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Northwest Harvest: competitive re-analysis 24 May 2010

Posted by Helen in Competitive Analysis.
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My task on the Northwest Harvest website is to find out how to serve food in the kitchen, because I like to cook. I go to the lime green ‘volunteer’ tab in the header; all of the tabs are color delineated for easy distinction. I click on the ‘volunteer’ option.

I don’t see anything about hot meals as I read the text on that page, but learn I can help serve in the Cherry Street Food Bank. Sounds good enough. Ok, now I have a location and a specific task; next step: sign up. I click the link that leads to volunteer descriptions.  The third one down is Sandwich Brigade:

Sandwich Brigade volunteers make over 1,600 fresh sandwiches each Monday and Wednesday morning for our Sack Lunch program. We always need help making sandwiches from approximately 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Why didn’t I know of this option sooner? I love making sandwiches! This position should have been on the main volunteer landing page.

Unfortunately, none of these options fits my schedule, as I work from 8 to 5. The only Saturday slots are in the Kent Warehouse. Hmm… you’ve lost me, NW Harvest! But, pretending that you haven’t, I click the “fill out an application” link, and am taken to an online form (PDF form for groups or students). It’s easy enough to fill out, and allows me to tailor my volunteer experience to me needs—a nice touch.

I stand by my previous statements that the organization’s mission statement is clear, though I guess I don’t know what food banks do exactly if I think they serve hot meals. The ease of signing up to volunteer further emphasizes that the site is oriented towards potential volunteers. Plus, it seems that while the design might be trying to make finding information on getting food obvious by putting a large “Need food? We can help.” button on the right, in doing so they have made it less intuitive—the eye is first drawn to the tabs in the header, reading them left to right before finally settling on the appropriate button.

A nice feature that the site includes in the header is a list of other programs fighting hunger in Washington State. So, I can search (quite easily, I might add) for a partner organization that will allow me to prepare meals for the needy. This level of collaboration is refreshing, and further emphasizes the organization’s goal to end hunger, even if not through them. This could also be linked on the volunteer pages for people who, like me, are confused about what specifically the organization does.

Design-wise, the site is clean, with ample white space and tasteful amounts of color; this makes is a pleasant experience for both volunteer and potential recipient. The most appealing aspect of the design is the prominently-featured images of food bank recipients, along with quotes about how Northwest Harvest helped ease their hunger; this personal element creates an immediate connection with the organization:  a human face.  The e-news letter is in the position that a search bar would ordinarily occupy, potentially leading to confusion. A search bar in general would be nice, but all-in-all the site is fairly intuitively laid out.

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