Thank you. Your openness to rethinking the usability of the site is reassuring.
I’ll just chip in a little from a user’s perspective. Also, however, I own a few websites, so I do think about site layout and usability a little, although I’m not an expert.
As a very general point, the images take up a lot of space. They’re nice, but they get in the way of navigating the site. I’d suggest they be smaller or be dispensed with.
I’ve been to the site hundreds of times, but I’ve rarely looked at the home page (on a pc) below the Three Basket section, which is the prime real estate on the site. My use starts with the Three Baskets, takes me to individual suttas, and then I leave.
Why is this? There are attentional barriers to scrolling further.
The existence of the video and the accompanying "The wisdom of the Buddha…” text is a bit of a deterrent to scrolling. As a repeat visitor, the video and description have no value to me (would anyone play the video twice?), but they occupy the second most important spot on the home page — the first thing I encounter when I scroll on a computer — and since they’re low-value content I automatically assumed that anything below that would be of even less interest.
That impression is reinforced by the quote and sutta link section below that. It’s nice to have a quote, but the chances of me clicking to view a random sutta are close to zero. When I come to the site it’s inevitably with a specific purpose. For me, and for many others, I expect, it’s a research tool. So I’ve now hit two non-useful areas and am mightily deterred.
Those are two big barriers to a researcher going further down the page, but there’s more…
The What’s Here and Where to Begin sections take up a lot of real estate. By now we’re gone a long way down the page and we’re back to introductory material. If I was scrolling down this far I’d certainly be bouncing back up to the Three Baskets sections, since I know that’s useful to me, while nothing else I’ve encountered below it has been.
Then there’s Related Projects, which would definitely make me think I’m at the end of the page, because you’re trying to send me elsewhere.
That’s a huge barrier.
Why We Read is something else I’m never going to use.
The Reader’s Guide looks like a good resource for people new to the site, or at least to the scriptures. Although it’s not for me, I think it should be higher up the page — maybe where the video and description are (honestly, I don’t think those would be missed at all).
And the Indexes — well, although I’ve been told there are problems with them, I really wish I’d know they existed! What a useful resource! Until now I’ve been using the index at Access to locate suttas and then switching over to SC to read them — the big appeal being the ability to view that Pali and English together and look up Pali words on the page, and the availability of multiple translations. This definitely needs to be more prominent.
I honestly think a lot of what’s on the front page could go and wouldn’t be missed.
If I was going to ask for the site to be set up for me as an amateur researcher, I’d probably have the following sections in the following order (as seen on a PC):
- The three baskets: boom / boom / boom
- Reader’s Guide / Indexes
- Related Projects
The Reader’s Guide would help take care of relative newcomers, I think.
- Stuff that’s going to be used repeatedly should be near the top. (The site should primarily serve repeat visitors.)
- Stuff that’s going to be used once or rarely should be further down or preferably off the page altogether, with just a link to it.
- Stuff that’s going to take people away from the site should be right at the bottom of the page, or not on the page at all, but elsewhere, with just a link to it
Anyway, those are just my thoughts. This isn’t meant to sound critical. Everything I’m saying is an expression of love! Sutta Central is my go-to site. I’m here virtually on a daily basis and want others to get the most out of it.