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Website With Professional Touch

Thu, Dec 15, 2005

Best of the web, Education & Society | Author:

www.britishcouncil.org

Introduction

The British Council is an organization in the UK that builds mutual cultural relations with the UK and other countries, treat promoting education, ambulance art, science and culture. BritishCouncil.org is an excellent, user friendly website packed full of information and visual artistry.

Form

The British Council brand shows the prestige and interest of the organization without being presented as ‘stuffy’ or pretentious. The royal blue against a white logo is a nice contrast and sets the stage for an aesthetic theme throughout. The logo itself is simple in design yet gives the British Council a strong image.

The only brand element I would like to see, in addition to an attractive logo, is a tagline. On the home page, the words “Creating opportunity worldwide” appears to be the tagline to use, however the presentation of this may inhibit the message. (fig. 1) I specifically set out looking for a tagline and unconsciously ignored this particular header many times before finally reading it.

The design of the website, a standard 2-column throughout the website. On the home page, the addition of photos and design elements create an artistic presentation though do not distract from the purpose of the website. The balance of white space to design elements allows for proper flow of information. The user is able to visually move freely from section to section without confusion or difficulty.

The color scheme consists of royal blue and various shades thereof. As one of the most popular colors, blue is known to promote calmness and relaxation, as well as professionalism. As a branding principle, this color works very well for this genre of website.

The photos are professional and relevant to content available through the website. I would however, like to see the media component transition a little smoother. The ‘jumpiness’ of the transitions can be a little distracting.

Function

The navigation options are straightforward and contained in easy to find areas of the website. On the home page the top navigation bar is directed toward the user’s interest in the British Council opportunities and education. The bottom navigation bar is dedicated to the organizational aspect of the British Council. By separating the interests and the organizational aspects, the user can easily navigate to any desired section.

The JavaScript menus in particular are very nice and eliminate ‘link clutter’ that is found on other websites. The design is clean and the code seems to be well managed, producing a streamline, non-glitchy menu.

One element of the navigation that I particularly like is the very top text tools that give users frequently used options such as Print, Email this page, Add to favorites, etc. (fig. 2) This feature is very nice for this type of website, and the Text only option is superb – giving access to those who have dial up access, or just wish to navigate the page without being distracted.

Once the user has left the homepage, particularly through the top navigational menu (Arts, Science, Society, etc.) the website navigation changes to topic specific navigation. (fig. 3) I like the themes and variations on specific topics, however, the main navigation from the home page no longer exists, nor is there any immediately noticeable way to get back. I would like to see at least a link that specifies “Return to the British Council Home Page” or something to that effect.

The advertising and promotion on the website is predominantly found throughout. On the home page, there are four components that represent good methods of self-promotion. (fig. 4) Each of these mini-sections is effective in creating user interaction by allowing them to watch a streaming video, find out what countries are involved with the British Council, send an E-card, or other. Given the unofficial 3-second rule (the online standard of interesting the audience in 3 seconds or less), the user is immediately given something of interest to ‘click’ without feeling forced to read information.

Conclusion

Overall, the British Council website provides a clean, effective, and efficient presentation method for providing the wealth of information and opportunity they provide. The organizational structure is well managed and the entire site is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. With some minor adjustments to the navigation on interior pages (or interior sites, to be more exact) the user will have no difficulty exploring and learning.

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