Phone numbers are displayed liberally. A stop-smoking hotline is listed with a toll-free telephone number. Links to sponsoring organizations like the Centers for Disease Control allow visitors to read more, and a "Get expert help" section invites viewers to use instant messaging to communicate with a "National Cancer Institute smoking cessation counselor."
Illustrations are used sparingly. No negative illustrations such as those depicting lungs decayed by cancer are included, keeping the imagery on the Web site positive and inoffensive. Most of the illustrations included on smokefree.gov are photographs depicting men and women exercising and enjoying the great outdoors. The images refresh themselves often, like a slide show. The smiling faces on the models imply that quitting smoking will make anyone feel healthier and more alive. Inclusion of people from various ethnic groups in the smokefree.gov photo database is helpful in reaching a broad audience. Background of the Web site is white, and no distracting or extraneous pictures are used anywhere on the site.
Headings are used frequently but judiciously, usually as hypertext links to a new subject.
Font is ten point and easy on the eyes; no fancy lettering is used and the font also remains consistent throughout the Web site.
Graphs are included on smokefree.gov but only if the reader chooses to input information about his or her smoking status, age, weight and gender. The graphs compare smoker vs. nonsmoker risks of death, and can offer some compelling motivation to quit.
The smokefree.gov Web site is easy to navigate because the frames accompany each page. Frames include link to the home/front page and to all other subject headers so that users can move around the site easily. Also, a bottom frame on each page offers external links.
One main navigational issue with the "Online Guide to Quitting" is that the document does not flow. The reader must click on each section from the main content menu, and cannot click "next" to leaf through pages successively as with a book. Instead, a reader must go back to the subject menu to click on the next page. Therefore, navigation through the "Online Guide to Quitting" is tedious. Especially because the content in each section is brief, sometimes only taking up a few lines, the Web designers should allow the online guide to be read more like a book, in consecutive order without having to hit "Back" only to go forward in the text. Similarly, links within each chapter of the online guide sometimes direct the reader away from that page. The only other annoyance with smokefree.gov navigation is that the external links open in the same browswer page automatically; having them open in a new browser window would have been more helpful.
The smokefree.gov Web site is relatively small in scope. The bulk of the Web site is comprised of the "Online Guide to Quitting," which is a brief document published in hypertext. Except for downloadable content, much of which is written in the same style and including similar content as the Web site itself, little more is offered. Viewers can browse through a list of scientific studies that are recruiting participants. Each listing includes the sponsoring organization, often a university, whether or not the study is actively recruiting, and the research purpose. Also, eligibility criteria and contact information are listed. The studies included raise some suspicions about the motivations for the smokefree.gov Web site. In many ways, the site seems devoted toward boosting the pharmaceutical industry and medical establishment. Yet the medical and pharmaceutical industries do possess a plethora of resources to help people quit smoking, as well as the requisite research to back those resources up. If the smokefree.gov Web site offered more links to empirical data related to its content, then it would seem more credible.
London, F., Rankin, S.H., Stallings, K.D. (2005). Patient education in health and illness