|DFA's current design||Ping's design|
The site at http://dtbeta.deanforamerica.com/ looks pretty good, but it's not quite ready for launch. Here are some problems I noted. I've suggested some solutions, but feel free to try different ones.
As I mentioned in our conversation, I strongly suggest that you delay the launch of the new interface until the users have had a week to see the announcement that you will be switching, and certainly until the interface is usable in a window 600 pixels wide.
1. Pages are too wide. You can't see the entire page unless the browser window is 800 pixels wide. In a typically sized browser window, many of the important links are obscured. For example, see: http://zesty.ca/dean04/dtbetas.png .
Possible solution: use fewer links on the navigation bar, and don't force it to a fixed width; keep content in the main part of the page in a single column (e.g. like "Write Letters", not like "My DFA"). Put the sidebar on the left, not the right.
2. Navigation links could be better organized. There are currently four levels of menus, one of which is occasionally hidden. It's not clear why there are three rows of links at the top of each page, and what each row is for. Too many links cause clutter. The "logoff" link belongs in the menu, not in the body.
Possible solution: simplify to just two menus. Don't repeat all the links from the home page, and consistently use verbs for actions. Drop the first row; just have one row for non-personalized navigation links and one box for personalized action links. The blue navigation bar would contain:
Home | Blog | Find Events | Find People | Contribute >>In a box in the sidebar would be the list of personal links that appears only when you have logged in, and always stays visible while you are logged in:
Logged in as YOUR NAME Action Center Messages Buddies Profile Plan Events Write Letters Invite Friends Send Postcards Submit Suggestions Log Out
I think the sidebar is better on the left than on the right, since choices made there affect the content that shows up in the main part of the page. Cause and effect should read from left to right.
If you want people to use the message system, users should not have to navigate twice to get to their messages (currently they would have to choose "My DFA" from the top menu and then click "My Messages" in the sidebar). So it's now a single click in the sidebar.
Then eliminate the "you are logged on as" line from the main body, since it appears in the sidebar.
3. Inconsistent use of pronouns (sometimes the user is called "you" and sometimes "I" or "me").
Possible solution: stick to "you". It naturally fits with the model of the user conversing with the website.
4. Searching for people by name should appear on the "Find People" page.
5. Grammar problems ("attended 1 events").
These two are easy to fix.
I've illustrated the layout I have in mind at
I hope you'll look at it and consider these suggestions. I think it is a lot simpler and easier to understand than the current layout.
Compare before-and-after screenshots --