Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Navigation at the New Website for Dalgaarden

The "Jobcenter" has sent me to Dalgaarden to help them with their website. I have happily accepted, as this could be a good experience. Dalgaarden is a treatment centre for children and young people, who for some reason cannot live at home. In my opinion, the old website for Dalgaarden was well made for the most part, but time has changed, and I see the need for another site. As the budget does not allow for much, Dalgaarden got the site started relatively cheaply, and contacted the "Jobcenter" to get an unemployed person with an education in communication (they settled for a web developer, which is of course not a bad substitute). And so here I was, making their website better. The old website for Dalgaarden was split into three parts; one for children, one for relatives and one for professionals. Each part had its own top menu. This may have made sense at that some point in the past, however, as could be predicted, this meant that most of the information was in at least three places on the website, and Dalgaarden did not manage to update the three parts of the site with the same information when required. This is a common problem with websites, where the same information is written in multiple places. On top of that, the text reflected the way the employees see the work with children as something where most things influence most other things, so even inside one part of the site, things of importance would be written over and over to illustrate the interconnectivity of various phenomena.

I did not want to get into the task of straightening out the descriptions of the interconnected nature of things, because I actually think that in this particular case, it is fine, even if it leads to the same information being written in different places. But I decided to suggest that we got rid of the division into three parts and aimed for an integrated site. Partly because the children at the time the website was made was mostly 5 - 12 years old, while nowadays and in the foreseeable future they are mostly 7 - 15. This means that the need for a particular area aimed at children is lessened. The integration could also be good because, as previously mentioned, they did not manage to keep updating in three or more places on the website. On top of that, the people making the foundation for the new website chose a WordPress with the uncode theme and a heavy reliance on the Page Builder from WPBakery. They made one single top menu. The three parts of the old website had 13, 16 and 17 pages, and that could possibly make for monstrous navigation. The children/young at Dalgaarden and their parents are not stupid or retarded or anything like that, but on the other hand, 46 pages from a single menu typically results in a need for submenus to submenus, which is probably not a good thing in this case.

I reduced the 46 pages on the old site to 22 pages (due to the structure I inherited from those laying the foundation of the website, more pages would be added, which would come to aid navigation). This reduction in the number of pages was mainly achieved by writing the information from similar pages into one page with a mostly neutral tone. The new menu has the following six items:

Børn og unge with four items in the submenu. These four pages were retained from the part for children of the old site. Three of these pages did not have counterparts in the part for relatives and the part for professionals, and the last one was one, which DID have counterparts, but the counterpart from the part for professionals was very different. These four pages retain a sense that they are directed at the children/young people living at Dalgaarden.

Husene with four items in the submenu. These pages reflects 4 pages in the menus in each of the three parts of the old website. It describes most of the physical surroundings, in which the children/young live. (12 pages were reduced to 4)

Skolen with four items in the submenu. These four pages describe the school at Dalgaarden, and reflect 4, 4 and 3 pages from the three parts of the old website. (11 pages were reduced to 4)

Forældresamarbejde with four items in the submenu. These four pages are about the way Dalgaarden cooperate with the relatives of the children/young, and they reflect 4 pages from each of two parts of the old website (8 pages were reduced to 4)

For professionelle with three items in the submenu. These pages are meant for pedagogues and professionals within national and public organizations (particularly the "kommune"). The texts here tend to have long words, specialised vocabulary and philosophical content, as it is common when professionals communicate to their professional peers. The three pages reflect three pages, which were only in the part for professionals on the old website. This part of the menu is deliberately left a bit short, because my contact at Dalgaarden said that one of the things happening in the future might be that they want to add content about their professional principles.

Om Dalgaarden with three items in the submenu. This is the place, where those pesky pages that do not fit anywhere else has been placed. One page is a summary of the different groups of professionals, who are employed at Dalgaarden. Another page is where the contact info is. The third page is where job openings are mentioned.

Some pages, which had little content on the old website have been merged into other pages. And I am happy that I managed to avoid making new pages to make the transformation possible. All in all the menu now has six items, each with a submenu with 3 or 4 items. This is very satisfactory.

After the text on a page, there are two or three coloured "bubbles", which serve as navigation to the two or three other pages on the same topic. The thinking behind this is that since the user have already chosen to read about the school (or another subject), he might be interested in the other things we have written about the school (or whatever other subject, he has chosen). These bubbles also serve as a prominent part of the aesthetics of the website.

There are still some open questions, most prominently the footer, which could very well be used for navigation.

There will be a bit more about the navigation in my next blog post, which deals with the aesthetics of the new website for Dalgaarden.

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