What makes a website effective for users and visitors? In what ways do websites use stylistic and structural elements to inform readers? The word 'website' may not mean much. It is like the term 'book', which says more about the mode of communication than the message or audience. For the sake of this page, we will look at a few landing pages from larger non-profit organisations.
Check out each of the three Paper 1 stimulus texts below. They are all screenshots of websites. What do they have in common? What makes each one unique? Use a 3-way Venn diagram to make your ideas visible. Discuss your ideas and diagram with your classmates.
Specimen 1: Anti-slavery
Based on your notes, identify, as a class, the defining features of websites. What makes a website a website? What are some examples of these features from the 3 texts you explored? Make a two-column table with the defining features (and their definitions) in the left column and examples from the 3 specimen sites in the right column.
Compare your table of defining features with the one provided below. It is based on this example of a political party's website below. In what ways are your points similar to or different from those presented here?
- Take a screenshot of a website that you visit frequently, possibly from an organisation that you care about. Place this screenshot in the middle of a large A2 slide, using Google Slides or another application. In the margins surrounding this screenshot, place several labels and analyses. Prepare a poster presentation of your shout-out poster and present your analysis to your classmates. See the example below (credits to: Liv Gertz, Fiona Tucker, Milena Cabrero, Maria Tricas).
Specimen 2: Amnesty International
Specimen 3: Black Lives Matter
|Personalisation/mailing list: Many sites ask you to create an account. This way, the content can be personalised (which may already be happening based on 'cookies') and you can be placed on mailing lists for marketing purposes.||This site has an empty field in a simple form which encourages viewers to give their email address by overwriting 'firstname.lastname@example.org' and a submit button that reads 'stay updated'.|
|Social media icons: Many sites include social media icons (or logos) that hyperlink to the organisation's streams or pages on those platforms. Liking their page on those platforms is another way of signing up for notifications and subscribing to their content||This site includes two large buttons, one for Twitter and another for Facebook.|
|Website structure: Research tells us that most people scan over webpages, moving their eyes up and down then left side of a page before making one or two horizontal movements, like the shape of the letter 'F'. For this reason the home button (often the logo of the organisation) appears in the upper left corner. Left menus and top-level, drop-down menus are also popular. Sites often include 'bread crumbs' across the top, under a banner image, to help readers navigate the site. Most sites these days are 'responsive', meaning that blocks will stack on mobile devices. Many sites, for this reason have a grid-like home page. The 'footer', common to each page in the site, also acts as a navigation tool. To draw attention to the images and language, a degree of negative space is also advisable.||The banner image on this site is a slider which reveals looping images every few seconds. The two dots below the image indicate there are two slides in the gallery. Labor's logo acts as the home button and presumably the top-level menu items ('what we stand for') remain on each page on the site. The card or block structure act as teasers, encouraging readers to click on the images and text to 'read more'. The footer includes submenu items, helping the reader navigate.|
|Use of language: Websites often use imperative verbs, the second-person 'you' pronoun and punchy sentences to involve the reader. Readers do not read longer texts on webpages with a lot of buttons, menu items or distractions. So generally speaking 'less is more'. This goes for headings, as well.||'Sign the petition', 'Get involved' and 'join Labor' are several examples of imperatives verbs that call on the reader to take action. Furthermore this site uses many single word headings, such as 'Education' or 'Families' to cover the parties key themes. This site uses the inclusive 'we' to involve the reader.|
|Images: Images are important for the success and usability of a website. Images should act as illustrations to the text. Just as the texts should act as captions to images. Generally speaking, people love images of people. Head shots work particularly well for involving readers and getting them to identify with a message.||
The 'cards' each have an image to depict the stories that they reveal when clicked on. These are all happy people, engaging positively with other people. The woman with crossed arms (which is arguably a defensive stance) breaks the grid structure which captures readers' attentions.
|Colour / theme: Websites use a colour pallet to create a sense of atmosphere. These colours often appear in the organisation's logo and act as a form of branding. The site's 'theme' is a set of heading styles, font types, structures and colours that run throughout the pages of the site.||
This site predominantly uses a primary shade of red, the colour of labour parties around the word. These reds are offset with greys, whites and a small amount of dark blue, all of which create a sense of political party savvy and professionalism.
Example Shout-out poster on a website
There is a good chance that webpages could appear on a Paper 1 exam. As with all stimulus texts, consider how the medium affects the message. Websites may present news articles, videos, opinion pieces, or even items for sale. Consider how the structures and styls help further the intent of the webpage.