Design Critique: Council Central (New York Life Agency Portal)

Agency Portal Front Page with IDs


Council Central is where the company’s 10,000 sales people can find all information on how to qualify for a sales Council meeting, where each meeting is held, registration and access to presentations post-meeting. It also contains promotional information on the location and activities. The initial launch was well received by the sales force and also by Home Office executives.

That Council Central is accessible from the front page of Agency Portal – and all subsequent pages with Council Central – and that with one additional click of the mouse agents can obtain qualification requirements (tab under masthead) or standings (tab under masthead) is a mark of progress. And it’s a functionality that has been maintained. Fully two years later those functions continue to allow the user get that information in the same easy manner. Ease of locating other Council-related content, however, hasn’t been maintained. These successes and complications are a good jumping off point for improvements.

Suggested changes

The page is called Council Central with the perceived affordance of centrally locating all information relating to Council. Yet the departments that control the various aspects of Council experience (there are at least three) don’t agree on how to support the site. As a result, agents who go to the site find some information, but soon discover what is missing, and then determine a search strategy. The unrealized perceived affordance creates a mistrust about the validity of other perceived affordances.

A combination of improved mapping, leading to improved visibility, and the creation of constraints would make the perceived affordance an actual affordance.


  • As you can see from the screen image, there are two places on the site for each Council level. Both lead to the same place, so eliminating the ones in the “Additional Information” (B) section would improve visibility and enable the user to take the correct action.
  • Other dead links and irrelevant information should also be removed, including “Council 2016,” “Ever Wonder How a Council Meeting Is Made?,” and “President’s Council: Don’t Be Left Out in the Cold!”
  • The remaining items in the “Additional Information” section should be moved down to the “Quick Links”(C) section. However, to improve visibility, it would be better to label the section more specifically. The items are intended to direct the user to ideas and strategies that drive sales that help them qualify. So a better, more obvious title would be “Earn Council Credits.” That box would then have a link to “W.I.N. What’s Important Now?,” “Update & Review,” “Social Networking,” and “Social Security Resources.” These are all web locations with information and actions that directly lead to earning Council Credits.
  • The tab labeled “Council Promo App” (tab under masthead) should be removed immediately. It is a dead link leading to expired content.
  • Promotional content should be included in the content for each meeting. If it applies to all four meetings, then it should be contained in an overview section on the main landing page.  The “Council 2016” (B) content could be located in the same overview section.
  • “Council Standings” and “Rules & Eligiblity” are very clear headings and contain the information that a user would expect to find there. Moving “Council Transfers”(tab under masthead) into “Rules & Eligiblity” would tighten up the visibility, and signify to users that they don’t need to be on the lookout for dangling, spare information.


One department creates meeting content and another manages logistics. Each posts in locations that are administratively convenient. However, it becomes problematic for the user and also undermines the primary affordance of centrality.

  • A constraint that forces all information to post in Council Central would be effective.
  • I recommend making all sections visible whether they are live or not. This would show users information they need and will need. Users would see a “registration” tab. It wouldn’t be live until registration opens. Similarly, a “Meeting Presentation” tab would be visible and could be live, containing presentations from 2015.
  • This adds value showing users the important content from the previous year. And iniates an unconcious learning process that causes users to go to Council Central  for everything.