As I noted in this earlier blog post, UNHCR launched a "refreshed" web site in mid-May. I always find re-vamped web sites to be a bit fraught: Has key content been removed? Are the same resources available? Do former links still work? Can you still find things easily? So I took some time to explore the new site and get a better sense of its new look and feel.
Here are a few observations and suggestions:
1. This is the RFP that UNHCR circulated when it was looking for a company to take on the re-design effort. A key objective was to highlight the role the web site plays as a fundraising vehicle. And this is very apparent when you visit unhcr.org and notice the plethora of "donate" buttons! While they have always been important, individual donors now appear to be a much more central target.
2. The new design gives precedence to the visual, which is consistent with the approach taken by many other web sites. The font size has also increased, which is quite helpful. However, having large photos and larger fonts translates to a lot more scrolling on each page, especially on a mobile device.
3. The options available in the top-level menu - important real estate in any web site - have been tweaked in the new design. Curiously, "Who We Help" and "Where We Work" have been shifted to under "About Us," while "What We Do" has remained on the top-level. Personally, I think knowing *who* UNHCR helps is essential for understanding what UNHCR does.
Suggestion: Move "Who We Help" to top-level menu.
4. While the RFP focused on the UNHCR web site as a mechanism for raising awareness and garnering support for the refugee cause, it didn't acknowledge its role as an important repository for UNHCR's research and publications. This is reflected in the new layout in one small by key way: The option to access "Resources and Publications" has been removed from the top-level menu and placed under "About Us."
Suggestion: Add a link to "Resources/publications" on the top right of the template next to Media centre, Refworld, etc., in order to give it more consistent visibility.
5. It is now much more difficult to get a sense of what has been added to the site. The old site had RSS feeds available for most of its publication collections. The new site now only has one RSS feed, for news stories. While there is a link to "Latest UNHCR Publications" under "Resources and Publications," it only highlights a limited selection of new items, and not things like the following newly added resources and documents: 1) Resettlement Statistical Database Portal; 2) New statements from the protection AHC; 3) Background papers for the UNHCR/NGO annual consultations.
Suggestion: Create a "What's New" page like the old site had in order to provide a more comprehensive record of what's been added to unhcr.org.
6. Happily, most of the URLs associated with the old site are still functioning.
7. Missing navigation pages: While certain collections of documents are still available on the UNHCR web site, some of the pages that used to lead to those collections are no longer there. Here are some examples:
- Conclusions on International Protection (archived version of the page)
- SCIP/SCAF documents (archived page)
- Global Consultations on International Protection (archived page)
An argument for retiring certain pages can no doubt be made for some sets of documents, but I don't think that applies to Conclusions!
Suggestion: Create a navigation page for Conclusions on International Protection.
8. Missing links: A related issue is that links to certain collections from certain pages have been removed, even though the resources are still accessible on the web site. Examples:
- Access to State of the World's Refugees editions and Refugees Magazine issues, formerly via Publications (archived page)
- Access to UNHCR Partner Directory, formerly via NGO page (archived page)
Suggestion: If resources like these are still being retained, then it would be useful to facilitate access to them. Perhaps with a less cluttered version of the A-Z Index that the old site used to have. Alternatively, if some resources like the Partner Directory are no longer being updated, then either weed them out or label them as "archived."
9. Other changes:
- The former photo and video galleries can no longer be accessed in their previous forms, but they have most likely been folded into the News & Stories section of the web site.
- The following social media icons have disappeared: Flickr, Pinterest, Google+ and Scribd.
- The drop-down "Browse by country" menu that used to be accessible from every page in the old web site is now only available under "Where we work." The country information available on each page has been greatly reduced and consists primarily of links to either the national site (if available), and/or the relevant pages in Global Focus (UNHCR's operational reporting portal) and Refworld.
10. Search: It looks like the search feature can be used to search all parts of the web site: It finds documents, it can locate navigation pages, and it can also retrieve portions of narrative text on pages.
That's it for now! I have a number of other comments which relate more to quality control issues - invalid links, inconsistencies, random references - so I won't share those here but I will pass them along to UNHCR.
Does anyone else have additional feedback to share? Use the comments to do so or email me. I would be happy to combine your thoughts with my own, and submit everything to UNHCR for consideration accordingly.
Tagged Publications and Web Sites/Tools.