Are we a League or a Internet Vendor?

The ARRL new website perhaps replaces an outdated webpage style, but at a cost – blatant commercialization.

The useful portion of the ARRL homepage has gone down, and now it is tarted-up but with a result of being blah, busy and overloaded with “sales focused web features.”

Lets look at the new website, first as it appears when you land on it.

ARRL New Website Browser Image - on Landing on Page

ARRL New Website Browser Image - on Landing on Page

Not very pretty – almost monotone with the largest space being a scrolling set of links with graphics.  Peculiar with webpages becoming more an more Landscape in format this new webpage is the first lift of a very tall portrait layout.

Let’s mask out the ARRL content and show the space wasted to Ads and deadspace carrying a watermark:

ARRL New Website Browser Image - on Landing on Page - Masked

ARRL New Website Browser Image - on Landing on Page - Masked

Perhaps 55-60% of the initial screen is ARRL and that is at least half-wasted in graphics.

Let’s do a single Page-Down:

ARRL New Website Browser Image - one Page Down

ARRL New Website Browser Image - one Page Down

Is this the ARRL hompage or a page from a vendor? Let’s reverse the the masking and show the ARRL content (I didn’t bother to the shade the wasted watermark area):

ARRL New Website Browser Image - one Page Down - Reverse Masked

ARRL New Website Browser Image - one Page Down - Reverse Masked

At best 1/3 of the first page-down display is actual content, and that again is diluted by over-stylization.

Dropping to the bottom:

ARRL New Website Browser Image - Two Page Downs

ARRL New Website Browser Image - Two Page Downs

Here we find all the useful links, in clusters of very small fonts.  Guess they are less important?  Let’s do the masking again (again skipping the watermark areas):

ARRL New Website Browser Image - Two Page Downs - Reverse Masked

ARRL New Website Browser Image - Two Page Downs - Reverse Masked

Perhaps a bit closer to 40% of the two-apges down display is useful.

YMMV but I find the new webpage cold (the dark colors and tones accent that impression), biased to present a lot of sizzle & fluff to sell things, and low on content.

That over 1/2 of the webpage is set aside for sales is a disappointment.

I don’t want to clink to read even a basic summary.

On the spectrum of things I am personally more prone to appreciate well organized websites (example http://www.useit.com/ ) than over fancy web-bloat.

YMMV and you may like the new webpage, but I’ve dropped back to reading the ARRL news items as an RSS Feed and have dropped my daily look-see of the boring new website.  If my reaction is common, this doesn’t bode well for ad revenue from all the space allocated for sales on our organization’s homepage.

Perhaps this is just an interim web design, whether the ARRL realizes that yet or not…..

73

Steve
K9ZW

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12 thoughts on “Are we a League or a Internet Vendor?

  1. Agreed. I support the League usually, but the website is a step in the wrong direction.

  2. Chris, N0RZT says:

    Personally, I’m frustrated at the design of the site as much as the design of the page layout. They broke existing links (admittedly, most – but not all – of these were links to news articles (let’s get back to news articles in a minute.)) Trying to *find* something useful has become difficult — it took me more than five minutes to find the periodical archive search! (And then I promptly forgot and it took me another three minutes to find it again.) It seems that just about every “second level” page is focused more toward one-paragraph descriptions of all the things you can do in amateur radio, rather than actually helping anyone who’s already doing it! I also recently discovered content that (near as I can tell) was removed — there used to be a lat/long-grid converter; my bookmark now takes me to a page that talks much about the Maidenhead Grid system, but no converter, and all the links on the page take me offsite (except for a link to an article descibing how to manually make the conversion).

    Another, relatively minor, pet peeve — the news articles. When I click on a link to a news article, I get to a page that has the same teaser that brought me to the page, and I have to click on another link to expand it. The expansion is pretty, but it’s also a waste of time. (Hint for the subtlety-impaired — when an engineer describes a feature as “pretty”, that means s/he has nothing polite to say about the functionality.)

  3. W1PID Jim says:

    The site is designed by Fathom. Their motto is, (from their
    own web page)
    “Fathom transforms websites into
    interactive brand experiences”

    I wonder who at the League thinks members need
    an “interactive brand experience.”

    Your analysis is right on.

  4. A number of us have published similar comments in our blogs (K2DSL, KB6KNU, myself). After I wrote my comments, I thought about whether I was guilty of what a lot of us accuse other hams of doing with respect to on-the-air changes (e.g., elimination of the CW requirement, increased use of other modes, etc.), but I realized that my primary complaints are not that they changed something, but they changed it for the worse.

    I don’t really care that much about the appearance of the website. I have pretty much zero graphical design ability so I can’t criticize there. The fact that the links changed is annoying (and could have been fixed with URL redirects), but we were at least warned about that. What bothers me that is that it’s not an easy site to navigate. As N0RZT mentioned, the requirement to click multiple times to read an article is silly, and a poor design choice. The articles themselves no longer have embedded images (as does this article) but instead puts them in a box at the bottom of the article. Fortunately they fixed the requirement to log in on every visit, but how on earth could anyone have thought that was a good idea in the first place?

    It’s unfortunate that the ARRL decided that they wouldn’t make a “public beta” available sooner. (It appears that some people did have access, but I got the impression that it was just the “higher-ups” at the league). As an ARRL member, I am disappointed at the expense that went into providing what I view as a mediocre update, and one that is less useful at that.

  5. ws4e says:

    Its now a terrible, horrible website.

    That is typically what you get when you OUTSOURCE your website to a marketing firm instead of having someone on staff that will create and cater the site to your actual business.

    • k9zw says:
        – Hard to Navigate
        – Boring
        – Ad-Ladaened
        – Dour
        – Click-Heavy
        – Reduced Feature Set
        – Purposeless Complexity
        – Sold-Out Commercialization

      These are some of the terms being bantered about over this redesigned website.

      I too questioned if my aversion was a bias against change. After a systematic look at the site, and realizing that I don’t really want to visit this dog, I am clear it is not a rejection of change, but rather a rejection of this specific change.

      Hopefully this web design passes VERY quickly – in weeks not months or years – before it damages the league.

      Personally I wouldn’t consider a roll-back a step backwards, but a reasonable interim solution.

      It seems pretty obvious that this design is not meeting with member favor and lacks utility.

      For the record I have not had a single direct email or comment posted saying that a person simply loved the new web design, or even any modest level of support for it. Not a one.

      73

      Steve
      K9ZW

  6. Jeff, KE9V says:

    The ARRL is in the tough position of trying to promote Amateur Radio while at the same time creating a useful resource for its members. What would be most useful for members is entirely different than what would be helpful for someone who may be considering becoming a radio amateur. Perhaps they should have created a pretty multi-media portal for visitors with a link to a members-only page?

    But given those conflicting goals, I don’t think the new site is all bad. Most of the griping is really based on change; folks become familiar with the look and feel of a site, especially one that they use a lot, and absolutely hate it whenever anything is changed.

    I’ve seen this played out on hundreds of commercial Web sites through the years. Every single time that the layout or look and feel changes on any popular Web destination, frequent visitors voice their displeasure.

    I think this may be more of the same.

    Jeff, KE9V

    • k9zw says:

      Jeff, Kind of thought the ARRL’s other portals were an effort to cover the differences between an introductory website and the members website?

      Some of the official ARRL segmentation sites are:

      http://wedothatradio.wordpress.com/
      http://www.emergency-radio.org/ (Which sets off the Danger Alert system in my copy of Safari!)
      http://www.wedothat-radio.org (currently redirects to the Blog)
      http://www.hello-radio.org (also currently redirects to the Blog)
      http://www.ncjweb.com/

      Then they are on Facebook, RSS, Sometimes Audio Files, and more websites.

      Many of the sites seems to have stopped updating earlier this year, perhaps with the intention of the click-ad-revenue focused main ARRL.Org taking a wider role?

      The forward segmentation plan isn’t clear, but serving many classes of users all poorly isn’t a winning strategy.

      Change as a route to improvement is always a great thing, change which reduces utility is a mistake.

      73

      Steve
      K9ZW

  7. Jeff, KE9V says:

    There is clearly no focus (at least that I can discern) with what the ARRL is doing with those other sites. Google returns ARRL.org as the highest rank of their sites so we have to assume it is intended to be their primary portal or at least it should.

    But let’s admit that when any site rework is done and commonly used links are moved, there is a learning curve before users become comfortable with the new navigation. All the old stuff is still there, it’s just not where we last found it…

    I’m not a real fan of shiny, in fact I often surf the Web with a text browser and never even see the images. But the ARRL site is much larger than a typical home page and it integrates ecommerce in the mix. It was a very large project to take on and it seems to need a few more weeks of shakedown before they declare it done.

    But I’m just not seeing it as a lot “worse” than it was before.

    Jeff, KE9V

    • k9zw says:

      Google returns ARRL.org as the highest rank of their sites so we have to assume it is intended to be their primary portal or at least it should.

      That assumption seems right, and though it misdirects the search results as “managed” – given the agreed poor focus and the drop-off in updating the league’s other portals would suggest the other websites are being allowed to wither.

      But let’s admit that when any site rework is done and commonly used links are moved, there is a learning curve before users become comfortable with the new navigation. All the old stuff is still there, it’s just not where we last found it…

      Actually it is NOT all there and the “new navigation” requires perhaps twice the key clicks if the content is there. Of course the web-visitor gets a lot more paid ad exposure……

      It was a very large project to take on and it seems to need a few more weeks of shakedown before they declare it done.

      I don’t think a few more weeks will spruce this version up – you can put lipstick on a pig, but it remains a pig.

      Did the old website need a make-over? Absolutely.

      That doesn’t excuse what has been delivered.

      Hopefully this website version will be quickly transitioned to a new design in the weeks that come. The overall restructuring will be useful, but the flat dour style, key-click heavy navigation and ad-heavy screen space ratios need to go ASAP.

      One of the trade associations I participate in fell prey to the same web-seduction of selling space and web-design chaos, to the point where competitor’s information appeared as screen artifacts even navigating the members’ listings! Needless to say it had to be scrapped and a second update done.

      The mistakes this design brings to the ARRL are not irreversible, and can be fixed. Now it is up to all of us to push to have it fixed.

      73

      Steve
      K9ZW

  8. I agree that the ARRL website re-do is only a pretty thing and not very functional

    I hope to share some postive ideas with league officials at Dayton this week-end

    73
    steve
    KG5VK

  9. […] The “redesigned” commercialized ARRL website may feature some “gee-wiz” scripting, but is dull in both design and content. Now heavily advertisement ladened this website has dropped from my daily “look-see” bookmark list as I have found it preferable (and ad free) to only monitor the RSS feed. LINK Are we a League or a Internet Vendor? […]

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