Improvement Network is a highly successful free club for
professionals who meet together to share their knowledge and
A busy website serves the network's needs well, attracts new members
every week, and gives members access to lots of free information.
The site needed a design facelift to match the BIN's high standards.
Original screenshot: Home page
(50% scale, click to enlarge)
The BIN home page is pretty
effective. It opens with a concise message introducing the Business
layout is relatively clean and clear, but the visual style
appears cheap and lacking in personality. A new logo and colour scheme
can deliver quick benefits.
The relatively long menu hints at
over-segmentation. The homepage needs a greater sense of activity and
personality, to encourage the visitor to explore further into the site.
Spatial layout is a conventional
2-column format, consisting of a single left-column and main page
content area. The logo/navigation column is solid and full-length,
while the main content area is otherwise unbordered. This gives a
slight sense of emptiness.
A few pages on the site use an
additional floating right-column. On the home page, the bulleted list
and Amazon search box are out of place, floating in space. Their
relationship to the other content is unclear: is it secondary callout
content, or a second column of main content?
Layout changes can fix these small
- The content area would benefit from
being framed with solid page 'furniture'
- Secondary content should be
separated the main page body, e.g. by placing it inside a callout box,
or in a separate area
Branding and colour
The white and red colour scheme is
bold and bright. However it tends to say 'cheap' (Several UK
high-street brands that compete on price and use this colour scheme
include Curry's, Comet, Argos, Staples, Safeway, Iceland).
The blue-green colour in the sub-head
text doesn't fit with the red at all.
Aside from the simple and dated logo,
the homepage uses no imagery to communicate. Relying on text alone
gives an unnecessarily serious impression, probalby unhelpful for
making new friends. The result is a homepage that feels a bit harsh and
A few images can say a lot about
quality (professional links), personality, and reality (at least saying
On the whole, copy is brief and
well-written. Paragraphs are short, typically one sentence, which is
The tag line ("...share, learn and
develop with fellow professionals...") is not sufficiently descriptive
(doesn't differentiate qualitatively), and a bit too prominent
considering the value it adds.
As a rule, instructions on how to use
the site can be avoided. The home page says, in bold, "If this is your
first visit to the site, we recommend at least a quick browse through
this Introduction... Otherwise click here to skip the
(The hyperlink doesn't follow good
principles, because it doesn't say what you'll get or where you'll go).
In this situation, it is much more
efficient to trust the visitor's instincts, present them a clear menu
of information, and let them choose how much they read.
The menu seems to have a lot of
items, which a bit off-putting. It makes the site seem big, and likely
to take a lot of work to trawl through (it's at least 12 clicks wide,
and we don't know how deep!).
Some sites that cover very broad
content might need 12
links to be usable. In general you should look for the
balance that matches likely usage patterns, providing recognisable
signs for content that matches typical goals (contact you, find out
more about you, get stuff).
This site is, in fact,
over-segmented. One area that looks prime for consolidation is the
events: "Next Workshops", "Past Workshops", "Host a Workshop", and
"Other Events" all fall neatly under "Workshops and Events",
particularly when the "Other Events" link reveals a page saying "No
other events are currently scheduled."
This is a great example of the risks
of dividing a site into too many sections at the top level. Clicking
the "Other Events" link gives a disappointing experience, which is
totally unnecessary. If all event details: previews of future workshops
and other events, summaries of recent events, and a call to action to
host an event yourself, were collated onto a single page, the result
would always be a rich, busy page that showed ongoing activity.
to view full size (53k) »
Notes on the redesign
A classic 3-column layout is used
beneath a full-width page header that places a clean new logo boldly
The green-based colour scheme is soft
and vibrant, tempered by the juxtaposed greyscale body. The colours
fill the space, which makes the site appear more 'full', yet the flat,
square shapes require only a few small files.
A simple new logo re-uses the
original's diamond format (an awkward shape for a logo), and applies
simple colour and text.
BIN has an extremely impressive list
of members, but this was concealed on the "List of Members" page. A
selection of members' logos, a simple professional logo, and a member's
mugshot (formerly on the "Members' feedback" page) combine to present a
more professional and personal image.
Similarly, some of the excellent
member feedback has been floated up to the home page. This takes
advantage of the principle that "it's easier to let someone else sell
you than it is to sell yourself". The member quote picks out an excerpt
in bold that sells the BIN's benefits.
The menu has been halved in size to
six items, and is now much plainer and easier to comprehend. It also
allows use of a simple footer menu.