I spent the day at Infusionsoft’s Customer Tour Conference. It was interesting to see some of the more advanced things that are possible using their product as well as listening to how some people are using it to market and sell their products. One of the things said during the day was in regards to sequences and moving user’s through a series of steps and goals, but which applies quite heavily to programming, which was:
“Build your process assuming the user won’t do what you want them to do.”
I found this quite a succinct quote and an excellent rule of thumb for when designing pages. Once you reach a certain size, your clout allows you the freedom to get away with less than stellar design choices. For instance, personally I think the Amazon site is a mess, and this was re-affirmed to me recently while trying to show someone how to go about ordering things from it.
When it comes to Amazon their reputation means a user is more likely to jump through hoops to complete their order, but for a never heard of site, any signs of hassle and they’ll be out the window and onto the next (Unless your offering is just so amazing they can’t resist). News and unheard of sites that are successful, “reduced friction” for their users. They seamless move users from one stage of a process to the next without having to make them think or accidentally moving them onto the wrong path. A good site needs to be more than a set of CRUD pages. It needs to be an experience that helps the user achieve what they want, in the clearest way possible.
Design is hard. No, actually, design is really hard. I think many people are deceived by the way good design seems so effortless and so simple. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it “perfectly” when he said “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. The temptation of non-designers is to add and add and add. Then when a true designers work is inspected, the temptation is to remark “Is that it?”. And to then think “I could do that”. Of course, anyone can follow the same blueprint and produce the same result, but given a blank canvas, would the same quality of work have been produced?
Design is so subtle. Sometimes it would appear that no thought or care has gone into what is being presented, but then there is a purpose and a goal behind every decision and every element made. Did I mention how hard design is?
I was doing some reading on usability stuff and thought I’d check out our homepage. Pretending that I know nothing about what we do and then reading all the text on the front page, I asked myself: How does a user use us? Is it an online service or is this a marketing site for a manual service that we provide via phone/email whatever? After reading it a couple of times, there is no way of ever knowing. Yes, there is the take a tour, but that’s already one click away from the homepage, and most people don’t scroll or go a level deeper then the homepage unless they already know what they are looking at is of interest to them. One can argue that the front page is a “teaser”, or a hook to gain a persons interest, but looking at the studies done, people don’t browse like that. The hook is not “Could this be of interest to me? I should find out more” but “This is of interest to me. Show me more.”
Figure out the absolute least you need to do to implement the idea, do just that, and then polish the hell out of the experience.
Not only does John Gruber nail it when it comes to the essence of what being ‘iPhone like’ is about, he echoes the essence of what good piece of software is about. At it’s furthest abstraction, in my opinion, the above is really a mantra for reaching the pinnacle of one’s own life.
[Via Daring Fireball]
Don’t like the new Facebook? Tough shit. Suck it up.
If you don’t score a perfect 0 (like me) on this test, then don’t even bother talking to me about design ;) Yes, you know who you are :P