Reviews of two important human rights websites that have recently relaunched

Although it has been only a matter of months since we last looked at human rights websites (Journal, February 2009), since then both of the biggest players in that field have totally overhauled their sites – justifying, nay demanding, a second look…

Scottish Human Rights Commission

Back in February, I promised to return to the Commission’s website once it had some content and, being a man of my word, here we are. The first thing to note is that there is now quite a lot of content and that it was well worth waiting for.

Beyond some cross-browser issues which are a little irritating, the site is generally well laid out and attractive. Chair Alan Miller is waiting to greet you on the home page with a YouTube video explaining the role and aims of the Commission. This works well and is not at all obtrusive.

You get the impression that a lot of the site has been given over to addressing concerns about the sort of misconceptions that some may have about human rights. Yet the tone is probably the right one and the information is both useful and interesting.

The “help with human rights” page is probably going to be one of the most popular pages, as the site directs visitors to various bodies which may be able to assist those who need help with a human rights case. You will be pleased to note that the Law Society of Scotland is top of this particular list, with community law centres a close second.

There is a good International section, which puts the Scottish Commission into a global context, with nice use of appropriate map widgets, links to other Human Rights Commissions and references to international human rights instruments (in the form of Conventions, Covenants and Charters).

There is good use of video, audio and images within the site and for use by others. The Commission has its own YouTube channel and podcast series and encourages visitors to the site to “Get Involved”. The site is clearly aimed at the general public (as opposed to the legal practitioner), but is certainly none the poorer for that.

Final mention must go to the site’s promotion of public transport for getting to the Commission’s offices, and the novel and appealing email address: – well done all round.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website has been redesigned and redrafted in a way which leaves me wondering whether it would have been better to stick with the old site.

The new site might be described as “high concept”. It opens with a large colourful statement “[Our job] is to promote equality and [human rights], and to create a [fairer Britain]. We do this by providing [advice and guidance], working to implement an effective [legislative framework] and raising awareness of [your rights].” Each of the phrases which I’ve enclosed in square brackets (the site uses colour coding) operates as a link to one of the major sections of the site. The same navigation tool is repeated (only slightly smaller) on every page.

I can see what they are trying to do.

I get it. I do. However, I have a few quibbles with this approach. For all this website is technically very accessible, this organisation by concept makes it very difficult to actually find things on the site. Trying to guess whether information should be found under “fairer Britain” or “my rights” or, indeed, “Our job” is a puzzle worthy of its own parlour game.

The most galling example is the “contact us” page – which cannot be reached from the home page. Now, to be fair, the helpline telephone numbers are at the top of every page, but if you want to email or write to the Commission or phone one of their offices, then you have to guess which heading it comes under (“our job”, in case you’re wondering). Incredible!

Presumably, the Commission are not trying to hide this information from us – and there is a lot of very useful information to be found, if you can find it – but the designers could learn a lot from a visit to a site like Listed among the “fatal” mistakes, they will find such gems as “We understand how our site’s navigation works so everybody else probably understands how it works.”

Overall, the overhaul has led to a site which is at once prettier, and less attractive, than its predecessor.





Who writes this column

The website review column is written by Iain A Nisbet of Govan Law Centre


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