What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘October’? I’m partial to donuts and cider…and Halloween. Okay, maybe the sight of leaves falling from the trees and the smell in the air—at least here in Michigan—of the changing of the season. It’s a special feeling, especially watching the trees changing colors and enjoying the last bits of warmth before winter arrives. It doesn’t sound entirely bad, does it?

October also represents something else, something important, something sobering and something that not everybody will be here to celebrate each year; National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year is a milestone since it’s also the 25th anniversary of the organization.

In an effort to promote some awareness of the disease and also things we look for when we create and design sites here at TM, we thought we’d take a look at some current sites out there and discuss some of the features about them that we liked and some that we thought could use a little improvement.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (www.nbcam.org)

You’re not going to have a site more SEO-friendly than this considering the name of the site itself. This is about as comprehensive as it gets with information, news articles written about them and links to other helpful sites. Unfortunately, the pages, especially the front page, is extremely busy in that it has way too much crammed onto it, some of the links listed in “Do I Still Need My Mammogram?” go to dead pages and the “Breast Cancer in the News” section has articles dated back to December of last year, so not current. This is a site that has much to offer, but hasn’t figured out the right way to offer it to people a nice, easy to read, visitor-friendly way.

National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC (http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/)

This information site is nicely laid out, easy to follow, easy to navigate and light on the eyes. Each section is clearly identified, the top navigation hits on the main topic areas visitors will want to look for (About Breast Cancer, Community, How to Help, About NBCF and Contact Us) while the navigation at the bottom of the page shows a breakdown of the areas up top for easy access to specific information. Each main page you click on also features navigation on the side for areas of information under the main topic. Again, it’s laid out very nicely and easy to use. Unfortunately, a search feature only appears at the bottom of the page instead at the top. If you don’t go all the way to the bottom, users may not even realize that there is one.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure (http://ww5.komen.org/)

Chances are we’ve all received requests from friends who are planning to participate in this extremely worthwhile cause. It’s been described as life-changing by those who train and then spend days walking to raise money, of which nearly $1.5 billion has been invested in the search for a cure. Again, due to the subject matter, the site almost comes pre-search engine optimized and it would be difficult not to be able to find it online. The layout of the site suffers a bit, however. There are multiple navigations, which is confusing in itself since they aren’t uniformly identified, some of them are long and cumbersome, and the font sizes and differences in font colors just add to what feels like a mishmash structure. Excellent cause, but the site needs work.

American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/)

This site jumps out at you. It’s big and colorful (within reason), but its navigation leaves a bit to be desired. My tendency is to see a section to click on, then actually click on it. This site allows you to do that, but then you realize that by putting your cursor on the section you want to click on, another navigation area appears. I’d already clicked on the link, then realized another menu had started to appear, but vanished before I had a chance to really see it because I’d already clicked. Worse yet, the menu that appears doesn’t match the menu on the side of the page once it comes up. So, good information on the site, but confusing navigation.

All four of these sites have much to offer whether it’s information on breast cancer, cancer itself, ways to donate your time and money or what support is available. And because it’s also very important information, it makes it even more imperative that it’s presented in a way that’s understandable and accessible to the people looking for it. That’s the part we understand. The part they understand is the part that needs your help the most; please spread the word about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October and consider donating your time or money.

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