Suggestion: NCSES should place the most important information, based on user feedback, at the top of the page.
NCSES landing (home) page: three different titles are used to describe the NCSES subsite: “Statistics” (National Science Foundation, NSF, tab title), “Science and Engineering Statistics” (NSF home page), and the “National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).” This is a problem for users who are asked to make the leap between “Statistics” and “NCSES.”
Although the first item in the “Statistics” drop-down menu, “Science & Engineering Statistics,” explains more fully the type of statistics found on this site by using a more descriptive title, this link is not needed, since it links to the current landing page. This behavior does not respect two usability standards: (1) a hyperlink on a page should not send users to the current page and (2) two hyperlinks that are named differently should bring users to different content pages.
Suggestion: Consider testing the current version with users (frequent and infrequent) through task completion exercises to find out whether navigation is difficult for them given that the information scent3 is reduced with the use of different titles. Test with a second version in which the tab name “Statistics” is changed to “Science and Engineering Statistics.” This would be consistent with the name on the right-side navigation of the NSF home page (see http://www.nsf.gov/ [November 2011]) and would allow the user to eliminate the first item in the drop-down menu or eliminate the drop-down menu altogether, since Search statistics and About statistics are covered elsewhere.
Breadcrumb trail: a breadcrumb trail is a row of links showing how the site is structured. It is usually located at the top of the page. It prevents users from feeling lost in the site, especially if they arrive deep into the site from an Internet search engine or from a saved bookmark and do not know where they are in relation to the full NSF site.
Suggestion: Add a breadcrumb trail at the top of the page.
Left-side navigation: the first thing that catches the eye is the title with the graphic. Although the graphic provides a splash of color on the page, it
3The information scent predicts a path’s success. The navigation of the page with good information scent will signal to the user that they have reached or are nearing their goal. Available: http://www.motive.co.nz [November 2011].