Afren : Homing in problems

Users miss messages in the absence of browsing controls.

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The Site

Afren, a London-based oil exploration and production company, has a home page picture banner that frustrates engagement with the featured content. Afren’s home page is dominated by a full-width picture banner that displays high-quality images of the company’s activities, each one headlined and with a captioned link. The images are shown in a set sequence, each fading seamlessly into the next with the display refreshing every five seconds. The full sequence contains 13 images: at the time of review one was for the half yearly results, the remainder divided equally between three headline and links combinations (East Africa growth through exploration, Well positioned for further growth, and Acquisition and strategic entry into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq). There is no thumbnail index of the features, nor navigation controls (direction arrows, for example) with which users can page through, pause, preview, skip or alter the speed of the sequence.

The Takeaway

Big, bold displays of magazine-quality images have been a refreshing addition to the home page palette in the past couple of years and few galleries come bigger and bolder than Afren’s. Sadly, few are also as likely to confuse the site’s message and leave visitors feeling helpless, frustrated and overwhelmed. Problems with the deployment of the feature are manifest. The lack of an index or navigation aides (standard on most models) leaves visitors unable to control their viewing or browse the content efficiently. The high number of features is disconcerting – 13 is way above the norm – and seems even more self-indulgent when it becomes clear there are just four different topics and links on offer. This degree of over-population exacerbates (and perhaps dictates) the remarkably speedy changes of picture that leave users little opportunity to absorb a message and click the link before the chance is gone. Expecting them to wait until it comes round again (or work out that it may crop up in three different guises) is unrealistic. And that is especially self-defeating in the case of the results link, which does require waiting through 12 phases of the cycle to have another shot at.
First published 01 November, 2011
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