Design like no-one's watching
Web designers frequently suffer under the illusion that other people
look at their web pages the way we do.
This is wrong. Designers need to develop the skill of looking at their
designs through naïve eyes.
Designing web pages is an artifical
activity. We're creating something that will be used in a fast-paced,
frantic online browsing environment, but we design it more as though it
will be hung on a wall in a gallery.
As we dwell in this illusion, we can
start to imagine that consumers out there actually care how cute or
modern or thematically consistent their web pages are, or that they're
impressed by the cutting-edge popup navigation and the quality of the
It sounds weird, but no-one's going
to look at that web page design you're sweating over!
Really! 99% of the time, when a web
site works, the people using it aren't looking at the design.
Sure, they're looking at the pages,
but looking past the design. They're busy
That gives us designers a great
opportunity - it means that we can design quickly and cleanly, with the
aim of helping our visitors do what they want to do - interact cleanly
with the site content, achieve what they came for with the minimum time
and effort, and get the heck out of dodge.
Perversely, when we design well,
we're helping people to do the opposite
of what we're doing when we design - staring at the screen like it's a
work of art.
That's the paradox of designing: how
do you design something for people not to look at? Are we meant to
design a web page without looking at it, so that we're in the mindset
of our users? No, that's not feasible. In creating a design, we're
already too close to be able truly to approach it as though for the
Designing like no-one's watching
To succeed despite this tendency, we
need to learn new skills.
The first goal is to understand the
context in which our web design will be consumed.
We also need to be sympathetic to the
user's goals, know what they're looking for on each page, anticipate
what will help them succeed and what will get in their way.
Then, we need to learn and practice
techniques that are proven to help web designs succeed.