Friday, March 12, 2010

Website Usability Review: The Renfrew Center

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

This week: The Renfrew Center (

This site is for a residential eating disorder treatment center. As such, it is targeted to women*. With such a clearly defined demographic, steps were taken in the design to appeal to this audience: all the photos are of women, they use "she" and "her" as all pronouns, and the color palette is pink & purple.

While they are doing noble work, there several usability issues with this site.

The immediate reaction on looking at this site is its words. There are a LOT of words on the home page, and they continue on subsequent pages. While the page outlining clinical informaiton on anorexia is fine to be very wordy, a home page shouldn't be. In "Don't Make Me Think", Steve Krug suggests that in writing for the web, you should write what you want, then cut out 50% of the words. Then cut out 50% of what's left. It isn't an easy process, but it is a powerful one. This home page could benefit from it.

Jared Spool, a noted usability guru, has a technique he calls a "5 second test". If you show someone a successful web page for 5 seconds, and take it away, they should be able to tell you where to click on next to find the information they want (or that you want to direct them to). The home page of the Renfrew Center would never pass a 5 second test. There is no clear path, no clear primary thing they want to provide.

I'd guess that if I am coming to this site, my first thing is to find out availability at the center or to make an appointment. On a number of sub-pages, the direction to action is to call the center. However, on the homepage, the phone number appears is part of logo and buried in the middle of the 6th paragraph. This page could benefit from a clear, large font, set off area that said something like "Appointments? Questions? Call 1-800-RENFREW" or somesuch.

There are two sets of navigation, one for content (Locations, Careers, &tc) and one for role (For Schools, For Family, For You). While this is good, the use of "For" threw me off a little. "For Schools" means "Information for Schools and Educators who have Students with Eating Disorders". I recognize that my title is a bit long, but at first glance, I wondered if "For Schools" meant "For Educators" or "Find Schools". If I was to put myself in the role of a teacher concerned about my students, I'm not sure that this would be the automatic place I would jump. A better suggestion: "Patients" "Educators/Teachers". Leave off the "For" and be specific about who the target of interest is.

On the location page, the locations are presented as a list and in a very strange order. Philadelphia and Radnor, PA are close to one another, but Coconut Creek, FL is listed in between. The list isn't alphabetical, it isn't geographic. My only guess is it is listed in the order that they were opened. Whatever the order, it isn't listed in any order that is meaningful to users. Much better: a map that shows the locations so a user can place herself and judge which center is right for her. Also of interest: I had no idea that they had so many centers. The title of the homepage says: "Renfrew Center Philadelphia Florida" Leaving out the 7 other states. I'd certainly want to promote that fact on the home page.

So, that's the feedback:
- very wordy
- no clear calls to action (particularly on the homepage)
- choppy navigation
- poor location information and promotion

But heck, that's just my 2 cents. What do you think?

* although they point out that eating disorders are increasingly prevalent in men.

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