Quick take: On incremental web improvements

Depending on your position and past experiences, “redesign” is either one of the most exciting or feared (or both) words used for higher ed webtenders. But it’s also a lot less important than keeping your eyes open for opportunities for incremental web improvements.

A few weeks ago, we finally rolled out an incremental change (I considered an improvement) we’d been simmering behind the scenes — changing our web fonts and especially boosting the visibility of links. For comparison:

Before

Before

After

After

Two simple changes: Moving to a more web-friendly font that works better across platforms and bolding inline links to make them more obvious (previously they were just green and the contrast wasn’t what we wanted). As we explained in a message to web editors just before the switch:

You will notice over the coming days that a couple of small changes are taking place with the website. We believe these changes will improve the overall look, feel and usability of oswego.edu. The font is changing from Droid Sans to Whitney, a font specifically optimized for display on the web across many browsers. This also will give the site a more distinctive feel.

We also will make our inline links more recognizable to users by increasing their weight within our page’s main content area. This bolded look will cause links to stand out more from regular paragraph text. This addresses feedback and requests to make links within pages stand out more and is part of our continuous program to make the site more friendly for all of our users.

The increased clarity of links is, imho, the bigger item because it incorporated user feedback and contributed to the navigability — in addition to readability — of our site. But taken together, any and all seemingly small steps put websites on the road to big improvements.

No, we didn’t form a committee. We didn’t call in a long list of consultants. We didn’t hold a launch party, didn’t send a press release, didn’t spend a lot of time patting ourselves on the back. We just tried some things, did some quick testing and made the improvement.

And if you’re into incremental web improvement, it’s just something you do and keep moving forward. Because there are always improvements to make. I only blog about it to encourage others to realize that there’s more to improving your sites than the enormous redesign project … every day brings an opportunity to have ideas, outline plans and make your site better.

3 Comments

Filed under Web

3 responses to “Quick take: On incremental web improvements

  1. Pingback: Educational Policy Information

  2. Good reminder!
    Incremental improvements have a lot going for them. The two best things advantages over saving everything for a big redesign/overhaul:
    1. They are easy to implement. They don’t usually require lots of planning and development.
    2. They are less disruptive to users. Even if a redesign makes things better, returning visitors can be disoriented by it. Incremental improvements make things better for users without them even noticing.

  3. Tim

    Diane: Exactly. In that they are short and (relatively) simple, incremental improvements provide a lot of small wins and can also serve as pilot/proof of concept points. And users may notice the small difference but it won’t disrupt their experience. Well said.🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s