Saturday, May 16, 2009

The human rights group Amnesty International has used a dynamic, yet functional design for its website. The home page has a frequently-updated “news” feature prominently displayed, with a series of vertically-arranged numbers (1 through 5) toward the left-hand side of the “news” panel. These Numbers correspond to particular items in the news that relate to human rights, at intervals of a few seconds, the number that’s highlighted will change, and its corresponding picture will be displayed to the right. It’s a kinetic, active way of drawing attention to a particularly important feature of the site, and, from a topical standpoint, shows us what’s most important to know about the organization: not that you donate via Paypal (though they do have a feature for this); not the various papers they’ve published on particular human rights abuses (though they do have links to these on the home page). What they are about, and want you to know first and foremost that they’re about, is combating real-life human rights abuses, which are happening all the time. The way the “news” panel is arranged helps convey this.

It’s a “busy” site; there are over 50 links to follow, just from the home page. But there is simplicity within the complexity; the most important links on the left-hand panel (“Donate,” “Join,” and “Take Action”) are included in their own panel, and are written in a plain-looking typeface, yet in a dynamic way (when you mouse-over any of these links, the text becomes back-on-yellow, instead of its usual white-on-black; it’s very visually compelling). There are also links toward the top of the site (again, in black-on-yellow, as-plain-as-possible typeface) to view the site in three additional languages, besides English. This not only conveys ease of use for more people globally, but is an expression in terms of design, of the type of site and organization they intend to be: a global one. Each of these factors combine to give a sense that the site both “has a lot going on,” and that it isn’t so overloaded and busy that it makes you want to give up on it.

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