21 February 2011

The Henry Ford Museum website - too much of a good thing?

I just had reason to visit the website of “The Henry Ford” (comprising The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village)

This site is an example of what happens when the aim is to give visitors to a site as much control and as many options as possible, in the smallest possible space.

On the home page alone, I found:
  • 2 quick-link drop-downs: “I am” and “How do I” (see below)
  • 2 ticket-purchase drop-downs: “Purchase by venue” and “Purchase by event”
  • A search box
  • A login-in form: user name + password
  • A “Plan your visit” form: 4 fields + 5 buttons
  • A menubar with 13 menu items, each with a roll-over drop-down of up to 12 items
  • 13 buttons (apart from the ones as part of forms)
  • 20 text links (including 4 in a scrolling field and 9 in click-to-expand boxes)
  • 3 image links
  • an auto-start video (with sound) + 5 video links
Many of the features are good ideas by themselves. (I particularly like the “I am” and “How do I” controls; the auto-start video is a mistake, especially on a home page.) But taken together, all these elements would just cause bewilderment.

[More about the “I am” and “How do I” quick-links (shown as “smart site”):

Choices for “I am”:
  • Just Browsing
  • Educator
  • Private Event Planner or Bride
  • A Local Visitor
  • Group or Tour Planner
  • History Enthusiast
  • Tourist/Out of Town Visitor
  • Member
  • With Media
Each choice produces a different menu for “How do I”. Eg, for “With Media” the menu is:
  • Get Member Discounts
  • Buy an Annual Ride Pass
  • Upgrade my Membership level
  • Renew my Membership
  • Buy a Gift Membership
  • Donate to the Annual Fund
MoMA does a similar thing in its navigation footer-bar.]

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