Vestas : Engaging distraction

Interactive feature panels provide diverting alternative navigation.

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The Site

Vestas, a Denmark-based manufacturer of wind turbines, compromises usability with its use of interactive feature panels to engage interest in products and services. Vestas’ corporate website includes a Wind power plant primary section that has a full-width interactive panel at the top of its pages populated with an information ‘card’ display. This consists of five cards, one of which is shown in full with the others stacked behind with an edge showing. The display can be ‘shuffled’ in three ways: [a] by clicking on any of the stacked cards, which brings it to the front. This is not indicated and the presence of the stack is veiled by the predominant light grey tint of the cards; [b] a more visible right-pointing arrow allows the display to be advanced sequentially only; [c] from the secondary navigation bar above the display, as the cards correspond to the first five of its seven headings. In all cases there is a time delay for the page to reload. Four cards depict a landscape/seascape in cross section with animated turbines in position and illustrate an aspect of the turbines and company operations; the fifth shows a turbine in close up. Large clickable blue dots reveal headings on mouseover and control the display of information below the feature panel. This tertiary level information can also be navigated via a left-hand menu that may carry additional items not featured on the animation.

The Takeaway

Vestas’ interactive panels in its Wind power plant section represent an unusually sophisticated method of exploring section content, with the interactivity and animation clearly intended to lend a more engaging dimension. The question this begs, though, is not does it work (yes) but does it really add to the effectiveness of the communication. Or, to put it another way, is it engaging or merely distracting? On most counts the answer is it hinders more than it helps. For example, the feature does not always cover the full menu for the sub-section, so the left menu is still needed but could be overlooked because of the interactive ‘alternative’; navigation of the card ‘deck’ is not intuitive and is obscured by poor execution – there are conflicting controls within the panel, the more restrictive of which (the right-pointing arrow) is more familiar and visible (the ‘pick a card’ effect is literally not clear); the only indication you are moving sub-section by changing cards is in the highlighting on the secondary navigation bar (which confusingly for anyone spotting this covers more topics than the interactive panel). Add in the annoying reload delay and having to mouseover a blue dot to reveal a menu heading – which makes the conventional left menu more usable – and the deployment of technology looks to generate more trouble than it is worth.
First published 11 September, 2012
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