Thursday, February 25, 2010

Website Usability Review: Council for Relationships

As part of an ongoing series, every few weeks I will be reviewing various psychology and psychiatry websites with an eye towards user centered design and usability. Hopefully you'll be able to get some ideas on what to do and what to avoid when it comes to your own website.

This week: Council for Relationships

I have to say: I really like this site, when looking through the lens of usability. Here are some of the things they get really right.

Clear, consistent navigation: always in the same place on every page. Common links, including a contact method. Demographic based navigation: "for clients" "for professionals" gives visitors clues to where they should be clicking.

Updated content in common places: the Tip of the Week, In the Spotlight, and Upcoming Classes are all content that is easily updated and encourages repeat visitors to the homepage, but gives links to more information

Calls to action clearly marked: They want most visitors to do one (or more) of 3 things: sign up for newsletter, donate money, or make an appointment. Each one is clearly marked (the donate repeats), and easy to find. They stand out and draw the eye.

From a purely usability view, I'd only suggest two changes and they are pretty minor.

The first is the logo for "OPERATION Home & Healing". I understand the purpose of the words "OPERATION" are to enforce and remind of military and service. I also understand that the contrast in font from "OPERATION" and "Home & Healing" is meant to be there. However, the execution of the text makes the Home & Healing hard to read at first glance. The bisecting lines of the OPERATION text make visual disruption and effort on the part of the user to read. By moving the "Home & Healing" down just a little, less than 1/2 the height of the text, so that the full "Home & Healing" is below the "OPERATION" would make the whole logo much more legible.

The second is the menu link "Media Experts & Speakers". This title is not indicative of the content that is listed there. I expected the content to be a library or directory of experts with bios. Instead, it is a calendar of events. Even as I tried to write this paragraph, I kept reading it as "Media EVENTS". Users who are looking for events to attend wouldn't necessarily think to click on this menu. Instead, "Upcoming Events" or just "Public Events" would be much more clear and get the users to the content they want.

As I said, pretty minor items. From a purely "usable" focus, this is a very good site.

However, from a "user experience" or a "design" focus, this site is not very good. It looks much more like a print/newsletter item rather than a website. The initial reaction is not positive, as it feels crowded, "text-heavy", and jumbled. There are 5 different color blues* on the page, not necessarily complimentary. The stark contrast between the blue & the gold makes the gold the first place your eye looks, and makes the top navigation tend to disappear.

I don't claim to have any expertise in pure design. I always say: I design experiences and interactions, I don't do fonts, colors, or logos. I don't have any clear suggestions on how to improve, other than "it needs some work."

Ultimately, any website carries on a conversation with its user. It sends a message to the user. What message is the Council for Relationships sending to their visitors?

But heck, these are just my opinions. What do you think?

* Dark blue in top navigation, medium/dark blue in the logo banner, medium/light blue in the newsletter signup, light blue in the Upcoming Classes and Spotlight, and the electric blue of the links. The blue of the borders appears to match either the logo blue or the link blue, but it could be a 6th blue.


  1. Could you please add a link to the website you reviewed? I'm very interested in website usability.

  2. The link is incorrect. It's