People’s Climate Action : Bending the rules

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Inconsistent and haphazard signalling of e-mail links is unsettling.

The Site

People’s Climate Action, an umbrella group of non-governmental organisations focused on the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, sends contradictory signals about the performance of links.

People’s Climate Action makes widespread use of links in text and right-hand panels to facilitate e-mail contact. In the Highlights area of the News section, for example, each summary gives a contact’s name, telephone number and linked e-mail address, which is underscored and highlighted in orange. Clicking the link launches a ready-addressed form in the user’s e-mail browser. The same section’s Newsletters page uses an underscored ‘here’ as the link in its right-hand prompt for submitting events and activities to a named communications manager. In the body of the main text on the same page, an invitation to send in news items ends with the name of a different communications officer which is underscored and highlighted in orange.

The About section opens on an index of secretariat biographies that features a thumbnail photograph of each individual along with a short résumé and mobile telephone and Skype contact details. Names are underscored and in orange type; clicking a name triggers the ready-addressed e-mail feature. In The Projects section, three of the four entries for December give named contacts and an unlinked e-mail address; for the fourth, the e-mail address is underscored and in orange, opening a ready-addressed form on click.

The Takeaway

People’s Climate Action is keen for obvious reasons to generate contact and provides plenty of opportunities through the conventional device of ready-addressed e-mail forms launched from its site. So far so familiar, but the variety of ways it signals where a link to a form is and their seemingly haphazard and contradictory deployment makes for an unsettling user experience. At its most extreme, the organisation’s signals send out the wrong message to regular web users. Most, for example, would take the highlighting and underscoring of names in the biographies index to indicate a link to more information about the individual and would perhaps also assume that contact has be made using Skype or a mobile.

A more consistent and predictable approach would mean visitors aren’t distracted by the nuts and bolts of the site but can concentrate on the task or content in hand, which is pretty much the point whatever your campaign is about.

First published on 10 December, 2009