Caisse d’Épargne : Sowing uncertainty
User confidence suffers when a link is not a link.
Caisse d’Épargne, a leading French banking group, draws no distinction for visitors between linked and unlinked captions on the same page.
Caisse d’Épargne’s group site presents its senior management and executives on a single Managers page. The five members of the Management Board appear first, each listing consisting of a photograph captioned with the individual’s name, in red type, and job title or area of responsibility, in grey. Rolling over a name underscores it; clicking launches a pop-up window containing a short biography.
Below these come the Supervisory Board; listings are similarly configured, though only the chairman is given a photograph. However, names are not linked; rolling over or clicking them has no effect. The breadcrumb trail at the top of the page also uses red type, but the only active link, Home Page, is underscored.
Caisse d’Épargne risks undermining user confidence in the site by providing a different outcome to clicking headings that are visually identical and of seemingly equal status. Conventionality is not the issue, but consistency. There is nothing particularly unusual about Caisse d’Épargne’s linking of names or the selective provision of executive biographies – and even if its system were a little quirky, users are quick to learn. But the lack of predictability negates the advantage of familiarity (just as it would make learning customised navigation more difficult).
The underlying problem could well be one of design – too many underscored headings being deemed aesthetically unacceptable. If that stands in the way of usability, then someone is putting the cart before the horse. An acceptable alternative would be to change the colour of unlinked names to something more obviously neutral such as, in the context of the site, bold grey or purple.http://www.groupe.caisse-epargne.com/asp/ci_modele2.aspx?np=dirigeants_ci#haut
First published on 17 July, 2008