12 Tips for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website Redesign

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is redesigning/upgrading their already wonderful website. They are offering suggestions on their redesign blog, Round Robin so we decided to not just comment, but give these tips.

1 – Add corporate blog or blogs

  • Blogging is not some sort of quaint trend that will fizzle out in a few years. Blogs are revolutionary in their simplistic way of creating a community, providing updated content, and being search engine friendly (see #2). If a few “big names” at the Lab start up some blogs about their adventures, the amount of time invested will easily provide huge returns.

2 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • No matter how the site looks from a design perspective, the number one focus should be usability, followed closely by Search Engine Optimization. Most people searching for information about birds and bird conservation projects will come across the Lab’s load of content, so each page should be optimized in order to direct this traffic to the site.

    We will gladly assist the Lab on further explaining ways to do this and why it is so important.

3 – Add More Media to All About Birds

  • Another vital addition to the All About Birds section would be to increase the amount of photos and video available (and sound too, but the Macaulay Library has that covered well). This could be done via user submissions or using the Creative Commons (CC) license found on places like Flickr. All of our photos are CC and we’d be happy to share them with Cornell!

4 – Searchable All About Birds

  • This issue was brought up on the Round Robin blog but deserves an agreement. The All About Birds section is the most used section by us (followed by the Macaulay Library) and making it easier to nail down a bird identification or just find a bird via unconventional means (like by “birds that sing at night”).

5 – One Master Login

  • With new features enabled it would be nice to have one master login for users. This could be for all citizen science projects as well as the Birds of North America Online, eBird, etc. This makes it easier for users and in theory, the Lab as well.

6 – Premium/Lab Membership Recognition

  • If a master login with user profile is created, those people who are Lab members or Premium members or whatever, should be recognized in their profile and icon/avatar. This works well with other social networking sites and with the number of projects Cornell is part of, they can be a big player in this area.

7 – Points System

  • To encourage contributions, the Lab’s new site could employ a point system – earn points for commenting, adding photos, helping others ID birds, etc.

8 – Premium/Exclusive Content

  • If various levels of users are available, those that are Lab members or Premium members should have special access to certain areas. This would help increase membership of Cornell as well as provide more incentive for us members to continue as members and participate more.

9 – Easy Navigation

  • Not all members/users will be web savvy so it is important for the Lab to use straightforward navigation and linking. No fancy Flash or long-loading graphics. Just use clean and elegant menus (limited on the drop-downs) that enable users to find what they want within 2 or 3 clicks.

10 – Allow Commenting on Content/Articles

  • Related to the above blogging suggestion, all articles, press releases, projects, etc. should allow people to comment on. Of course, this needs to be moderated, but even having user-moderators will ensure SPAM gets caught and trouble-makers removed.

11 – Let the Bird of Mouth Spread

  • Word (bird) of Mouth is a powerful tool. Each article, post, project, etc. needs to be easily submitted to sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. as well as emailed to friends. The use of RSS (syndication feeds) is also important so users can get content delivered to them.

12 – User Generated Content (UGC)

  • While we would suggest against allowing users to create mini “Lab Blogs”, other content could be allowed in regards to various sections of the Lab. For example, the All About Birds section could allow for field observations about the birds, tips for identification, etc. The Citizen Science projects could have the same sort of UGC.

We hope these suggestions help the Lab improve their already fun and informative site. Add your ideas as well!!

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