Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege of monitoring and critiquing Emily Ritchie’s Project ‘Social Media Consulting’. This project was created with the intention of becoming her digital artifact for a project in her digital communication major. The project centers on a redesign of the Champagnat Catholic College ‘s Trade Training Centre’s website. Emily is a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies student, currently studying at the University of Wollongong, she is a visual learner and loves redesigning bland websites to create more effective and user-friendly experiences. Emily works for the Champagnant Catholic College, thus has frequent interaction with the site, the goal of her project is to make the current site more “aesthetically pleasing with a clean and easy to follow layout”. Emily is not a stranger to redesigning websites and has done so in the past, thus she felt confident in undertaking this task. Being a graphic designer and Marketing & Communication student, I feel I am the perfect candidate to critique this project, the results of which I was pleasantly surprised by.
Home Page View of Site (above the 1020 fold)
Along with the design of the website, there were several components that were involved within this project. Emily conducted primary research regarding the usability of the current website, an information audit (information needs of the user) and a SWOT analysis of competitors websites. With this insight and her personal understanding of the organization, Emily intended to increase the organizations’ brand position through designing a website that more effectively appeals to the organizations’ target audience (parents, students, staff, businesses). Additionally there was the task of familiarizing herself with the Wix (website design) platform through watching tutorial, as well as deciding on which apps to add to the site. Here Emily was able to determine that adding the newsletter, live chat, online bookings and analytics apps would allow this new website to better meet the needs of its audience.
Wix outperforms its competitors in being beginner friendly, due to its built in easy to use drag and drop content builder system. Given Emily’s lack of technical capability (HTML coding for websites) I think she made a wise decision choosing Wix over more complex content management systems such as WordPress and Weebly. From a design perspective I do believe that Emily has a good understanding of website design, as her site is visually appealing, easy to follow and the information is beautifully organised. Emily even makes use of the more complex Wix features, by animating certain icons and elements to move on the page instantly making the redesign more interactive and dynamic. My three favourite features of Emily’s website design is the use of vibrant and high quality imagery, the use of icons and a modern san serif font, these features are all industry best practises for effective web design. While the top bar following you as you scroll is considered crucial for user navigation.
Modern san serif font and Icons combats viewer fatigue
Where Emily fell short in my opinion was regarding the SEO (search engine optimisation) aspect of the web design process. This is highly understandable as it is more technical and requires knowledge in web design to be executed effectively. Emily decided to name her site “Ngalangill Ngarandhil” which is an aboriginal phrase meaning a place to sit and learn. While I do admire the sentiment and thought that went behind choosing this name, unfortunately it doesn’t add anything to the website’s search-ability and detracts from the organisation’s (Champagnat Catholic College) brand. I conducting my own SEO analysis of the site using Google Ad words, Google Analytics and a SEO manager, my results found that if Ngalangill Ngarandhil was spelt correctly it was the first result, however if spelt incorrectly even by one letter the site will not appear on the first 5 pages of the search. Which is not ideal as optimum positioning is within the first 3 searches results as click through rates drop 20% for each position after. Only 2% of users click through to the second page, let alone the 5th , this coupled with the complex name will make it almost impossible for users to find the website. Additionally by attaching the new name to the brand, you are allowing this new name to compete with the already established brand of Champagnat Catholic College, this will negatively affecting the audience recall for the brand.
Emily was through rough in her research and website development as she conducted testing before and after the website redesign. Conducting primary research on the old site’s usability, conducting SWOT analysis of competitors and through a survey conducting an information audit. Emily also followed up with design by sending out a user survey to obtain feedback regarding the design, insights gathered from this survey will be crucial in improving the website moving forward.
While I was away for her presentation, I do remember Emily being a confident presenter, and do believe that she would have echoed this presentation style from her pitch into her beta demonstration.
Moving forward I would suggest that Emily should work on the SEO side of her website, decide on either using Champagnat Catholic College or Trade Centre (Ngalangill Ngarandhil) moving forward, in order to combat the current low search-ability of the website. I do recommend Emily on her design prowess, she was able to mirror Champagnat Catholic College’s branding throughout the website and create a website that is clear and easy to navigate, which is something that is not easily achieved by beginners. Her diligent planning and research has allowed her to create a website that resonates with the branding of the organization and shows a deep understanding of the site’s user experience.