UX thoughts on a friday

Settle down, class… I know the weekend is only hours away but we still have stuff to get through…

I thought I’d just use the newly launched (or rather, beta-launched) “Den Store Danske”, the Great Danish Encyclopedia online as a case study – so let’s go ahead and take a look at this picture:

storedanske

You can see the first problem with the user experience quite well, can’t you? This does not look like an encyclopedia.
It looks like a site for something called “Villahjælpen”.

You see, the site is advertisement funded, and that top banner ad is a tricky bastard – if done right, it’ll be OK, if not it will steal the thunder from the site’s own headline. This doesn’t begin well, because the site’s own header simply is too inconspicuous, compared to that banner ad space.
(Also, one has to apply some form of do’s-and-dont’s to website ads, to avoid massive clashing, but that’s a different article)

What you can’t se in that pic up there, however, is that both the top banner and right sidebar ads are flash animated out the wazoo (go visit the site, I’ll wait), and this brings us to the next UX issue at work here:
“Den Store Danske”, being an encyclopedia, is a knowledge harvesting site – it’s a place you’re supposed to go when you’re studying and need specific information, data, facts.

An encyclopedia is a no-nonsense thing, and the design here doesn’t reflect that – all those animations are quite distracting, actually, escpecially if you’re hunkered down over something serious and just need to quickly establish some facts.

Sure, people will sometimes just sort-of browse for interesting stuff in such a place, but it should not be designed for it, any more than an actual encyclopedia (the book – you remember that, right?) should have a wee comic and some entertaining short-stories thrown in every 10 pages.

Finally, there’s the encyclopedia itself – the part where you search for, and hopefully get, information.
This is the primary function, and should take up the primary space, visually. In stead, we have here a case where the log-in entry fields at right are just as prominent at the search field, whereas the filters are just text strings, basically sitting there as if they were any kind of text.
– and those are weird, by the way, with stuff like “cars & motorcycles”, “food”, “travel” making it look like an eBay subsite menu…

Now, DSD is supposed to become a kind of official wikipedia of Danish scholarship (you can log in and submit things, which – unlike a wiki and with the intent of lending greater trustworthiness – will then be verified by a board of editors).
Therefore, it should come across as a wiki: – it should be open and inviting, and the searching should be at the very center of your first impression. Basically, a search control panel with some supporting stuff surrounding it, impression-wise.

This design is not open, in my opinion, and it doesn’t communicate very clearly that this is a search site.
I would have gone about this very differently.

A final thought: – should knowledge sites like this ever have ads?
I mean, isn’t there a risk that, on a subconcious level, the proximity of ad material (animating its way into your attention wether you want it or not) to supposedly un-biased data will compromise our trust in the latter…?

Have a good one!

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