Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Carousel of Mystery - Information Visibility on the University of Notre Dame Home Page

Disturbing trends in information visibility and why I don't like the Flash carousel on the Notre Dame home page.

The University of Notre Dame home page was redesigned last August and was featured last month on the eduStyle Web site.

Notre Dame Home Page

A lot of people like this design, particularly the Flash "carousel" of news. Though overall I think the design is fine, the Flash carousel is exactly the thing about the page I don't like.

It's not that it's particularly badly designed, but it demonstrates a continuing and growing trend in Web development and design toward lower and lower information visibility. In some ways, this is inevitable, as more and more content and links are crammed onto pages, but my personal opinion is that whenever you hide something, you hurt yourself.

So what's my beef with the carousel?
  • How many features are there?
  • How do I navigate them?
  • Are there any that are interesting to me?
  • Is there any way to know without going through them all?
  • I'm busy, I don't have time to poke through all these to find something interesting. Why are you making me do this?
  • In fact, I'm not going to do this. I'm going to ignore it and look for the link I want.
My concern here is that I don't know what information is hidden in the carousel, and I'm not really given sufficient motivation to take the time to explore. I'm not sure that anything is served by this form of presentation. Saving space? Maybe. Enhancing the user experience? Probably not.

You could argue that it's an improvement over the random static feature used on a lot of sites, by providing a number of partially visible features, but I wonder if user testing would show to be much of an improvement.

Better, I think, to have one feature prominent, but have all the other features visible, something like the way Ohio State does it.

That way, I can see all of the features. If the most prominent one doesn't interest me, maybe one of the others will. They certainly won't if I can't see them.

The bottom line to me is: If you hide information, it might as well not exist.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

But now you're forcing me to prioritize my information and that's just not fair!