Here in New York City, we expect snow. A lot of snow. Enough snow, in fact, that as a precaution, the New York City public school system is closed. That’s very rare, and for a lot of parents — whose places of work are very much expected to be open, especially — it is also exceptionally inconvenient. (Not I; my office is closed.)
Let’s say you are a parent of a school-aged child or, like me, someone who solely wanted to know if school was canceled tomorrow. Say someone in your office mentioned it in passing and you needed confirmation. One of the many things you could do to get that confirmation is to go to the New York City Department of Education’s web site, like I did. Here’s what you’d see — click to enlarge, if you’d like:
Yes, it says that there schools are closed. But it does so ineffectively. The language is wrong — “Chancellor Klein Announces…” yawn… — and there’s no visual cue telling us that this is important. In both language and aesthetics, the important content blends away from the reader. In this case, that reader was me. Not seeing the one sentence I expected — “SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10TH. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION” — in bolded red letters, I moved on.
On, that is, to the City’s website.
Again, click to enlarge.
And again, same problem. The announcement blends in with a larger story about snow preparations, replete with a yawn-inducing picture of Mayor Mike behind the podium. No big notice, no clear language. The only thing which catches the eye, at all, is in the upper-right. There’s a small box, titled “NYC Right Now,” and right there is the notice I’m looking for. Except that it scrolls away a few seconds after the page loads.
Thankfully, I caught it quickly enough, and clicked it — sending me back to the school board’s site. So I guess that worked — somehow.
One of the great downfalls of the Internet is that it is very, very easy to publish your message. But failing to deliver the message renders the message moot. Don’t let the messenger neglect his duties.