College of Lake County's Bookstore: Extreme Makeover (Website Edition)
When I first began assessing the bookstore website’s condition, I immediately noticed the apparent lack of design quality in the images used, especially in regards to the design of the slideshow featured on the home page as seen here.
Beyond issues with the images used, text was heavily used and formatted in ways that were inappropriate . Issues with color use made pieces of text look like links when they weren’t, large paragraphs of text in red were overly aggressive, and every piece of text was in all capital letters. Altogether it made for paragraphs of text that felt unnecessarily bold and aggressive, even angry, which is simply inappropriate for the site and the purpose it serves.
Moving beyond the surface level, visual design concerns however, I also found many issues regarding the actual user experience and functionality of the site. The navigation bar to the left was a prime example of something that is meant to help a user easily navigate a site but, due to its poor organization and like of hierarchy of the items within it, it made navigating the website more confusing.
An example of the menu’s poor organization is that the Inclusive Access page, which pertains to textbooks and course materials, doesn’t appear attached or related to the textbooks link at all beyond being next to it.
The Initial Makeover
My first step in improving the website was improving the slideshow on the home page. The original slide didn’t correlate with the college’s branding at all, so it felt extremely out of place, so I created a slide that featured a photo of the bookstore’s signage, the college’s colors, and a simple font that was easy to read and not overly distracting.
Next I took all of the information that was unnecessarily crammed onto a single slide with the store’s name and gave it its own slide entirely. This way the information displayed can be larger and easier to read than it was before.
The last step of the initial re-do was a site-wide change, wherein I reformatted the text throughout the entire site to be a standardized font and only use 2 colors in total with very few exceptions. This helped to make some areas of text easier to read but ultimately made the entire site less abstract and visually distracting.
The End Result
Once most of the superficial work that I was able to accomplish on my own was complete, I began working with the web design team at Nebraska Book Company to move the website to a brand new template. While this process was primarily about copying the content that had been presented on the old rendition on the website and pasting it into a new template, there were also some major changes made to the user experience as well.
The most notable change in the website’s functionality is the setup of the navigation bar. Instead of having different categories and pages linked haphazardly in it as they are added on, every page is linked in some way under one of 5 simplified tabs:
Staff & Faculty
With these categories, students will know immediately that if they are looking to order something required for one of their courses, they can find it under “Course Materials”. If they are looking for a new hoodie, they can go to the “Merchandise” tab.
Moreover, the pages that are meant to be used exclusively by staff and faculty are now linked under a tab labeled as such, keeping them distinctly separate from pages that are meant to be accessed by the public.
Lastly, everything you might need to know about the bookstore itself, such as contact info, is under the tab “Store Info”.
The End Result
While the whole process of giving the website an extreme makeover took months to complete, many hours of work, and countless emails, it has resulted in a website that is not only significantly more modern in its appearance, but is more importantly rich with improved ease of use. It has been ushered into a new era of functionality and professionalism that I am proud to have played a part in creating.