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New redesigned site (2009) for the University of Ca, Irvine http://www.uci.edu
Meant to be used by students (current and future), parents, staff and faculty as well as visitors, press…and anyone else with business at the University. I personally fall into the “staff” category and so will mostly speak to that aspect, but I see issues that might be evident for students and faculty as well.

Basically I really dislike this site, (I have to use it everyday) and until this week of class I had no idea why. I also lacked the caring to spend a lot of time trying to decide why I disliked it so much…Now, I have a reason.

I am a user and can do a quick usability study and figure out just why- if it is because of guideline breaking or if it is just me? As it turns out there are many of the same problems pointed out in the Luminary Lecture going on here. Knowing that nothing is perfect and never will be, nor can everyone be pleased and happy…It is pretty clear (at least in my opinion) that they (the designers hired to create the site) did not do a lot of testing with users…or that “users” they chose were not from all categories of potential users …
First the
Good:
It is pretty clear that this is the page for the UC in Irvine. That it is a University website and options for each of the potential users are clearly labeled with navigation.
So the purpose and audience is well stated right away.

Default color is pleasant (and school color colors, so there is not much choice). Blue is a universally accepted color according to our readings. But if a school chooses to use school colors that do not work or are offensive in some way with other cultures for their web pages, could they be limiting potential students? Would these persons not choose a school based on the school colors? What should a University do if they know that their colors are potentially offensive to students, but they want international applicants? So they put different colors on the school site? Or just hope for the best? This would make a fine research topic for further study…

Contrast seems to work in the default theme. This site offers the option to change the color scheme from white/golden yellow text on the deep blue background to sort of grey and yellow on white. There is a weird background thing happening with a division of color lines (I am not sure how to describe it) try it and see…I have no idea why this is offered.

Navigation consistent throughout (most) information pages. For the most part the navigation remains consistent and works pretty well.
Large topics covered on homepage with minimal text. Descriptions of links are well defined and well explained. Home page appear neat, tidy and organized.

Search box tends to work pretty well. I use it every day for my real work, in fact I usually choose to locate what I need that way instead of trying to navigate the site. Which is a problem I guess. He search offers the option to use quick links (default) full search or people. The quicklink default is almost useless and never gives the results I need or expect. One has to know the exact wording of the quicklink to find the answer (and the list is long, but cryptic). Full search works more like google. The directory is the greatest, people (literally anyone at UCI) can be found by name (full or partial) , telephone extension, email address, ID name or number and mailing code. One of the best people searches I have used.

Fairly good descriptions of where links will take you and the rollover information is generally good.

And the
Bad:

Too much navigation. 3 different navigation places, left side (these are hidden until a roll-over..so bad and irritating) Top center for different user groups and the right side or larger catagories (news, events, chancellors office…)

Far too much space devoted to photos. Personally (for me). Large pictures that are almost never interesting, they are clickable to get more of the story, and are well texted with a rollover. But the entire top of the page is dominated by images. And most are not the best photos, not intriguing, or thoughtful….seem to be simply chosen and tossed up there…

Too much unused space at the right and left margins. Self explanatory…only the middle of the screen is used there is more blank space then used…it just looks weird.

Does not re size with browsers’ size…and when at full size still have to scroll to see al information and what is there at the bottom is not really important…but you do not know that until you look. Page could be widened to accommodate all info on the screen at once.

Several “old” pages remain and lose the consistency. Not all pages on the site were redesigned. Expect that pages for complexly different schools and departments not the same, but several of those with direct involvement to the homepage and main school information are very old and look out of place. http://www.chancellor.uci.edu/

Each “School’s” page is different and navigation is wildly different (school of Arts, http://www.arts.uci.edu/ back to uci.edu home opens in new window…back button does not deposit you to the place you left..aarrrrggghhh…

Way back to home page is not clear (it can be found) and takes some “thinking” to do it (chapter 5 clickable logo). As mentioned in the usability guidelines in chapt. 5 Do not use a logo as only some users will figure it out as the way back to the homepage…this is exactly the case. There is no link marked “home”.

Links not underlined or made a different color. I noticed this the first day I used the new site. The page for “visitors” (center navigation) http://www.uci.edu/visitors.php leads you here. Under the heading “maps, directions and parking” can you click here? Are there links to maps…you have to mouse roll to find the links..so irritating. Or you can go to the left nav and choose (with rollover- click will not work) to “resources” —>maps and there will be links (again not underlined or otherwise called out) to .pdf files with maps. No viewed link indicator to determine which you have already used…

Stupid to have a “theme” change button…plus when used the contrast on pages is terrible. I am still not sure why this is here, seems like a waste of code, time and brain power.

There you have it. My quick evaluation of why I dislike this site so much form a usability and personal point of view. I am sure there are many more good things and some more unpleasantness here.