Case Study 1: AIRMIC

Airmic has less content than our other case studies; looking at the site navigation indicates that there are around 50 main pages. The Airmic site has nonetheless been put together with care for appearance and ease of use. Like the other case studies, UKAPW could learn from its consistent approach.

Airmic is a members’ association, supporting those responsible for risk management and insurance within their own companies. Airmic provides research, training, networking, lobbying and market information for the benefit of individuals representing over 450 companies.

AIRMIC's home page: modern but a little confusing

The page packs a surprisingly large number of elements. Not all have an immediately apparent purpose and there is a certain amount of duplication. The layout is nonetheless neat.

AIRMIC

The horizontal navigation (2) shows that the site has 6 areas, plus the home page and "contact us". There is duplication between (2) and the image links (5). Suggested improvements are listed at the end of this page.

Dare to be simple
Website owners get attached to their images; some regarding them as equivalent to their brand. If Airmic really wants to keep the extra four graphics they could insert a "quick links" piece of text between the first link (Airmic Academy) and the second link (Airmic SIGs). This gives "steer" towards the links, while indicating that they are duplicated elsewhere.

Table: AIRMIC home page
ElementCommentElement on
1 Logo and branding. The main logo is compact, but does the strapline "Together Leading in Risk" really require another image? All pages
2 Primary navigation. All pages
3 Site search. All pages
4 Power search. How this compares to the search box at (3) was not initially clear. But further investigation reveals that the searches are identical. The purpose of highlighting this feature on the home page might be to emphasize the feature; Airmic's PowerSearch is extraordinarily powerful and useful for a site of its size. There is possibly something for UKAPW to learn here. All pages
5 Supplementary navigation(?) The purpose of these image links is unclear, as they duplicate some of the items in the primary navigation. Perhaps they are simply intended to be attractive images to encourage clicking. All pages
6 Events. All pages
7 Social networking. All pages
8 Topical material (latest news etc) plus a call to action (join Airmic). Home page
9 Purpose of Airmic – UKAPW could have a similar statement for the benefit of non-actuaries. Home page
10 User login. First time registration is up by the search box (3). Home page
11 Airmic iPlay: what on earth is this? Home page
12 Key event: the 2011 Airmic conference. All pages
13 Footer. Not great; the black on grey (sitemap and contact) is a bit thoughtless. All pages

Learning points for UKAPW

[1] Home page

As with the other case study websites, the Airmic home page is more compact than the UKAPW home page The use of moving images for the topical information works; there is genuine content behind the links.

The UKAPW use of image tabs on its home page is particularly weak compared to both Airmic and QFinance Desirable features of image tabs include:
  • The images display as a "slideshow", perhaps with pause / back / forward buttons
  • The image is clickable, with text explaining the image and the corresponding link
  • The message conveyed by the slideshow / tabs has real substance

[2] Layout

Pages directly accessible from the navigation or sitemap have consistent and reliable layout. This layout forms a robust framework for a growing site. The third column clearly lists the pages in the current level of navigation.

Pages such as the hazards of product recall and crisis management exemplify some content being rather "light" and the "related links" in the right hand column being weakly related.

[3] Content

The Airmic site lacks the depth of the UKAPW. But the combination of straightforward content and consistent layout makes a pleasing impression.

Simple but strong Airmic pages include The Secretariat, Joint research and Research reports

[4] Navigation

An important area in which Airmic excels compared to the UKAPW is navigation. Airmic navigation is simpler, easier to read and less wordy.

Table: AIRMIC navigation levels
LevelExamples - and how to identify the level and active page
1 Home
2 About Airmic / Research / Members / Join / Events / Contact us
The level 2 page could be better highlighted. The level 2 sponsorship page directs to a level 3 page.
3 Airmic guides etc
4 There aren't a huge number of such pages internal to Airmic. Keeping pages to levels 1-3 makes navigation easier. The (only) way of seeing where you are on level 4 pages is by using the breadcrumb of the address bar. An example level 4 page is Airmic PowerSearch means what exactly?

[5] Sitemap

Airmic has a simple but exemplary sitemap The UKAPW's more extensive and complex content does not justify the inaccessible approach taken by the UKAPW sitemap

Improving Airmic

Though the AIRMIC site has clearly been thought through at a high level, there are some implementation details which could be improved. All the following points could be easily addressed in an hour, but illustrate some inferiority to the other case study sites. Unsurprising given the probable development resources available to each site.

Airmic navigation: scope for improvement

The breadcrumb works. The thinking behind the high level navigation is clear. The secondary navigation in the right hand column of lower level pages is useful and also shows where you are. There is scope for improvement:
  1. Label the images (5 in the home page image above) "quick links" and consider removing the duplication with the primary navigation.
  2. When "Sponsorship is clicked it should load a specific Sponsorship page, not the lower level Airmic MarketPlace. There must be scope to explain about the Sponsorship section.
  3. Similarly the Airmic MarketPlace should be set as Home > Sponsorship > Airmic MarketPlace in the breadcrumb and not Home > Airmic MarketPlace.
  4. A more straightforward solution to 2 and 3 is to drop the "marketplace" link from under the "sponsorship" menu then relabel "sponsorship" as "marketplace".
  5. Highlight the currently active primary navigation area, in the same way that the currently active secondary navigation areas is highlighted green. The current approach almost invisibly "greys" the navigation text.
  6. Remove the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) from under the Events menu. Loading it from Events shows only three items under secondary navigation; the SIGs page is under the Members folder and navigation.