Thursday, July 10, 2014

Look away now

In an unusual bout of consistency - for me anyway - I can now boast that my least favourite work-related question remains the same now as it did a decade ago. The offending query being, "What's the site going to look like".

For "site" read home page and for "look" read look.

This offends me for for two principle reasons. Both of them the same. 

What something looks like must be secondary to what it does/says. Web sites, mobile applications, blogs, social media feeds are designed to be read, watched and listened too, not admired in a slightly detached way.

This is the base problem when being involved in the production of online products - they are seen as primarily aesthetic rather than functional by those who commission them.

Rather than focusing on what what is to be communicated, we tend to obsess about the superfluous and largely redundant imagery, the colour spread and the quota of white space.

The reason users make up their minds about a page in a fraction of the second is because of a single issue - content. Does this page do what I want/need. They do not ponder the challenge, "but does it please me?" The best looking pages are meaningless if they don't provide the answers to the questions in the users mind (and in their search query) and the sites with the most useful/best content tend to win. 

Just look at the continuing success of Craig's List if you remain to be convinced.

Admittedly this is slightly less of an issue than it once was but just for the record, when working on an online project, on a list of five priorities, pure design will always come fifth.

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