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Web Thoughts

Some idle musings on the virtual landscape we share...

"Which part don't you understand?"
It's all about communication. So whose fault is it when a message or instruction is mis-heard? The listener? Or the deliverer? Why didn't the deliverer create a message that could be easily understood? Couldn't be bothered? Assumed the listener would understand? Impress rather than express? Didn't think about the message from the listeners' perspectives?
What's the point of sending a message which can't be understood? What damage does it do? How much time does it waste?
Does your web site get its message across? What is your web site's message?

"Assumption is the mother of cock-up." Denis Norden, host of TV's "It'll Be Alright On The Night".

"First Impressions"
"You only get one chance to make a first impression."
But how long have you got? Web users form first impressions of web pages in as little as 50 milliseconds (1/20th of a second), according to Canadian researchers. In the blink of an eye, web surfers make nearly instantaneous judgments of a web site's "visual appeal". Through the "halo effect", first impressions can colour subsequent judgments of perceived credibility, usability, and ultimately influence your purchasing decisions. Read the full report at weboptimization.com.

"Inventing new ways to fail" Alasdair Jeffrey, TV's "Ferocious Mr Fix-It"
HTML, the 'language' behind most web sites, includes a very useful feature: it automatically colours and underlines links. Links are the things that make the web what is it, joining pages, images and sites together. A coloured, underlined link shows up on a page as somewhere else to go (or somewhere you've already been). Very useful. So why would some designers choose to turn off this feature? "I've put a link on this page, but it's up to you to find it!" Bizarre...
(Of course, to every 'rule', there are exceptions, acceptable if used wisely...)

"Verbal and non-verbal"
"It's the way I tell 'em." Frank Carson, comedian.
It's not just what we say, it's also how we say it. But it's not simply how we say it...it's how we look, how we interact, what we wear, how we drive, what we read, how our workspace is arranged, what we buy...everything we do says something about us. Body Language. Maybe that's why people are more interesting than computers...and web sites...and why you have to optimise the material on your web site - it's all you've got!

"Experiences from Spain"
1. "¿No abrir pdf?" PDF files, as used by Adobe Acrobat, are great for publishing, but (usually) not that great for the internet. Consider whether you should bury your content in a pdf file, when
a) a user may not want to download a huge file just for the bit of information they need, and
b) they may not be able to read the pdf file at all, as we experienced in an internet café near Málaga.
"¿No abrir pdf?". "No, señor."

2. A lesson in information location. Wanting to catch a train from Loja to Granada, we trecked up to the deserted station in Loja to get a timetable. It seemed obvious to me that, as I'm going to catch the train there, there would be a timetable screwed to the wall. Any timetable? Nope. Any information at all? Nope. We had to trek across to the town information centre on the other side of the valley to get a train timetable. Is information logically displayed on your website, or do users have to cross a virtual valley to find it?

3. "¿Dónde este l'estación de Loja?" Of course, we could have popped into an internet café and searched the www.renfe.es website for train times from Loja to Granada...provided we knew that Loja's station is actually called 'San Francisco de Loja'...searching for 'Loja' didn't find it...and it's not listed under 'L'. Inventing new ways to fail...

(I'm not picking on the Spanish here - I love them, and their country. But often a foreigner will struggle with customs and cultures, in the same way a visitor to your site may not 'get' the navigation or the style. Which is why conventions, consistency, and user-testing a website is so important)

Master Classes in Useability and Customer Focus
Gerry McGovern | Jakob Neilsen

That'll Teach Me (probably not...)
I tried to persuade a client that they really didn't need a new website. The existing one was absolutely fine, met all the necessary functional and design criteria, and I didn't want to rip them off by creating a shiny new site for no reason.
Next thing I know, they've commissioned another designer to create their shiny new site. The resulting site is a re-hash of the original material, with the addition of one important new feature: a blog, in which the only content is a post announcing the new website, and highlighting what a huge improvement it is over the old site.
Hey, ho...emperor's new clothes...

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