Marvel.com

http://marvel.com/

Organization

Marvel's organization system is decidedly topical. Aside from Sign In and Register buttons (task oriented destinations) located in smaller buttons at the very top of the page, the navigation of the entire site is located along the navigation bar. The topics to choose from are: Comics, Movies & TV, Characters, Videos, Games, News, Community, Downloads & Extras, and Shop. Most of these then contain their own drop-down menues of sub-topics. For example, the Comics topic drops down to offer the sub-topics of Comic Books, Digital Comics, Motion Comics, Comic Strips, and Comic Events. Obviously, they have placed their two most important products first, Comics and Movies & TV. This allows the information these areas to be easily found and accessed. After the major options, Marvel provides quick buttons to major content on the site: Characters (a wiki of Marvel characters), Videos, and Games. It is after all of these quick, specific navigational options that the site provides the in-depth website options. One of the problems with this organization is that overlap from some categories spill over into others, such as the News drop-down containing Comics News and Movies & TV News. So rather than attempt to eliminate topics fromt he navigation bar, redundancy is used to ensure that you can find what you are looking for, however you try to look for it.

Labeling

The labeling used within the navigation bar is relatively straight forward assuming knowledge of Marvel's products. Things like Motion Comics, Digital Comics, and TV might be entirely confusing to someone who does not know what those mediums are, but they are accurate and succint labels. And often times the drop-down menues will demonstrate what kinds of information can be found under each major heading. The only label that appears to be somewhat confusing is Characters, because without a drop-down to show what might be contained under the heading you might not understand where the link would take you. Unfortunately, Marvel tends to over-extend their offerings. For example, if you were to click Games hoping to play some online Flash games, you might be immediately disappointed to discover the first and only visible items on the page relate to video game news; you have to scroll down to find the games you can play. Therefore, while the labeling is accurate, the overuse of contextual links sometimes makes the labels appear inaccurate.

Navigation

The navigation bar is a global navigation of the entire site. It is set up so that anyone can access any section of the site directly from the navigation bar. The site is combined with a heavy amount of contextual navigation as well though. On any given page there will be contextual links that lead to related topics. The contextual links however tend to dominate pages, which generates a feeling of over-saturation and frustration.

Homepage

1. Identifying the site, establishing the brand

As if it were the cover of one of their comics, the red Marvel logo is boldly placed in the top left corner of the blue-tinted site. The rotating news item images consuming the largest portion of the page solidifies the brand by displaying images of Marvel's highly recognizable characters and displaying news stories about Marvel's video game and movie projects.

2. Setting the tone and personality of the site

A visitor is immediately bombarded with news and brand advertising. It makes the site seem ideal for fans who want the latest Marvel news. However, they also seem to be trying to make the site geared towards kids, casual fans, and, more than anything, movie fans. So the site sets an informative tone, but seems confused about its personality.

3. Helping people get a sense of what the site is all about

The homepage is quick to advertise Marvel's popular characters and their ventures into other mediums, but the comic books themselves do not get as much recognition on the homepage as you would expect. However, the sense that it is a news site foremost is what comes across, which is mostly true.

4. Letting people start key tasks immediately

The Marvel homepage offers Register Now and Sign In buttons at the very top and they provide prominently displayed notifications of recent news. A button is also provided that leads directly to the Marvel character wiki.

5. Sending each person on the right way, effectively and efficiently

The site takes pains to make it possible to navigate to any possible topic that would bring someone to the site directly from the homepage. The efficiency breaks down a little bit when you dig deeper, but the homepage navigation does a good job of covering their bases.

Pathway Page

1. Most site visitors are on a hunt--a mission--and the pathway is just to get them there.

Using the main page labeled Comics as a pathway page, does not appear very helpful at first. After you first arrive on the page, very little seems different than the homepage. It already feels like you are going in circles.

2. People don't want to read a lot while hunting.

The categories are simply labeled and then recent items are displayed with images under each heading. There is very little text to follow, which is good for this purpose, but it also means that you probably do not understand where you are supposed to go to find what you want.

3. A pathway page is like a table of contents.

Different services and topics are available around the site, but the main links listed down the page all lead to individual items in each category rather than summary pages of the categories, making the page very inconvenient as a table of contents.

4. Sometimes, short descriptions help people.

The page is full of unobvious links. There are short descriptions to help get around to a couple of the things that they offer, but they are all located at the very bottom of the page or in a small box in the top right. And while the short descriptions on some of the more prominent topics are helpful, they provide no links to get to the services themselves.

5. Marketing is likely to be ignored on a pathway page.

Because the pathway page is filled with links directly to items that they have recently produced and they uses images to display these items, the entire page feels more like marketing than pathways to information about each topic. That is not to mention that there are also multiple ads for their Digital Comics service on the page as well.

6. The smoothness of the path is more important than the number of clicks (within reason).

To use the page to get to the topics on the page, let's say the Digital Comics, without using the navigation bar at the top is nearly impossible. Following the link down the page only leads to a list of recently released Digital Comics and a convoluted method of browsing through the comics offered by character (which you can change to other categories, but that's what it starts you on). This tells me nothing about the service or how I can access or subscribe to these comics. Therefore the pathway page took me too deep.

7. Many people choose the first option that looks plausible.

Assuming people are looking for news about their comics is a safe assumption and they plainly identify this feature above any others on the page. But people coming to the page wondering how they can find and purchase comics will not find what they are looking for easily.

8. Many site visitors are landing inside your site.

The essentials are all present on every single page; the logo, the homepage link, the search bar, and global navigation are all located at the top of every page. Links to relevant information within the same part of the site are common, however, they are so common that it often jumbles every page with items you are not looking for.