We have been very lucky recently to attend a great web conference in the heart of London, the tech capital of Europe. Awwwards, based out of Los Angeles, is an annual get together of some of the most forward thinking and dynamic web companies and industry leaders.
Not only was there a wealth of talent and inspiration on show, there were intriguing questions posed and thought provoking design movements displayed. It was a great opportunity to engage with the likes of Mike Kus, Seb Lester, Mr. Bingo and Adrian Zumbrunnen to name only a few.
Don’t ask me anything!
There were many messages I could have spoken of, but one stood out to me. Don’t ask me anything! Ok not quite ‘anything’, but as little as possible.
When it comes to the architecture of a website, its all too easy to fall into one of many traps. ‘Lets put it all up’, or ‘We need to upsell as much as possible’ are examples.
The best sites are easy too use, we all know that. However working out how to make a site simple and intuitive, whilst working for both the user and the owner is the hard part.
There are many reasons people love or hate Google, but you can’t deny its sheer dominance over the likes of Yahoo. If you compare the two homepages, which one does what you want it to do? Both maybe, but I bet you spent a few seconds longer on yahoo looking for the all important search box. In a world where decisions are made in spilt second periods, this makes a difference. Google is clear, simple, easy, intuitive, and most importantly empowers the user. There is one key input - ‘Search’. Keep it simple - it clearly works.
Know your audience
As an owner of a website, asking too much of your users can often deter, or even dissuade a user. An example can be seen in the alcohol trade. Laws regarding age restrictions on alcohol products dictate a user must state they are 18 years of age of older to get past the landing page. So its common place to have a date of birth selector meaning a user must input the year, month and date they were born. Pretty simple you may think, but not totally necessary. They key here, as demonstrated at the conference, is you don’t need to ask everyone the same questions, one set does not apply to all. All you need in this case is to initially ask for the year of birth. It is at this point the site can allow access, or require the user for more specific input if necessary, such as the month and date of birth. In adding this simple step, this well thought out process makes it quicker and easier for the vast majority of users to enter. The experience is slicker and faster.
Your users know what they want
Well, when it comes to filling in forms at least! If you have ever booked a flight or holiday online, you will no doubt have had good and bad experiences. Have you ever been forced to scroll down a gigantic country selector drop down, the likes of which display every country on earth? All the options need to be here, but what is missing is the fact that 100% of users (and its not often you can stay that) will know which country they want to select. It is in this case, asking a client to scroll endlessly to select ‘United Kingdom’ nestled snugly between the UAE and Uzbekistan, is unnecessary. The answer is an intelligent input box. A user types the first few letters of the country, ‘Uni’ for example and a filtered selection is presented for a user to select quickly, accurately and without fuss.
It is this kind of well thought out, user centered design we love at WD, simple steps and well founded logic go a long way to building the foundations of a great site.