Children's Museum Web Site is Not Very Usable

My family recently took a trip to Phoenix to get some well-needed sun. Looking for things to do to entertain our two-year old son, I thought we might visit the Phoenix Children's Museum.

A couple of things struck me when I got to their home page (other than the fact that the site is somewhat broken in Firefox):

1. Where Are You?

If I want to visit somewhere, one of the first things I want to know is where it is and when it's open. After all, it doesn't matter how great somewhere is if it's too far away, and it doesn't matter if it is next door if it's closed.

So, which link in the navigation am I supposed to click on to find this out?

Phoenix Children's Museum navbar

Hint: try Frequently Asked Questions. Not very guessable. Maybe these questions wouldn't be asked so frequently if the information was made easier to find?

2. Are You Open?

If your facility isn't open yet, wouldn't it be a good idea to tell me in a really obvious way? Not like this (which I completely missed):

Phoenix Children's Museum footer

Even though the text is red, hiding it in the footer isn't going to make it easy for me to find it. That assumes that I will scroll all the way down the page.

The first thing I (and most users) do when I get to a home page is to work out where to click to get to the information I want; and then off I go. I only look in the footer if I can't find what I want elsewhere on the page.

Fortunately, they do a much better job on their internal pages:

Phoenix Children's Museum - opening in 2007

That's much more like it. In addition, although they use the dreaded 'click here' for some of their links, they do provide a list of local attractions that you can visit today, which was very helpful seeing as the museum isn't open yet.

Parting Thoughts

What is up with the crazy overview pages. Here's an example:

Phoenix Children's Museum overview page

Am I really supposed to be able to see the navigation choices amidst all those colored boxes and images? I guess the designer thought it looked 'fun'. No, it's just hard to use.

If they got rid of all that clutter, they could probably fit all the content within the section on the overview page and make it much easier for their users to actually find what they are looking for. Just a thought from a user.

Posted on: May 18, 2006 | 2 Comments

Recent Entries in "Usability"

2 Comments Posted

There certainly seems to be some money to be made by an enterprising and creative web designer who's willing to tackle small, non-profit entities: children's museums, schools (from pre- up to high), and the like. Just a cursory scan of these places' sites reveals that they need serious work. They all have that look of having been built ten years ago by someone who had just learned the magic of tables and frames.

It would be so easy to update the look of these sites and to incorporate some sort of simple CMS so that anyone can easily add content.

Obviously, most of these places are ignorant of what they could be doing; that is, I guess, where the enterprising designer comes in.

There definitely is an opportunity, especially as these types of organizations have pretty similar content needs.

You could very easily have a series of web site templates for each type of organization, with a certain amount of customization available for each.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone has already done this, although I haven't come across such a vendor myself that I can recall.

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