40 Years of Loyalty - But the website needs work

40 Years of Loyalty - But the website needs work

I originally joined the Army in August of 1983 because the price of oil and natural gas didn't rise. That sounds like an odd connection, but let me explain.

My first geology job fresh out of the University of Georgia was in the oil fields of Oklahoma in the Anadarko Basin. The wells were deep in search of natural gas - over 22,000 feet (four miles) deep. They were expensive endeavors. As the Texas Tribune recalled those days in an article titled, "All of the party was over": How the last oil bust changed Texas, by Abby Livingston, May 18, 2020, they pointed out the price of oil and natural gas in the early 1980s remained at such a low cost the vastly fluctuating oil business went into a serious downturn. I was one of five geologists remaining in 1983 with the company after we had 50 in 1982. Drilling derricks were just left to rust throughout the countryside. I needed a job, so with friends and family members who were in the military recommending I join the ranks, my forty-year career as an Army engineer officer and Army National Guard civilian began.

I outline this as a preface to say that the observations made in this blog post about the website in no way diminishes my loyalty and devotion to the service. But, from what we've learned in this course, the associated websites need work. I've also realized that my own website is below IA standards from this week's assignments.

It's obvious that the federal National Guard site is the template for all of the sites for the 54 states and territories. The Army, and subsequently the National Guard, changed the logo a few years ago. Both are stark black and yellow. The image at the top of the blog is the one for Georgia. The only difference between the states is the name at the top.

The main menu slide drawer navigation (hamburger icon) button brings all of the options at the bottom of the page, no matter which page you're on, up into view in a semi-transparent screen. It consists of four column headings: Eligibility, Careers, Benefits, and Resources. The problem is each column has 7-9 options. It's confusing, and I would imagine even more so for someone who is in the first phase of researching. When I was on the federal page and tried to find a link to Georgia, I missed the "Select Your State" link and searched instead. The main menu should only bring up the four headings with the other options down the path of each.

The main page blocks don't follow the four main information categories, but it's because the ease of clicking any number of links and completing a form to submit is simply focused on initiating contact with a recruiter. The chat function worked even on a Sunday afternoon. A real person popped up to help.


I tested the search functionality by entering "prerequisites." This would probably be one of the first questions a potential recruit might have. The search for prerequisites should be associated with the Eligibility category, but it brought up texts where the word prerequisite appeared, in this case numerous job openings for personnel who already had several years in the Guard, like Blackhawk and Chinook pilots. That would make sense for a site where someone is searching for documents containing that word, but not for finding what they needed to have accomplished prior to recruitment. Even worse, the coding for the answers to the search drew the text from the job announcements without punctuation, all in lower case, and lists that were bullets in the original text as run-on words with no space between.


The hierarchy of the main page definitely has the priority purpose of recruitment at the beginning, followed by free tuition benefits, Georgia Guard activities in the news, official social media links, types of entry level Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), and 9 videos. However, hierarchy within blocks is questionable. The main photo has a recruit with his hand raised taking the oath of service from a soldier in uniform. The photo is in focus with the soldier, but out-of-focus on the recruit. If the recruit is the audience, which he is, his representation should be clear.

The hierarchy of the list within the block for "100% Tuition for College" should be changed and can be construed to be misleading. It starts with: "Pays up to 100% Tuition at state public colleges and universities for undergraduate degrees."  Next: "Pays partial coverage for tuition for Master's and Doctorate degrees." And then the awkward wording: "As long as the student remains a Georgia Guardsman in good standing for two years after completing school, tuition is waived." The "State Education Benefits" link below the list takes you to a Georgia state website that leads with: Georgia National Guard (GNG) Service Cancelable Loan (SCL). Loan? Of course that makes sense - the reason tuition is paid is a result of at least a two-year commitment to stay in the National Guard, but shouldn't that be considered so important as to be the lead-in on the list in some way? The entire block could just say something similar to, "As a reward for serving two years in the Guard after graduation, 100% tuition for undergraduate courses are paid for while pursuing a degree, with partial coverage applied to graduate course tuition." Concise, truthful, and clear.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Lucas' User-Centered Design and Information Architecture, as well as Balzotti's Chapter 4 - Document Design. I have 22 pages of notes from them because, as I've posted before, I LOVE LISTS, and this week's readings are full of them. All are important, but because of the website I chose to critique, and because this is getting to be a long dissertation, I'm going to focus on one part of design - the use of colors. My wife's degree is in art/art history and when I started sharing with her the sections about the color wheel, hues, tints, tones, and shades, she joyfully filled in a lot of additional details.

As the image at the top of the page depicts, and as I said at the beginning, the logos for the Army and National Guard are stark black and yellow. Sadly, the websites use the same stark black and yellow throughout to the extent it becomes uninteresting. Maybe it's supposed to be bold and consistent, but it defies all of the design concepts we've learned this week.


Randy Drummond

Randy Drummond

Randy Drummond is a graduate student pursuing a degree in Technical and Professional Writing at Middle Georgia State University. He and his wife of 44 years have two daughters and one grandson.
Lake Spivey, Georgia