‘Useability Is About Reducing Friction’; the Best Websites Engage, Inform and Make Life Easy

It’s not breaking news, but websites still matter—how they look, how they deliver content and ideas, how they ease our journey and direct us to where we want to go—on desktop and phone. Think user experience, Mario Garcia, the esteemed Columbia professor and author, said at a previous BIMS. That’s “even more important than the aesthetics.”

“Useability is about reducing friction,” Layla Masri, creative director, The Helix, Booz Allen’s Center for Innovation, once advised us. “It doesn’t mean you have to have the shortest text, it’s just that you always have to take your viewers’ needs into mind… Being persuasive takes practice. A lot of times we get in the way of ourselves. You have to understand their needs and what they want from you, and then design an experience that takes them along that continuum.”

Lexipol’s FireRescue1.com, a 2022 Neal Award winner for Best Website, offers that type of experience. It’s easy to navigate, with the headings up top—News, Products, Topics, Videos, Careers, Training, Grants, COVID-19—flanked by several subheads when you click on them. Besides a story today on Jay Leno’s recovery from second- and third-degree burns, a photo of an SUV slammed into an Apple Store killing one and injuring 16 anchors the left side—with three photos from other stories to click on. Scroll down and see videos, a poll, Lexipol Knowledge Base, Tips of the Week, Line of Duty Deaths, and Featured Jobs.

Here are five other tips and examples from member award-winning websites:

Nominations for both our Neal Awards and EXCEL Awards are now open. Give thanks to the people you collaborated with and enter your best work of 2022 today!

Seek audience-focused video. The Society of Actuaries, which won a Gold EXCEL Award for the Best Magazine Website for their Actuary Magazine, features a section of Member Videos on their site. It’s impressive to watch Nikita Sabade talk about the great work of her colleagues, or Rolande Mbatchou (pictured) speak about her journey from Cameroon to Paris to Chicago and the diversity she now sees in the field. What’s neat about these videos is that you click on the small box and it automatically plays it in the larger box.

Convey important research. Haymarket Media’s PRWeek website was another Neal Award winner this year for Best Website. This headline figures prominently on the site: “Communications Bellwether Survey 2022: PR in Pole Position – The fifth collaboration between PRWeek and Boston University portrays an industry that has the ear of the C-suite but faces new expectations to deliver value.” Of course, much of this site, including that survey, sits behind a paywall. But it’s excellent to promote your own polls or research.

Engage quickly. Today’s lead headline on the IEEE Spectrum site—the third 2022 Neal Award winner for Best Website—blares, “Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning? Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say.” Whew! They had me at Brain Scanning. I also like how they tell how long a read each article will be. Further down, there are headlines for their wonderfully titled Fixing the Future podcast and Video Fridays.

Eliminate the pain points. “What are the pain points that we can alleviate in [website] design?” asked Yumi Belanga, senior director, digital programs, office of the CIO, Military Officers Association (MOAA), in an online session. “It did take time to get the approval to get a new website. We had focus groups and a wide variety of perspectives. But I’m so glad MOAA did it. We started to understand our members more and how important data is in making these decisions… We also learned a lot more about what everyone’s individual goal was. Sometimes we don’t listen. Listening and not just hearing gets to true collaboration. Step outside yourself to put yourself in [your audience’s] shoes.”

Amplify lesser-known stories and stay current. For Best Microsite in our EXCEL Awards, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) won a Silver for Rising Up, focusing on women scientists—“Trailblazing scientists tell their stories.” It leads with an inspiring tic-tac-toe scientist board and then moves to engaging intros. This week, the American Chemical Society’s Molecule of the Week quiz, prominent on their homepage, offers the clue, “I hold your Thanksgiving gravy together.” The answer? Amylopectin. (It’s found in starch.)

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