New Labor Media's
This week I have the pleasure of critiquing Transportation Workers Local 568, straight out of sunny Florida. They represent American Airlines workers out of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. The website was developed by Unionactive.com, with internet service provided by Unionactive.com's sister company, Unions-America.com.
If you've ever taken the time to notice what website designers are used by other unions, Unions-America.com is a commonly seen logo at the bottom right hand corner of many online labor union halls. This particular company has three very straightforward packages that are advertised on their website: basic, standard and advanced. Each level includes a one-time website set-up fee, along with a monthly maintenance fee for hosting the site. Be forewarned: Once the website is initially set-up, it is up to you to update and add content to it. It's very user friendly, but if you're expecting someone from Unionactive.com to do it for you (which I suspect they are willing to do), this would be an additional service with additional fees involved.
Now, let's review the website. My first impression was a good one. I like the heading, the graphics, the overview color scheme. It's very easy on the eyes. The three column layout works well and the graphics and fonts are high resolution within the two outside columns. I am very pleased to see that they have a members-only portal, event calendar AND a vote registration/congressional contact link. In addition, TWU Local 568 has prominently displayed links to its social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. This site also appears to be kept up-to-date. If you want to show the world how relevant unions still are today, make sure your home page has current information. It doesn't help your case if the most recent article or headline is still advertising ticket sales for the upcoming 2008 Labor Day picnic bonanza.
We've taken a look at the good features, now let's consider the not-so-good as well. First, the home page is a mile long. As I've mentioned in previous articles, don't feel like you have to throw everything up on the home page. The home page should not require scrolling to read articles. Think of it as the facade of a home. It's the first thing anyone sees. It is the first impression to the world. It might be the only part of the home most people see, so you want to keep it looking good! What would it start to look like if you starting planting annuals without pulling up the dead ones from last year first? No matter how pretty they are, people will only notice the dead ones and how unkept it looks. If you're like me and don't have the time or patience for keeping the front, back and side lawns impeccable, then keep the front looking ship-shape, and let the back yard go if necessary. The same goes for websites! Don't let article after article build up. Keep the most recent article on it, and retire the others to a secondary page.
Second, if you look at the screen capture above, you can see I've made a few notes. The left-hand menu has too many options for visitors to choose from. Narrow the options down to broad categories on the home page, and then throw as many menu options on the secondary pages as your heart desires. For instance, all of the member-only pages that have their own menu buttons should be found in the members-only section of the site that requires sign-in. There should be one menu button on the home page for members-only pages, one "portal" if you will - not five different links requiring signing in to view the material. Also, I'm not a big fan of the first notice on the page being one that highlights web site access issues. It can be just as noticeable by being strategically placed in the right hand column, with simplified text to grab the attention of those who need that information.
I'm not advocating that the home page be perfect (think well manicured lawn) and the rest of the pages be a hot mess (as in the A&E show "Hoarders"), but if you have limited time and experience, make sure your first priority is a professional looking home page. Then slowly start chipping away at the others.
Just remember, keep web pages clean and neat, and easy to read! Don't overwhelm your visitors with content. Organize it well, and it will be easy for them to find what they want.