Every week we take a look at a new website and analyze the design. We’ll point out both the areas that are done well in addition to those that could use some work. Finally, we’ll finish by asking you to provide your own feedback.
Today’s site is Utmost.org.
If you’d like to submit your website to be featured in a future Design Critique, it just takes a few minutes. We charge $24 for critiquing your design – considerably less than you’d pay for a consultant to take a look at your site! You can find out more here.
“Discover the wisdom of Oswald Chambers, a man who challenges you to give yourself fully to God. The powerful content of this visionary work speaks straight to the heart, helping you hear what God wants to say to you each day of the year. Shedding fresh light on the Scriptures, Chambers explores the depths of our humanity and our profound need for a God-focused life.”
Here is a section of the homepage:
This site is a blog based on a book called “My Utmost for His Highest.” It’s unclear to me whether the daily posts are simply chunks of the book (Oswald Chambers died in 1917), but it seems like the site’s purpose is largely to promote book sales.
This is important because, to analyze the design properly, we must know the goal of the design. Remember, aesthetics are pretty, design is functional.
We can see then at a glance that from a design point of view, the site seems to be working well. The post of the day is clearly the point of focus on the page, which is convenient for anyone stopping by to see this daily. The aesthetics are simple but not unattractive, the layout is for the most part, clean and uncluttered.
When I look at the header the purpose of the site is clear. My eyes follow the spots of color across the page and I read the title of the site followed by “Daily Devotionals By Oswald Chambers.”
Overall, the site does fairly well on the surface. There are however, some functional issues that I take issue with. We’ll see these below as we examine the site further.
The post structure is quite attractive. I like the little date stamp, the title is clear and the passage that the post is based on is clearly indicated at the top. The font size is nice and large and the line spacing isn’t too squished.
There’s even a little link that makes everything extra on the page float away while the text size increases.
Considering the target audience for this site is likely progressed in years, the option to make the text bigger and easier to read is an excellent one. In fact, I would make this link into a more prominent button so that visitors can clearly spot it.
I get that this is a post meant to give users a small, daily tidbit to read, but I still think that it should be much easier to access previous posts. Simple “previous” and “next” links at the bottom and/or top of each post would likely increase the time each visitor spends on your site as they browse previous entries.
Currently, to see older posts you have to scroll to the bottom of the site and use the archives menu or calendar feature. This is fine, but is disconnected from the content and should be a secondary way to navigate, not the primary way.
The principal of proximity is a major function of good design. Put simply, it states that you should visually group things that are related. This essentially means that when it seems like two things go together, you should put them together! This rule seems so obvious as to be comical, but is often ignored. For instance, the controls for browsing through posts should be closer to the posts themselves.
The biggest issue with this page is the functionality of the navigation menu. I call it a navigation menu because it is disguised as this familiar item: it is a dropdown menu of links at the top of the page. Every single user on the web today will expect this to be the controls for navigating the different pages on the website. However, what they get instead is a collection of outgoing links to different sites; and they don’t learn this until they click on them.
Even if the purpose of this site is to funnel traffic to other sites, you should never trick your users into this action. Putting only outgoing links in your navigation simply feels like an underhanded tactic. These should be moved elsewhere and presented in a fashion that clearly indicates that they lead to different sites.
Sending users to different sites is not inherently a bad practice. We all do it! In fact, that’s how many websites, like the one you’re currently reading, make money. However, it’s important that the users know the difference between a link that leads to another place on your site and one that will rabbit trail to somewhere else. If you’re not ashamed of the fact that the link leads elsewhere, then there’s simply no reason to hide it. If you are ashamed of it, then you need to reevaluate your tactics and purpose.
The Tag Cloud
The last feature that I think could be improved is the tag cloud. Tag clouds are neat little widgets. They’re cool and edgy with a 3D spinning effect that feels like you’re using some crazy technology of the future.
The problem is, everything about this description goes directly against literally everything else on the site. In fact, as we already stated, it’s a good bet that the audience here is an older crowd. This audience won’t go near that tag cloud and if they do, they likely won’t ever want to again.
This feature is high on eye candy and super low on usability. There are places where such things might be appropriate but this simply isn’t one of them. Instead of a cloud, consider creating a simple list of tags. Even the word “tag” is modern slang so you might want to use “topics” instead.
Now that you’ve read my comments, pitch in and help out by giving the designer some further advice. Let us know what you think is great about the design and what you think could be stronger. As always, we ask that you also be respectful of the site’s designer and offer clear constructive advice void of any harsh insults.