Monday, August 8, 2011

Dream Catchers Final Presentation

We have had a very productive semester working with Dream Catchers for Abused Children. I am glad to see they have taken some steps in the right direction in improving their overall website usability. Below is our final presentation and recommendations for site changes. Good luck Dream Catchers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dream Catchers Site-Wide Implementation of IS 479 Suggestions

Dream Catcher’s has implemented some of our group's suggestions on site usability. I congratulate them on taking the first steps toward making the site have a greater impact on visitors. One of the initial elements we pointed out was the header that ran across the top of their site. In traditional site design, headers and navigation that run across the top of a web page are typically consistent across all pages. Dream Catchers uses Wordpress to construct their site so it is fairly easy to apply these conventions across all pages.

The issue with the site was that there were many images and logos below the navigation and header on every page. On its face this is fine except that it pushes all other content below the page fold or the point at which a visitor to the site would have to scroll in order to view other content. In the world of search marketing, we want users to be able to find relevant information they are looking for right away without having to think too much about it. This is especially true for landing pages that visitors arrive at after clicking on an advertisement. If they cannot see text, images or other content related to their search query, they can become confused or simply think that the page they have arrived at will not fulfill their needs. Just as easily as they arrived, they will leave.

By removing these images at the top of the Dream Catchers pages, the publishers of the site made more content show up before the fold which will increase the likelihood that visitors will stay on the site to look for the information they came for. See the screen shot comparisons below.

This is a page before the pictures/logos were removed
Notice the small "donation" word in the bottom left hand corner. This was a landing page for the donations campaign that we started in adwords. Users would likely miss that small header that isn't prominent on the page. There is the Paypal donate button front and center however there is no information that would help visitors see how their money will be used or why they should donate.


This is a page with pictures/logos removed


Here is a screen shot of the new donations page (previous one pictured first)


They have removed the pictures below the main navigation header, added an image with the word donate, and added links to information that potential donors would be interested in such as where their money is going and what the organization is all about.

These changes may seem insignificant but they are a huge step in the right direction in terms of usability for visitors to the site. People who work with their websites everyday know where everything is and how everything works but those who are first time visitors know nothing about the site and need things to be simple and easy to find. This is especially true when you want them to perform some action such as making a donation or viewing information you have posted.

Great Job DreamCatchers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Likes, +1's and SEO oh my

+1’s and likes are quickly becoming the new currency in SEO for websites. In the early days of search engines, tactics like stuffing keywords in meta tags worked well to get a page ranked higher. Now search engines ignore those and other techniques. Even the current strategy of backlinking (or the amount and quality of links attached to a particular site or page) is outdated. Fundamentally it makes sense because likes, +1’s and other similar endorsements essentially provide the same type of information to a search engine, that a page has good content or is in some other way appealing.

These endorsement buttons do for a website in one click what it takes programmers all over the web a lot of time to do. The speed at which a site can become popular in this way isn’t even the best part about endorsement buttons. Google’s overall goal is to take the “tech” out of search results. Instead of an algorithm offering the most relevant search results, endorsements from your network of friends, family and colleagues do the job. The only drawback I see with this more “organic” plan is that a person would need to have at least a moderately large network of friends participating in endorsement button clicking in order to get quality search results. I can’t see how this will ultimately replace current SEO techniques but it definitely will become a major factor in how sites are ranked in search results.

This article on LinkedIn talks more about the +1 button and Google Plus in general

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