Monday, September 08, 2008

Getting the basics right - US presidential hopefuls fail website navigation

Forrester Research has released a report critiquing the navigation of the websites of John McCain and Barack Obama, claiming that both fail basic navigation tests by potential voters.

Nextgov reported in the article, Web sites of both presidential candidates fail to connect with users, that,
Forrester used five criteria in its evaluation: clear labels and menus; legible text; easy-to-read format; priority of content on the homepage; and accessible privacy and security policies. McCain's site passed two of those benchmarks: clear and unique category names and legible text. Obama's site succeeded in one area: straightforward layout making it easy to scan content on the homepage.

Neither site gave priority to the most important information on the homepage, or posted clear privacy and security policies, Forrester concluded.
This came on the back of another report by Catalyst, which tested seven criteria. The Nextgov article quotes that,
Catalyst asked individuals to perform seven tasks while evaluating each campaign site, including donating money, reading the candidates' biographies and finding their positions on specific policy issues. Obama's site stood out for its design and navigation, but users were confused about certain labels on the homepage, such as "Learn," which contained links to information about the Illinois senator's background and policy positions.

What were the lessons for all government sites?
  • A modern professional look is critical for drawing in users and making them want to use the site.
  • Effective prioritisation of information (most important at top) and clear, simple navigation are important for the success of a website, but if the look isn't right users won't stay long enough to use it.
  • Focus on the most important information and reduce the clutter, direct users to the most useful information, activities and tools for them.

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