SCORE Internship Report

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This is the final draft of the report I composed for my internship with the Portland chapter of SCORE

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SCORE Internship Report

  1. 1. WebDesignBestPracticesRedesigningChapter Eleven’sWebsiteTom Knapp
  2. 2. The purpose of this report is to summarize what I liked of my favorite SCOREwebsites after looking at thirty sites other than SCORE Portland. I also researched bestpractices for designing a website and recommended which ones to apply to SCOREPortland’s website along with traits from other SCORE sites. All pictures are hyperlinkedto the page that they are showing. New York City Judging from the websites of thirty other chapters of SCORE I have looked atfrom across the nation, the sites for New York City (NYC), Chicago, Detroit, and Seattlewere my favorites in terms of how they looked. NYC’s has a navigation bar along the top of their page (though below the SCORElogo and their mission statement) that links to everything. That bar simplifies navigatingthe website and prevents too much information from being on the homepage while stillmaking it easy to find everything a client would need to access. Another nice feature isthat the What is SCORE? button has a dropdown menu that links to various sectionsexplaining the purpose and features of their office and clicking it brings up a page withthose same links followed by a short (one or two sentences) explanation of what thearticle discusses. The Resources tab brings up a series of links to business schools in the area, American Express, an accountant referral service, and other services that are potentially useful to a small business. The graphic at the left is an example of the links found under NYC’s Resources tab.Under the tab for requesting counseling, there is an online form that clients can fill out inorder to request counseling, which makes it easier and more convenient for them sincethere is no downloading involved or a need to mail anything or call anybody. There isalso a picture at the top of each page in the banner that relates to what the page is about,which gets color involved. What confused me about the NYC site was that clicking the Volunteer tab on thenavigation bar brings the user to a page entitled Success Stories, yet discusses how to goabout becoming a volunteer. Otherwise, the site is well designed, uses pictures and colorwell, and looks professional. 2
  3. 3. Chicago SCORE Chicago maintains pageson Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, andTwitter, albums on Flickr, and a channelon YouTube and provides links to them onthe Community page on the left side oftheir homepage. The Community page ispictured at left Their SCORE News section, aportion of which is pictured below, is alsogood since it brings together news aboutthe Chicago chapter in one place.Chicago’s site also utilizes a number ofpictures in order to break up the monotonyof having just words, but not so manypictures that it ends up distracting fromwhat they are trying to accomplish. There is no part of the website where there are toomany words, which helps make the site more attractive and prevents viewers from havingto read more than what is necessary. The one thing that I did not like much about Chicago’s website was that other than some red text, everything was ashade of blue. Sometimes, there is a table on the right-hand side of the page, which iscolored as a light blue. To add a little variety, yet not make the color overwhelming, theycould make the table’s background another natural color (such as green or purple). Detroit SCORE Detroit’s website has a search bar and a navigation bar, pictured above,like NYC’s site in order to make it easier to find pages on Detroit’s site. Detroit’s sitealso provides what they call the “Stairway to Business Success”. It graphically representswhat to do leading up to starting a business (developing a business plan, finding/keepingcustomers, implementation, etc.) and then what to do to ensure the business has afteropening their doors (accounting, seeking loans, sales/marketing, etc.) and links torelevant pages on their website. One thing that Detroit may want to change is the graphic that they use on their site periodically. They use a stylized sun, pictured at right, to denote information of interest, but the sun has an almost Clip Art appearance, whichcould come off as unprofessional. While I think it is a great idea since it brings attentionto new items or useful information or links at a quick glance, a different method of doing 3
  4. 4. so would probably be better (even if it is as simple as using a less cartoonish graphic orusing a word such as attention in a bright color). Seattle1 The homepage has a link with short (two or three sentences) summaries of theCounseling, Workshops, and Resources pages below a large picture of businesspeopleworking with their mission statement edited onto the picture. The mission statement letsusers know where SCORE Seattle is coming from and creatively links to the About Uspage. What I found attractive about the homepage is that it puts SCORE’s services(counseling and workshops) front and center along with links to websites (Resources)that small business would find helpful without requiring that clients sift throughdocuments that they may not necessarily care about. The Counseling, Workshops, and Resources pages give users access to links toother places on the site through a navigation bar located on the top of the page and linksrelevant to the section that the user clicked on the homepage will be located on the leftside of the page. Each page after the homepage has a picture of Seattle’s skyline with theSpace Needle featured prominently off-center, which adds a nice aesthetic to the page. Seattle also has what they call the HERO award. It is given periodically to smallbusinesses to recognize their success. They are identified by various criteria includinghow long they have been in business, profitability, growth (number of employees and/orsales volume) and others. Some of the winners get profiled on Seattle’s website alongwith a photo of some of those employed by the business. Really the only thing that Seattle might to do with their website is add photos oftheir Success Stories. Otherwise, the color scheme works, no page is overly wordy, thewebsite communicates well, and it is easy to navigate. Services There are a few services offered by other chapters that the Portland chapter couldutilize. The Los Angeles (LA) chapter has what they call Guidance Documents on theirResources page2, which includes four PDF files and one Excel sheet. Permission could besought from SCORE LA to upload copies of those documents to the C11 website orvariations could be made with LA’s documents used as a basis. PDF files could be madeto explain other aspects of business. Ideas include ways to finance a small business, goodaccounting practices, when to hire an employee versus a subcontractor, how to design awebsite, and explain how to make sense of relevant tax laws. SCORE LA also has something called the SCORE Success Card.3 A Success Cardcan be bought for seventy dollars and used to get into an unlimited number of workshopsput on by SCORE LA for the next six months. It is similar to the idea of buying goods inbulk – more money is paid at one time, but is cheaper long-term. The practice is goodbusiness since it would entice more people to attend the workshops.1 SCORE Seattle’s homepage looks almost identical to SCORE Fort Worth’s homepage. Once inside themain site, it also operates similarly to Fort Worth’s.2 http://www.scorela.org/resources.htm3 http://www.scorela.org/workshops.htm 4
  5. 5. SCORE Philadelphiahas a service they call DisasterPrep and Relief, pictured atright. The service feelswoefully incomplete as it ispresented on their website sinceit appears to only be links tovarious pages on the Small Business Association’s website (the last of which links to apage that has moved since the hyperlink was created), FEMA, the IRS, and a few othersites. Another link towards the top of the page is supposed to link to a PDF called“SCORE’s Disaster Recovery FAQ”, but the page does not exist anymore. SCORE Chicago offers links to their accounts on YouTube4, Facebook5,MySpace6, Twitter7, LinkedIn8, and Flickr9. These accounts are great for outreach sincethose sites are so popular and many clients will have an account on at least one of thosesites. Since the websites SCORE Chicago use are free, there are no incurred costs, yetthere could be huge benefits derived from their use. Chicago also maintains three blogs,which allows for opinions and news to be shared easily. Considering the other sitesSCORE Chicago has, the blogs may be a little redundant, though helpful if a user doesnot have a page on a social networking site. SCORE Memphis and Milwaukee both allow payments for workshops to be madevia PayPal, which can be easier to deal with than paying with a check, cash, or plastic. Basic Web Design Best Practices There are various areas that need to be considered when designing websites. Thefirst is page layout, which includes things such as appeal to the target audience,consistency of the header and logo, and a consistent navigation area. Today, most peopleautomatically go to a company’s website to learn about them and what they do, whichmeans that their first impression will be derived from what the website looks like andhow it presents the organization to the world. Therefore, it is extremely important tomake sure that the website is appealing to the audience that will be viewing the site –small businesses in C11’s case. Another important detail to pay attention to is consistency of the site’s header andthe logo. Chapter Eleven (C11) already has a consistent header and logo, so as long as itstays consistent after the redesign, there should not be any issues. The navigation area, beit something like the bar along the top of SCORE NYC’s website or what appears on theside of C11’s site does not really matter, so long as it remains as such throughout theentire website. General presentation is also important. Common fonts (such as Ariel or TimesNew Roman) are used and everything is written in the style typically used on the Internet:short sentences, short paragraphs, headings, bullet points, acceptable use of white space.4 http://www.youtube.com/user/Peg5055 http://www.facebook.com/pages/SCORE-Chicago/310198697366 http://www.myspace.com/scorechicago7 http://twitter.com/scorechicago and http://twitter.com/PCorwin8 http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=591899 http://www.flickr.com/photos/scorechicago/collections/ 5
  6. 6. C11’s website does a good job with short paragraphs and sentences, but needs to takeadvantage of bullet points more and white space would be better utilized when it iscontrasting with well-chosen graphics and a better use of color. Browser compatibility is also important. The four most widely used browserstoday are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera by OperaSoftware, and the Macintosh and Microsoft editions of Apple’s Safari. Maintainingcompatibility with recent versions of these browsers is important since the vast majorityof users will have at least one of these browsers, generally IE or Firefox. It would be badfor SCORE and small businesses if someone could not access SCORE’s website simplybecause C11’s website was incompatible with the latest version of a browser Many individuals have a working knowledge of the Internet at best, so navigationand sites in general must be easy to use. Ease of use for a website includes having themethod of navigation be consistently labeled and easy to identify. There cannot be anybroken links either, meaning that if a text or picture is hyperlinked to another page, thelink should be able to get to that page without showing something like a 404 Errormessage. Luckily, the website for C11 already does this well, but it needs improvement(such as moving the office’s contact information to an actual Contact Us section insteadof putting it in the About SCORE section). Many people will say that they enjoy pictures and color since they evokeemotions and set the mood for any given situation. It is important to keep in mind,though, that there cannot be too much color or too many pictures since that will mostlikely lead to some sort of sensory overload and will definitely detract from what C11’swebsite is trying to convey to small business about being able to provide practicalbusiness advice. C11’s website accomplishes this by not having too much color or toomany graphics, which is good, but at the same time does not have enough of either so thatthe site is somewhat boring and has too much text. It is also important to not use color exclusively to convey meaning since differentcolors or combinations of color will mean different things to different people underdifferent circumstances (red may mean something to an individual while in one state ofmind, but something else entirely to the same individual while in another state of mind).Again, SCORE’s website does a good job at not relying solely on color to conveymeaning, but could still use some to enliven the site. Suggestions MasterNewMedia.com provides another list of best practices. Here is a sample ofsome of the practices: • “Inform and teach your visitors” • “Develop your own ideas” • “Hate Internet Explorer if you like, but don’t ignore its users” The blog focuses more on how a website should be presented to and interacting withusers instead of the actual development of the site. The fourth point in the blog (“Developyour own style. Develop your own ideas.”) is of particular interest since it relates to whatSeth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow about being “remarkable.” Godin uses cows asan extended metaphor, stating that everyone has seen brown cows, but purple cows aresomething special and unique, therefore drawing attention. In essence, a website should 6
  7. 7. be filled with original ideas and styles, not material that would boil down to a copy ofanother page – it should be a purple cow, not a mundane brown cow. C11’s web sitelooks nearly identical to some other SCORE sites, meaning that C11 could be seen as abrown cow. For example, if someone were to move from Atlanta to Portland and usedSCORE’s services there and plans on utilizing C11’s services, but sees that Portland’sand Atlanta’s sites are effective identical, a possible response is that C11 may not offernew ideas, just a repeat of information from Atlanta. The only real benefit of C11’s sitelooking nearly identical to that of another chapter is that it could make navigating the siteeasier. Taking inspiration from SCORE NYC and Chicago would be wise. NYCminimizes how much is on one page by mentioning things as necessary, but then linkingto more information so users are not overwhelmed with too much information at onetime. Their layout also makes it so that no scrolling is necessary on the homepage, whichis good since most users will see it as more inviting. NYC also uses color well by keepingto the same colors throughout the site. Chicago does a good job at giving external links topages that will help small businesses and they do not overwhelm users with color, butthere seems to be what could be seen as an overuse of blue. Of the sites that I frequent, GameFAQs.com is my favorite in terms of layout. Thehomepage has two top ten lists of popular material and has a daily poll to gatherinformation about people using the site. Chapter 11 could put the SCORE logo and alogin field in the header with a search bar and a link to a relevant news article just belowthat. The main text box would be filled with general knowledge about SCORE and whatthey do and a poll would be nearby inquiring about what is the biggest hurdle aboutstarting a business, what the hardest thing to learn about business is, etc. A field could beprovided giving a hyperlink with the title and date of ten upcoming seminars orworkshops and another linking to helpful sites for small businesses (for example, webdesign or basic marketing) or Success Stories of clients who have benefitted the mostfrom SCORE’s efforts. Questions do exist for redesigning Chapter 11’s site, though. What colors shouldbe used and how? Should the redesign be modeled after one or more sites? If so, whichone(s)? There are a lot of websites on the Internet already, so every idea has most likelybeen done; it ultimately comes down to taking old ideas and updating them in creativeways without forgetting Chapter 11’s past designs. Most people are creatures of habit, soredesigning the site too much may scare some people away. Color Colors are split into two general groups: Warm and cool. Warm colors includereds, oranges, and yellows are known as warm colors since they are colors peoplegenerally associate with warm things (peppers can be referred to as “red hot”, the sun isyellow, etc.). They also appear to be coming towards you, making larger rooms feelsmaller. Cool colors include blues, greens, and purples. The reason that they are “cool” is 7
  8. 8. because they remind us of things such as ice, water, and other “cool” things. These colorsalso have a retreating affect, making smaller rooms appear larger. Therefore, I suggest designing the site using blue and green. People tend toassociate blue with water and green with plant life, which will work with Oregon’sabundance of rain and trees. I would also use yellow, though conservatively, to remindpeople of a sunnier day, as would appear during the warmer months of the year. Thisway, it makes clients thinking of Oregon subconsciously and associates C11 withOregon. Background Backgrounds can be tricky.They help develop a brand, but theycan also distract users from the site’scontent. The Governor’s Office of Film &Television pulled off using abackground very well. Since C11 isbased in Portland, a photo of downtownPortland’s skyline could be used on thehomepage and other photos of thePortland area can be used throughoutthe rest of the site. As for putting text over the picture, either having a darkened text arealike what the Governor’s Office of Film & Television has or turning the photos into awatermark would allow for the background’s presence, yet make reading easy. Since not everyone has high speed Internet (some users still have a dial-upconnection), the background should not be a massive file. Microsoft Word, under thephoto editor tab, has an option that allows users to compress photos. The availableoptions are printer and web/layout. The web/layout option compresses photos down to 96dots per inch, which is just under half the size for printer quality. Human eyes normallycannot tell any significant difference between printer and web quality, but people whohave slower Internet connections will be grateful since the website is easier to download.This applies to downloadable content in general, not just backgrounds and graphics.Make sure there are not any massive files since that take too long to download. Other Best Practices • Primary audience • Purpose (personal, educational, etc.) and location (ISP, personal server, etc) of the site • Types of content (text, graphics, video, etc.) • Info on the homepage (mission/purpose statement, contact info, etc.) For an organization like SCORE, a “middle of the road” style is best sincegraphics will add some design elements that would add to the content and add to theinformation given better than the minimalist style currently utilized. A higher end designinvolving a large amount of pictures, animations, and other forms of media would 8
  9. 9. probably not be able to be used very well and would probably cause some potentialclients to not take advantage of SCORE’s services for no reason other than they havetrouble navigating the site due to too much going on and getting confused about links thatare not clearly labeled. An overly technical style necessitating higher-end technologymight be seen as unprofessional. As for page layout and user friendliness, one thing C11’s website needs is a linkon every page that takes users back to the homepage. Being able to easily navigate backto the homepage regardless of where a user is on the site is an almost universal feature ofthe Internet, so incorporating that function would bring C11’s website more in line withstandard practices. Long lists of links should also be avoided if at all possible. The Sponsors pagecould easily be shortened to just the category titles that link to each section with thesponsors’ logo that is hyperlinked to their homepage. Also, the Resources page could becut down to just a list of the category names and each name links to a separate page withthe appropriate information on them (e.g. Business Plan would link to a page called“Business Plan” and provide the links to the three SBA pages listed already given). Itmakes the page shorter and easier to read while also avoiding clutter. Workshop Pricing For the sake of marketing C11, there are a few ideas in relation to workshopprices. SCORE Chicago offers a bundle of workshops called the Business CertificateSeries at a discount if clients sign up for the whole series, saving $100 if they register forall six classes. A second option is offering half price to additional attendees if the primaryattendee pays full price for the class and/or offering a discount if clients pay the same dayas they register or with PayPal like SCORE Washington DC. The third option is offeringclients a free class if they refer someone and that individual then signs up for a class. It issimilar to how the direct bank ING Direct offers clients ten dollars if they refer someonewho signs up for an account with an initial $250 deposit. SCORE Minneapolis offers a service called Walk-In Wednesdays. It is a timefrom one in the afternoon until 3:30 where clients can walk into the office, meet with avolunteer, and receive counseling. Walk-In Wednesdays appear to be a time wherepeople can come in and ask a few quick questions and not have to worry aboutscheduling a time to meet. For simple issues or for clients who only need to come in onceto ask a couple of questions, something comparable to Walk-In Wednesdays could be agood idea and could easily attract new clients. 9
  10. 10. Referenceshttp://www.oregonfilm.org/10http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/color/a/symbolism_2.htmhttp://interiordec.about.com/cs/colorindecor/f/faq_warm_colors.htmhttp://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2006/03/25/web_design_and_development_top.htmhttp://terrymorris.net/bestpractices/http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/webdesign.htm10 The Governor’s Office of Film & Television 10

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