Design for the Obvious

When you take on a client, especially when you are newer to the web design industry, you may feel compelled to “impress” both yourself and your client with the coolest, fanciest design. Maybe you want to add all kinds of features that you feel are fun tasks that enhance the website.

You are designing as a power user, as a web professional, you spend countless hours surfing websites, and have seen every design under the sun. You want your newest project to be fun, not boring.

After a few months of solid traffic and usage monitoring, you will begin to see otherwise.

Reality check time – Most web surfers aren’t power users. They are just looking to get to the information they need, and they want to get it as quickly as possible. Even users such as myself are prone to hit the back button if we can’t immediately find what we are looking for. Do I have to spend time hunting down a link for an article? Do I have to suffer through a tedious flash intro and gratuitious animation just to look at a product image? If so, I go elsewhere. I’ve got better things to do, namely, design “boring” web sites.

Even such things that might be obvious to power users, such as *breadcrumb trail navigation, are often overlooked by Joe Surfer. Breadcrumb trail navigation makes perfect sense to us, because it seems like such an efficient way to find your way “back”.

An interesting bit of irony: seeing as Joe Surfer generally just wants his information as quickly as possible, and with breadcrumbs being the fastest way from a specific page to other relevant pages, it would make sense that Joe Surfer would appreciate and use the breadcrumbs. Yet user tests show that Joe Surfer is more than happy to just go back to the home page and start over, rather than use unfamiliar navigation.

To use the catch-phrase lingo of our long dead DotBomb brethren, you’ll need to undergo a paradigm shift from fun to boring in your methods of design. That’s right. You are not an artist. You help facilitate information delivery.

Spend some time conducting user tests. Gather up friends and family of all experience levels to surf the website. Make notes on what they look at, how they get their, and where they are lagging. This will pay off for both you and your client: Your client will be happier with website performance, and happy clients generally help you gain new clients.

* Breadcrumb trails are a path of links generally found just above the content page that show the path and all the stop one could make on the way to a home page.

And example of breadcrumb navigation:

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Kyle wrote 139 posts

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