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“At Healthy Hearing, we work very hard to maintain our reputation as the leading online resource for hearing health information. Our goal is to provide high quality content that is understandable and inspirational.”
Here is a screenshot of the homepage:
My first impression of this site is fairly positive. From an aesthetic perspective, it’s quite attractive. The color scheme is calming and the imagery is friendly and approachable.
More importantly, I can clearly determine within seconds what and who the site is for. The purpose is clearly stated (Your Complete Hearing Aids Information Source) in several different ways in several places. I simply can’t miss that this is a site meant to provide help and information to the hearing impaired. This is a major goal so it’s no small success that this site accomplishes it so well.
In addition to purpose identification, I think that the site does really well in the area of navigation. By that I mean that I can very easily find what I’m looking for, and even if I’m just browsing, there are plenty of simple, helpful paths to follow. The overall site experience is well structured; another major win.
All this being said, I definitely have some small concerns and recommendations for improvement. Let’s dive into specific areas of the home page, where we’ll heavily focus on some conceptual misdirection and usability issues.
Who Is the Site For?
Before we begin diving into the areas that need improvement, we must figure out the proper vantage point for these critiques. I could critique every site based on how it suits my own needs, but ultimately, not every site is targeted towards me so this wouldn’t be very useful.
As I look over this page, this is the main graphic that grabs my attention:
When other people see smiling faces, I see a target audience, and that’s exactly what we’re look at in this carefully selected image. Here I see someone who is certainly not a young man, nor is he too far into the “elderly” category. He looks stylish, fun and active. He wants to live life to the fullest with his awesome grandkids.
Are old people the only ones who need hearing aids? Certainly not, and perhaps the children in the image cover this idea. That being said, there’s a lot about this site that suggests that it is targeted directly at an older generation, so going forth, it’ll be important to keep this in mind. Major design decisions can and should be made in light of your intended audience.
Text Size Button
Right off the bat, I see something that confirms our assumptions about the target audience. There’s a button at the top right of the screen that increases the size of the text on the page:
Now, if you consider who would need such a button, and who wouldn’t realize that most browsers can do this on any page with a simple keyboard shortcut, once again, we’re looking at older users.
I personally think this is a great feature that my grandparents would love to see on a lot of different sites (they freaked when Facebook made their text smaller). My problem with it on the homepage is that it’s nearly useless. There’s a ton of text on the home page and this button only affects one chunk of it, while completely ignoring the rest.
Admittedly, it has a much greater effect on other pages, but here on the home page I think one of two things needs to happen. Either make it work on a lot more of the text or remove it completely to prevent user frustration. In its current form, it’s probably just going to make people think that the site is broken.
Social Media Button Button Button Button
Did you catch the redundancy in my headline? Annoying, isn’t it? That’s how I feel when I look at the social media features on this page. At the top, above the search box, I find five social media buttons:
As you can see, two of these are Facebook buttons and two are Twitter. Why do you need four buttons for two social media sites? This is a clear case of the kind of social media clutter that plagues countless sites today.
As we scroll down just a little, what do we see? More social media buttons!
To all you marketing guys and SEO people, I get it, social media is good. But, just like with cake and ice cream, you can have too much of a good thing. Throttle that enthusiasm down a bit, less can be more.
On a side note, the Twitter imagery is wrong. The image above shows the old “t” logo next to the new bird logo. The latter replaced the former, and they should never be shown together. In fact, Twitter clearly states here that the “t” logo is dead and should never be used to represent Twitter.
The next area that I have some issues with is the navigation. From both an aesthetic and usability perspective, I think we could tweak a few things here.
From a visual standpoint, I initially thought that the items in the drop down menu looked like text fields, which was pretty confusing (they’re not). I’d consider styling these a little differently to prevent such confusion.
A much worse offense though comes from how small the clickable area is on each link. There’s this big box around each item, complete with a hover state that adds brightness, but those boxes aren’t clickable, only the words are.
Considering the intended audience of this site, you want to make your clickable areas as large as possible. If you provide me with a big box, complete with hover feedback, I’d better be able to click it! Again, the alternative is that your users will get the impression that you site simply doesn’t work.
As you can see, I really only pointed out a few very small things that need tweaking. On the whole, the page design meets its goals quite well. My main recommendation is to keep that target audience in mind, and comb through the site to figure out what’s going to bug them or turn them away. A lot of little annoyances can quickly add up to a poor user experience.
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.