Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bad Web Design: Academic Sites

Poorly designed web sites* are making it hard for me to get work done this morning.

My school's main page has options for students, applicants, faculty, alumni, etc. to click on. Nothing I'm looking for is ever filed under faculty. I want to schedule my first test after the end of easy-add-drop; this date is hidden deep in the students' section. Web pages should not be designed based on a taxonomic model (like zoological nomenclature). I should not need prior knowledge of where an office is located in the intitution's organizational chart in order to find its web page. Web sites should be designed so that the most frequently needed data are available with the fewest clicks (a la Huffman codes). Special message to sitemasters: If I have to use the search box every time I visit your site, then there is a problem with how it is organized.

I'm reading a very well-written and informative paper; I was hoping to find the author's web page to see if he's written anything else I might want to read. So I went to his department's web page and clicked on "people." I was then given a choice of whether I wanted a list of professors emeritus, full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, visiting professors, visiting research professors, adjunct professors, PhD students, or masters students (OK, I exaggerate). What about a nice alphabetical list?

*If someone had told the 16-year-old me about Human Factors Engineering and/or similar fields, my life may have turned out very differently.