Taking The Lead In Website Usability

Regular readers know that websites are a big topic here at Adaptistration. The annual orchestra website reviews consume several weeks of time each year and add to that the plethora of new media and web/tech related articles and it becomes clear that issues related to technology and the arts are of considerable interest. Consequently, it was gratifying to see many of the best practices espoused here validated in a recent article from Smashing Magazine that examined results from a usability review of charity websites…

Although the article doesn’t examine any nonprofit performing arts groups in particular, it does focus on nonprofit charitable sites, the vast majority of which have similar (if not identical) goals compared to their performing arts cousins with regard to an institutional website. The review, Usability Review of Charity Websites Taking the Lead, is a thorough examination that looks at the good, bad, and ugly of design components as they intersect with mission oriented goals.

Among the wealth of constructive material, two particular gems caught my attention:

  1. Too much of a good thing. Excess use of Flash elements can seriously degrade performance and therefore usability. There’s no doubt that Flash elements are a fantastic tool, but it is becoming increasingly easy to get caught up in building a site mostly, if not entirely, using Flash. A more attractive option here is to rely on emerging CSS3 standards, which serves as an ideal segue into the next point…
  2. It has never been easier to do more with less. Clean, organized designs complemented by quality images and good use of CSS produce results that give you not just more bang for the buck, but a better overall ka-boom. This approach makes it much easier when paring down or building up design elements per interior page and provides more flexibility when designing call to action components or focusing on content. In short, selecting a flexible framework over something with more sparkle (i.e. excessive Flash usage) will let your website improve revenue performance and outreach efforts.

As I find myself at the apex a major website platform development project, articles like this reassure my entire development team that we’re on the right track and let us look back on our design meetings and pull out conclusions that align with the best practices and recommendations from the article. Fortunately, you don’t have to speak geek to get something from Smashing Magazine’s review, so head on over and give it the attention it deserves. You’ll be glad you did.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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