This week saw the launch of cyberstreetwise.com, which is a UK Government website intended to educate people and small businesses how to be more secure online.
First impressions do not give it the best start, alas. It is a Government-branded site that says it’s from the Home Office, but it doesn’t have .gov.uk on the end of it. Rather than pages, you’re presented with a set of “shops” on a cartoon “street”. This is not only an incongruous metaphor, but it makes it look like a site aimed at children rather than adults and business owners:
There’s also lot of “click here”s and “watch this” type-labels on features to make clear what is they do, which is an indicator that the UX is unintuitive.
And despite all the clicking required to navigate, a lot of the content of the site is just links to other sites:
But I’m not enough of a designer, or a UX expert, or an editor, to make a qualified critique of these design decisions. Instead I’m going to look at the design of the site’s architecture under the hood.
- The processing involved slows down the browser rendering, especially as it’s using jQuery and not native methods. Older or lower-powered devices will have trouble with this — there’s a noticeable lag in loading sections on my iPad, which is only a year or so old.
It’s an even more odd design decision to make once you realise the site is built with Drupal, which is out-of-the-box capable of providing multiple pages of HTML in the usual way.
You can argue IE6 and 7 are not used much these days, and you shouldn’t be designing for them, and I would agree for most websites the experience need only be adequate. But this does not mean to block them entirely, and this is especially true for a site that is designed to educate inexperienced users about online security. In this case, the people who most need your advice are people who use the oldest and least secure browsers.
It cannot be emphasised enough how counterproductive shutting out these users is.
None of that is covered in the blog post from the agency that built it. Instead the focus there is on the artwork and look & feel (which is conflated with user experience throughout). It’s telling that barely a line is written about the architecture and code underneath. It’s web design where everything went into the “design” bit and nothing went into the “web”. We’ll be needing FOI requests to find out how those decisions were made.
It’s still amazing that a site like this made the light of day in 2014. So let’s make a resolution — it’s still January, after all, and though it may be getting a little late in the month, better late than never. One thing we as developers should all take up is to stop making sites like this, and to stop thinking design is just about how something looks.
(Thanks btw go to @adrianshort @JoeTheDough @simonwheatley & @technicalfault for conversations on Twitter yesterday which helped me some way to assembling these thoughts)