European Union and UK Investment in Rural Areas

Introduction

When first landing on the home page, no rx my initial impression of the site is that it is somewhat crude with little emphasis or thought having been given to the design elements of the site. However, the links indicate to me that the site may have plenty of information to impart, and as that’s the primary function of the site, as a user, I would be tempted to delve deeper. The use of imagery also helps to stimulate interest as they add a human touch to the site and hint at a wide scope of projects.

The logo needs some attention as it has been resized within the html code, and therefore has a larger file size than necessary and has lost some of its clarity on the screen.

The links on the left hand side of the page are a little puzzling. You only know that some of them are links as the cursor changes to the ‘hand’ symbol. As a user, I would prefer for all the links to behave in the same way when I roll the mouse over and as an expectation that your site is kept current, there should be no need to inform me that some of the sections have been updated in this way. I would therefore suggest implementing simple rollover behaviour such as the text changing colour on each link so the user knows that clicking on it will take them to another location. Using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for this function will eliminate the need for images and some of the JavaScript which is currently used on the page and will in turn reduce the file size of the page to increase page load speed.

In terms of content on the home page, I would like my interest to be spiked a little more by maybe including snippets of some of the most recent projects/highlights you have worked on and what they have achieved.

Usability of the site

I have touched on the navigational links in the section above, and think you would be well served to alter them so they are all consistent and indicate more clearly that they are links.

More crucial, however, is the need to carry the navigation throughout the site. Clicking on any of the links from the main page takes the user through to a page which they cannot then navigate anywhere from. In order to return to the page they just came from, they need to click the ‘back’ button on their browser.

As a stop-gap, an easy to implement stepping stone would be to at least ensure that your logo links back to your home page. Users expect a logo to be a link to the home page and at least this would give them the most basic method of navigation.

It would also be really useful to have a sitemap somewhere as I get the impression that there is a lot more to the site than I have actually discovered.

Design

There is certainly nothing offensive about the design elements of the site, but it is also not slick in any way and it’s my feeling that its simplicity and crudeness doesn’t do justice to the information you have available. Your introduction page has a link to the Natura 2000 site, and it would be great to see your site having a similar kind of impact (there’s no reason why it couldn’t).

Consistency

The site maintains a good standard of consistency throughout the internal pages. The layout is the same on each page (with the exception of the Links page which is left-aligned rather than centred), and the fonts and colours used are constant all the way through.

Structure and coding

Without wanting to become too involved in the coding of your site, there are several fundamental elements, which are missing from your pages:

DOCTYPE – every web page should be headed up by a DOCTYPE (short for Document Type Declaration). This informs the validator which version of code (ie. HTML or XHMTL) you are using, and your pages cannot validate without one. Omitting the DOCTYPE, as all your pages do, suggests to the browser that your page is written with invalid markup and code.

Meta data – in basic terms, including meta tags on your web page can help inform some search engines what kind of content your pages contain, eg. what the purpose of your website is. They can therefore be very useful in optimising your site for search engines to try and drive more traffic to your site.

Cascading Style Sheets – the code on your pages could be reduced significantly through the use of CSS which would improve page load times. It would eliminate the necessity to use tables to present the data and would make your pages far more accessible.

Alt tags (this is the text which appears when you lay your mouse over an image) – adding alt attributes to your images is one of the simplest ways to make your website more accessible. It may also aid any search engine optimisation efforts.

Messaging and content

The content on your site is very informative, but it’s presented in a manner which renders it a little dry and difficult to absorb. There is huge potential for livening up your content and presenting it in bite size chunks which people can then choose to explore by delving deeper into the site.

Conclusion

In summary, the site needs a significant revamp to make it work harder for you. If I were to rank the points I have covered above in terms of priority, the navigational structure of your site would be top of my list, followed closely behind by a rethink of how you present the information on your site. The work you do facilitates valuable and really worthwhile projects – now it’s time to let visitors to your site become excited about them too.