Moody's : Downgrading usability

Lack of clarity adds to the disruptive effect of a mash-up of link behaviours.

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The feature

Moody’s, a leading credit ratings and research group, fragments the browsing of its products and services through poor link management. Products & Solutions is one of three primary sections on Moody’s dotcom site. Its dropdown menu features a large number of links (29) organised into three columns: Moody’s Analytics, Areas of Expertise and Access Products. Many links lead directly to separate websites; for example, four of the five links under Moody's Analytics launch on a Moody’s Analytics site, as do several in the other columns. In addition, links may open in a new browser window/tab or in the current window. There are no visual clues or indicators to this behaviour and no consistency; for example, some pages on the Moody’s Analytics site open in the current window some in a new one. Clicking the Products & Solutions heading itself opens a landing page for a self-contained section on the dotcom site. Links here differ from those in the dropdown and are grouped by Product Type and Market Segment. They open pages within the section.

The takeaway

Moody’s serial disregard for the conventions of navigation makes for a fragmented and frustrating experience for its site users, and the severity of the disruption to their navigation of its products and ‘solutions’ does the ratings agency itself no commercial favours. The mash-up of link behaviours in the section’s dropdown menu is bad enough: users take a better-than-even chance that they will be led off to a standalone website rather than to pages on the current site, and that this might happen in a new browser window or the current one. There is no apparent rhyme or reason to the window policy, while the lack of a visual indication or message when a new URL or window will be invoked seasons the unpredictability. But the cherry on the cake is the disconnect between the dropdown menu and the Products & Solutions section. While erratic link behaviour is not unknown to website visitors, a section with discrete menus will be a disorientating novelty to most – assuming they think to click on the section heading at all when presented with a dropdown menu. To sort that out will require more than sprinkling a few new window/site icons in menus.
First published 30 October, 2012
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