website redesign project

David Walczyck's Pratt Institute Information Architecture & Interaction Design class, which is using Radical Reference as its web redesign client this semester has requested that we provide them a list of sites that we admire--not necessarily library related sites--for their design, interaction, or community aspects.

Please list yours here, with annotations if possible--either in this post or as a comment:

  • Ask MetaFilter
    I love the speed with which they answer questions, the simplicity of their site, and participants' investment in the communtity.
  • The ALA Conference wiki that Meredith Farkas made in 2005
    I'm not sure it's still online. Again, it was the community's investment in it that I admire. Tons of people were on it--not only adding content, but blocking spam.
  • pbworks wiki
    For the work of one of the local collectives--for collaboration.
  • Stack Overflow
    I like how you see very quickly how many answers there are to each question (the numbers on the left) and that you can see each question separately well. Overall, my personal aesthetic preference is toward more minimalism--Alycia
  • I also like the site Transportation Alternatives overall.
  • From a design perspective, I like It's easy to read and I find the navigation intuitive. This may be because the navigation mimics a book's table of contents - call me old-fashioned, but it's a format many folks are comfortable with.
  • In general, I like Mendeley's Support & Feedback site (run by UserVoice), with one major caveat: 'unpopular' items get buried. IMO, visibility of questions is key for RadRef.
    I like the clear design, the top navigation of primary category links with the number of articles for each. Actually I'm not totally crazy about the four columns on the home page, but I think they handle presenting a multitude of content types better than anyone else I've noticed. I don't think having the primary categories at the top and the right is useful, though.
    I like the overall design of this site, and the render on the fly capability it has.
    an interactive/community forum site
    good site design - simple and visually appealing

Ask MetaFilter - seconded.

Ask MetaFilter - seconded. Also I like how they have a block with links to posts organized by tags (20 most popular) as well as by category.

"Overall, my personal aesthetic preference is toward more minimalism" - also seconded, though at a few glances I'm not that crazy about that Stack Overflow site. Hey, Unshelved Answers uses the same software.

Activist websites that have won awards

The Webby Awards

They list the top websites for various categories including activism and you can go back 13 years.

They can give us some ideas as to what we are looking for.

StackOverflow seconded + Open Atrium

I think StackOverflow and the other StackExchange sites have a great structure for info sharing while maintaining a sense of community (and an unprecedented level of addictiveness). And there are open-source alternatives that offer a similar kind of thing, such as Shapado which is built on Ruby on Rails.

Also Open Atrium is a platform I really like. It's Drupal and then some, with extra community features in a nice pretty package. Can be a bit resource heavy so not sure about scaleability.

aesthetic qualities, look and feel - just some thoughts

I have studied info architecture and website design, so just a few thoughts.

I also wanted to ask, what feel are you going for?


Colors: The colors blue and orange are associated with characteristics important to activism - desire for action and power (psychological research) - they create a strong affect related to activism. Although, I would suggest toning them down (especially the header/logo) in order to free up the page not jail in the answers. I feel the important message and content to be the focus, to open the page as you open up the mind of the user.

Formatting style: The all caps scream at you, by replacing this formatting style with bold and placing emphasis on key activist terms, the reader's eye is drawn to words associated with activism. Reading these words would ignite feelings of activism.

White space: Having so much to read on the page right now gives me the feeling of being overwhelmed. At first, I just wanted to run to another source. I felt like I would never find the information that I was looking for because I couldn't even figure out the home page, if I were to write a blog post/question it would be buried. I felt like it was useless.

White space can create the affect of empowerment, less content on the home page and create an easy navigation system. If they can find answers, subjects, blogs easily, they feel empowered. This site answers theirs questions so comprehensively you empower them, you really ignite activism in the user.

Save the Internet - activist website with edgy feel

Save the Internet

  • an activist website with great examples of edgy feel
  • it's easy and quick to scan the categories/questions for responses
  • it has a menu bar that would help open up our pages, ie. blog page
  • drupal
  • the subject titles "act now" "spread the word" create activist feel, rad ref might be able to include subject headings such as - get involved, your questions, - more edgy

vertical navigation

I second the potential flexibility and great interface of both StackExchange and Open Atrium that others have mentioned above.

A couple of other sites I like include:

Housing Works: I like especially the center navigational bar with icons and the length and layout of content "below the fold." Makes for easy maneuvering of the org's main offerings/focal points. Might be interesting to fold a calendar where collectives can contribute events to the RR site.

Pew Research Center: Again I like the navigation layout on this site; for me, vertical navigation rather than horizontal is a bit more streamlined and intuitive.

What Our Website Should Achieve

Since this is a tool we use, what do we use it for?
Here's a couple things I am aware of:
1) answering reference questions from radicals/independent journalists
2) helping people who are interested connect with us by having a web presence they can easily find
3) listing upcoming events
4) archiving questions & answers and posts about events with helpful resources
5) connecting people to local chapters

I'd like to see our new website clearly reflect these uses so that anyone that arrives at our site clueless will very quickly understand that these are the things they can use this website for.

Great point! And to the

Great point! And to the content listed in number 4 should be added the handouts and other materials from presentations and workshops we've done.

Log in

This is a tiny bit off topic, but just thought now while logging in, it would be so nice to have the log in at the top, instead of having to scroll through everything to get to the bottom. Even just a prominent link to go to a log in page if we'd like to save page space for non-volunteers not using that feature.

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