For class yesterday we had George Rogers come and talk to us about his website ChoiceSkills.com. It is really an awesome idea, something this world really needs. He has published a couple lesson plan manuals that tie into schools' core curriculum requirements and at the same time teach the students character building principles. He has also published Benjamin Franklin's "The Art of Virtue," and a little kids book entitled, "Mac and Zach from Hackensack." All of these items are aimed at building character.
For class we are going to be using SiteCatalyst on the ChoiceSkills.com website. This time though, we will get to see it from the beginning of the implementation, see carious implementations put into production and hopefully be able to see the results of our suggestions.
The part that stood out most to me was the lesson finder. This seems like a very useful tool to have and to show visitors the contents of the manuals before they buy them. There's nothing special about the way it is presented, just in a simple html table. The information seems rather intimidating, not very inviting to the reader. It is possible that they see so many things that it has to be great. But I can also see a lot of people wanting to see a more organized list of topics. The different sections help a little bit, but those sections aren't even mentioned at the top. A reader needs to be given some sort of a summary of what type of material they are about to peruse in order to get them to peruse it. Just like the blurb on the back of a book, or even the preface.
It might also be useful to have the Activity titles categorized into a list for each of the Core Curriculum Requirements, CCR, (e.g., Reading Comprehension, Communication, Science, etc.). This would help visitors see the variety of lessons for each CCR. The lists could be viewed in any of the previous ways.
I would also recommend doing away with the detailed table being completely visible, it is rather intimidating. If the lists are made as recommended above, you could make each item dynamic so that when the person hovered over the item, or clicked on the item, the list expanded enough to show more detailed information for that line item. This idea is very similar to the left menu bar that expands for the various topics. This would require a little more technical prowess,
This organization would be most beneficial to a click map, so that you could see what it is users most click on, which categories draw the most traffic/interest. This info could be used in certain promotions (email, website, etc.).
It would also make it easier for teachers to see if there are many lesson plans that would benefit them if they could search to find lesson plans on specific topics or browse by category. With an internal searching function, at first it may not be very successful, but with SiteCatalyst you could trace the terms that are searched and better design the site to help visitors find what they are looking for.
(I'd like to thank my wife for helping me in this analysis. She is a teacher and had some very good insights.)