design is a good idea (on ugliness, with some thoughts on the DesignGuys Craiglist ‘realignment’)

There’s been a whole lot of talk lately about ‘ugly design’ and the perception that ‘it works’. The often quoted examples are My Space, eBay, Craigs List, and Del.icio.us. As someone who spends too much time thinking about design and trying to apply user centred design principles to the projects I work on, I find this somewhat annoying.

First up, let’s define what we mean by design. There are really two different aspects to ‘design’ that people are referring to – there’s the design that I’m most interested in which is the information and interface design. Then there’s the design that is most often talked about, that’s the visual design. Both of these types of designs are important when it comes to thinking about this idea of ‘ugly design’ and why, sometimes, it appears to work.

Information/Interaction Design: no one likes bad information design. Bad information design means you can’t find the information you’re looking for because its badly placed, or doesn’t exist at all, or the ‘flags’ (or scent) you need to help you find the information are hard to find or non existent. When you come to a site like this, you leave. And you don’t come back, unless you absolutely have to. The internet is abundent with information and making information that people are looking for easy for them is an essential part of making your site somewhere they’ll visit and return to, and recommend to their social network. Good information design (which includes information architecture) is entry level to having ‘a site that works’.

Interaction design, when poorly executed, is also a source of frustration for users, and a good reason for them to seek out an alternative to your site. Interaction design is poorly executed when it doesn’t allow users to perform the tasks that they wish to perform on your site with thel least amount of effort. Taking the time to identify these tasks and to ensure that they are implemented efficiently means that your site becomes ‘easy to use’, which is compelling reason to choose your site over other alternatives.

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you’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em…

Kenny Rogers

I *knew* it was just a matter of time before I was able to use Kenny Rogers on my blog.

And it’s all thanks to Joshua Porter who has written a great post comparing design with playing cards.

Each design is a new hand of cards. Not only are the cards we’re holding different every time, but so are the hands of the other players. Our hand is our own knowledge of the design project, and the hands of the others are the constraints that we must deal with.

Josh uses the card game metaphor to demonstrate how every design situation must be considered afresh and all the constraints, requirements and opportunities be evaluated anew each time. That old ‘tricks’ don’t necessarily apply in a new situtation. Or, to borrow his great closing line ‘three fives beat two aces every time.’

I’ll definitely be borrowing this analogy in the future. Go read it now, you’ll love it.

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rumours of attention scarcity have been greatly exaggerated

People have a boundless interest in those that they think worthy of their attention.

So says Stowe Boyd of /Message, and I agree entirely.

If you think something is important or interesting or worthy of your interest. You’ll make time for it. You’ll make it a priority.

Even when you have 300 blogs in your RSS aggregator, there are some that you will always have time to read.

When you scan for news online, there are some keywords that will always get your attention.

You’re not *supposed* to know everything or be interested in everything. If that were the case, we’d all be remarkably boring and alike. Stowe says:

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great error msgs (part 2 : wordpress)

Wordpress Error

Previously I wrote about how taking a little time to write a good error message can turn what is potentially a catastrophic user experience into one that actually endears you to your customers.

Here’s another great example from WordPress that turned a potentially frustrating experience (not being able to reach someone’s blog when I wanted to), into an experience that confirmed my experience of the WordPress brand, *and* made me smile.

Even though they’re personifying the server here, the voice of the clever and friendly and humorous people who make up WordPress comes through loud and clear.

As the Cluetrain guys say (which you should all know from heart by now):

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Unless you saw this error message too many times (and nothing can turn chronically poor performance into a good user experience), you’d be hard pressed to come away from this experience thinking poorer of WordPress.

You may even be so impressed you have to write a blog post about it :)

Nice work WordPress people.

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