If Users Don’t Know What Your Website’s About You’ve Chosen the Wrong WordPress Theme
Plan B is a resource and information website designed to help users/members prepare for natural hazard incidents (earthquakes, super storms, pandemics). The website theme and design should be practical and easy to navigate. Themes designed for journalists appear to provide the clarity and functionality Plan B users will expect. “Newspaper” design is familiar to users and therefore has a low learning curve. These information-delivery designs often support a rich variety of media integral to capturing the users interest and loyalty: video, infographics (possibly interactive), galleries, newsfeeds. However, one of Plan B’s distinguishing features is its focus on each unique user, their plan and the specific issues and concerns for their home and neighborhood.
“Plan B is Me,” is a logo line identifying each user and his or her plan as the primary focus of the site. Each users page is their Plan B website where they build a plan that works specifically for their households. Over time these users extend their plan to include their neighbors (also users) and their family members and friends living in other regions or even other countries. The addition of family and friends around the world introduces users to the “neighborhood of choice.” It’s an online space where all your family and friends are just seconds away. Plan B users develop plans for natural hazard events in their immediate area and also use Plan B’s website and social media to build plans that include distant family or friends. These plans can include methods for checking in with family and friends during an event because Plan B leverages social media to perform as a clearinghouse during a crisis. During an event users contact leave messages or get messages and request or offer shelter, medical assistance or money.
Plan B is a personal blog. A blog about your home. Your household. It might be one person and their dog. It could be a couple over 60 years old. It might be someone in a wheel chair. Plan B lets each person develop a plan that meets his or her unique needs. Instead of a newspaper design the website might need to look friendly, simple but not simplistic, uncluttered but not “minimal” and cold. It should be a scalable theme – one that can be built upon and will be able to support databases, videos, libraries and webinars.
Each theme name listed below – Grid Focus, Yoko, Coraline, Bulldog – opens into a new window to allow readers to view the various themes and compare and contrast their designs. Comments are welcome and appreciated.
Possible features and functions for Plan B:
- Responsive web design
- Embedded video
- Photo galleries – possibly several or a photo gallery for each user/member
- Online journals for users – a place for users to store their preparation plans, ideas, comments, resources/links, uploads – video blogs about their plans, showing their preparations, asking questions or making comments.
- Newsfeeds – possibly three 24/7 newsfeeds that aggregate natural hazard related news items: hyperlocal/regional, regional/national, national/international (will refine regions as research progresses).
- Library/Storage for PDF downloads – a value-added feature – a location on site where users can download natural hazard planning worksheets, checklists, reference material (possible revenue stream).
- Bulletin Board for users to share ideas and resources (monitored to ensure that users adhere to Plan B guidelines – respect all people and questions, no conspiracy theories, no hate speech). Plan B is designed as an alternative resource for natural hazard planners. Plan B has a progressive political perspective.
- A rich and responsive inclusion of social media platforms: Google+, Facebook, Twitter.
- The ability to host or support webinars, live Tweets, Google+ hangouts and other social media platforms that support and engage online communities.
- The ability to grow and support an online community and provide service without lag time.
Grid Focus reminds me of paper forms used by accountants and shop clerks. The clear use of the grid implies that information needs to be organized and easy to access. It’s a design idea that many people are familiar with – especially if they’ve ever used Excel. The visual reference to an Excel worksheet might make users sit up straight in their chairs and put on their thinking caps. Grid Focus says, “There’s work to do and we’re going to do it together.”
Yoko engages the user with an image – a powerful image of a neighborhood that has suffered a natural hazard event. It’s this graphic, emotional appeal that attracts me to this theme. I also appreciate the location of “category” links below the photo, which ensure that users find the information they need – faster than fast. The design is quiet and calm. Users may appreciate the softer colors and understated navigation. Yoko says, “Don’t panic. We have the information you need right here. We were expecting you.”
Coraline isn’t going to intimidate anyone – unless you look under the hood. This theme looks homemade but offers lots of support for widgets and design. Users will feel like they’re visiting a friend’s site – a friend who just took a class in web design. Coraline says, “I’m putting another load of laundry in the dryer. The information you need is in the right hand column. Start working now because I’m taking care of everything just for you.”
Bulldog is for sale. It’s all dressed up like a “real” news or magazine site and it’s batting its Upper Navigation at me seductively. It wants me to spend $33 so that I can call it my own. I’m tempted by all that great Top Navigation and those sleek bold headlines. Bulldog is calling me through a cigarette haze, “You want everyone to think you’re a pro? Then you’ll choose me. You’ll pay for it. And you’ll like it.”