I LIKE THIS SITE: General Assembly

January 16, 2014 Akhilesh Pant

Welcome to One North’s I LIKE THIS SITE blog series, where we showcase out-of-industry sites that raise the bar for web design.

I LIKE THIS SITE: General Assembly

The educators and entrepreneurs at General Assembly tackle all the “21st century skills” that we at One North value more than most. They take some of our core capabilities – like UX design, web development and digital marketing – and make them attainable for anyone with the desire to learn. “Transforming thinkers into creators.” We like that. But what we like even more is how they demonstrate it.

General Assembly

Even before jumping into course information, I felt a personable, human element to the site. Their homepage “stories” could have easily been presented as paragraphs of promotional material: “General Assembly helped me achieve my dream.” “Here’s a list of every single coding language I learned, bringing me to my dev job at Dairy Queen.” Understanding the power of brevity, they instead choose to present the stories in linear fashion, using a timeline, images and videos to provide context for short descriptions. In 229 words, I am convinced that Larry got somewhere with the help of General Assembly. They put themselves in the visitor’s shoes and minimize time spent on the page while maximizing value, a theme that continues throughout the site.

GA2

Other academic institutions fail to frame students as customers, and even less so as “users.” There is no intentional “experience” to their website, or to their brand by extension (there are exceptions, of course). General Assembly attacks that norm with an intuitive, attractive and accessible site.

INTUITIVE
The overall purpose of the website is to illuminate the GA brand, but more immediately to reveal course information and encourage visitors to sign up. With the long-page design, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to get right into the main content; you can “dive into a topic” and immediately get a reverse chronological list of courses in that topic area. Alternatively, the simple header navigation has the topic list in dropdown form and also splits content into user-centric categories: “On Campus” for the long-haulers, “Online” for the busy and curious, and “Enterprise” for corporate clients.

As a Strategist, my attention was drawn by “User Experience Design,” which leads to another attractive landing page and all upcoming courses.

User Experience Design - GA

Each area has a video featuring a GA-affiliated expert, links to instructor profiles and a topical list of tools, articles, books and Twitter handles of relevant thought leaders. At One North, we consistently encourage our clients to curate content and demonstrate their breadth and quality of thought. We know these guys are thinking, learning and challenging the status quo.

ATTRACTIVE
In terms of visual design, the strategic use of visual contrast stands out immediately. Most of the site is black & white, with intentional spurts of vibrant color on certain panels across the long-page design. The care in presentation is unmistakable, from HD images to 2D sketches. And with CSS3-fueled microinteractions abound, the site really invites you to play around with it.

Microinteractions - General Assembly

ACCESSIBLE
It’s impossible to miss the big, readable font (one that was literally created for legibility) that illuminates key sections of the site. The hierarchy is apparent and intentional, so that visitors can scan naturally.

Of course, the most immediately impressive aspect of the website is the completely responsive design. Check out all those break points!

Break Points - General Assembly

Whether on a widescreen display, tablet or mobile device, General Assembly ensures a consistent experience without sacrificing design best practices.

THE VERDICT
I was so satisfied with the design of the site that I went ahead and signed up for GA’s14-day trial and downloaded the UX Research: Iterate with User Interviews video. It did not disappoint, and I am likely to come back because of it. From initial entry all the way to content consumption, the experience on generalassemb.ly was fluid and foolproof.

Like us here at One North, General Assembly gets that it’s all about directing the user to their destination and impressing them with what they find. A smooth experience increases the chances of building a loyal relationship and truly strengthening your brand. Credit must be given where credit is due: hats off, GA!

To see more cool sites, check out our WE LIKE THESE SITES Pinterest board.

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Akhilesh Pant Strategist

At the time of publishing, Akhilesh was a Strategist at One North.

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