powerful since the bar is retained on each page. This means that more information is accessible to a wide array of users, allowing returning students to find information about classes or programs and new or prospective students to find application information. Part of retention and program completion is tied to the community, which is the goal of this proposed layout. By developing a more powerful tool to get the word out about events or news, students will become more involved and invested in the college and the KCC brand will have a sense of pride attached to it.

Works Cited

Friedman, Vitaly. “10 Principles of Effective Web Design.” Smashing Magazine. Smashing Media, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 08 Oct. 2013 [http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/31/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/].

Kinoshita, Nicholas. “University Websites.” Online posting. 3 Oct. 2013. Laulima Discussion. 10 Oct. 2013 [https://laulima.hawaii.edu/portal/tool/c9a81f66-1dcc-4c64-b48d-2a9601f26406/posts/list/664233.page].

“10 Principles of Basic Web Design.” National Education Association. NEA, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013 [http://www.nea.org/home/10-Principles-of-Basic-Web-Design.html].

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