All posts tagged ‘user experience design’

File Under: UI/UX

Design for Serendipity (And Drinking Monkeys)

Part of the beauty of the internet and HTML is its inherent serendipity — links lead you somewhere, and other links lead you somewhere else, beyond, anywhere. Yet, serendipitous as the web may be, few sites encourage this sort of haphazard exploration.

As developer Derek Powazek writes, “Serendipity powers the social web. It’s why every website has a “share this” link. Serendipity is at the core of why Twitter is fun, YouTube is valuable, and everyone you know has a Facebook account.”

In fact, argues Powazek, “we should be designing for serendipity.”

Unfortunately, things like the bottom line, advertising dollars and other external forces mean web designers are tasked with keeping you on a page, not sending you off to discover something else. Even Powazek’s examples, like YouTube’s “related videos” section is inherently designed to keep you on YouTube’s page. But the way it keeps you on YouTube is by creating a potentially serendipitous experience.

Nothing is going to change the need or desire to keep visitors on your page, particularly if eyeballs on those pages are your source of income, but adding the element of the accidental discovery to your site can make it even more valuable for your visitors.

Here’s more advice from Powazak (who is a former Webmonkey, by the way):

If you make a website, take a look at it and ask yourself, “when someone comes here looking for one thing, where do I have the opportunity to tell them about something else?” It could be in a footer, for example. This can be tricky, because you don’t want to interrupt a self-directed experience. Just look for the cracks where you can leave hints about what else is available. Hint: Newspapers have been designed this way for years. Crib, crib heartily.

There are many serendipitous routes that lead people to your stuff. Understand what they are and nurture them. But don’t become over-reliant on them. Design your stuff to create serendipitous connections between things. Look for every opportunity to hint that there’s much more to be discovered. Take the time to design the serendipity in to the experience.

Or, you could watch this video about drinking monkeys and see where that leads you:

Bookshelf photo by Juhan Sonin/Flickr/CC

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Is the iPad Sending Design Back to the Dark Ages?

Jeffrey Zeldman thinks so. In his essay, “iPad As the New Flash,” the author and standards guru argues that designers are now coding up device-centric user experiences at the expense of web standards, accessibility and the advancement of open web technologies.

Everything we’ve learned in the past decade about preferring open standards to proprietary platforms and user-focused interfaces to masturbatory ones is forgotten as designers and publishers once again scramble to create novelty interfaces no one but them cares about.

While some of this will lead to useful innovation, particularly in the area of gestural interfaces, that same innovation can just as readily be accomplished on websites built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and the advantage of creating websites instead of iPad apps is that websites work for everyone, on browsers and devices at all price points. That, after all, is the point of the web. It’s the point of web standards and progressive enhancement.

He takes issue not with apps in general, but with the design choices being made by popular magazines as they rush to embrace the new shiny. His ultimate conclusion: “Masturbatory novelty is not a business strategy.”

The comments are enlightening, too. A few make the point that web standards like JavaScript and CSS can now be used to develop experiences that can be delivered both natively and through a browser. Another suggests this is just the Old World struggling to understand a new platform.

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File Under: Web Basics

Do URLs Matter to Normal People?

As web developers, we all care about URLs. When Google complained about URL rewriting, many balked. We may work late to get everything just so, but URLs don’t matter a bit to most people.

When I ask my Dad to go to a specific URL in his browser he says, “I don’t use a browser. I just use my email and eBay.” A friend’s mom thinks Yahoo is the internet.

So, it’s really a stubborn expectation that everyone should be like me that keeps me caring about URLs. Sam Phillips asks how friendly will a URL ever be? He starts by admitting he is “an address bar guy.” I think a lot of us are, but normal people are search bar people.

URLs are out in JapanIn Japan, many advertisements contain search boxes instead of URLs. Are marketers just mockup happy, or do they have a clue that will be slow to sink in for developers like us?

The number of people who search Google for “google.com” is increasing. Firefox is evolving based on how people search. In addition to the awesome bar, Mozilla says future versions will see the search and address bars merged.

Normal people have a different view of the web than we do, but it’s a view to which we need to adapt.

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