Saturday, September 22, 2007

The #1 Problem in Web Design

Mismatch between desired and actual message ...

"There are two messages involved in every web design project. One is the desired message, the message that the site owners want to deliver to their audience. This message probably has something to do with the value of participating, of using that tool or service to make your life better in some way.

The other is the actual message, the one that actually gets delivered. This message is usually some form of the desired message, but often has a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty thrown in. In the worst cases it is actually not the desired message at all but an unintended communication that means something completely different.

The number one problem on the Web today is a mismatch between the desired message and the actual message being delivered.

Remember the game of telephone, the one where you sit in a circle and whisper a message to the person beside you? That person then tells the person beside them, and once you get all the way around the circle you compare messages. Rarely are the messages the same. In many cases it is funny what we end up with. After all, it’s just a game.

But on the Web it isn’t so innocent. The entire industries of visual and interface design, copy-writing, usability, user experience, and all the rest are tasked with playing a gigantic game of telephone. Their job is to communicate the message that needs communicating. Does their design deliver the desired message, or is the actual message completely different? All of these groups, in their own way using their own techniques, are trying to align the desired message with the actual one.

There are a lot of other topics in design that get a lot of interest: technical issues like cross-browser implementation, using semantic markup, and scalability to name a few. There are also an amazing amount of process-related topics: which design method is best, how many users do you test, and when should you get funding, etc. There are a million issues to deal with, but really they all pale in comparison to the #1 problem.

And, to top it all off, the Web is a visual medium, and so we tend to judge things visually. If they look right, then we assume they are right. But just as a smile from a serial killer isn’t really what you want, neither is a web site that looks great but doesn’t support what you’re trying to do. On the other hand, when a message is being communicated clearly, it usually looks good because the way it looks makes sense, so there is some merit in judging by how it looks."    (Continued via Bokardo)    [Usability Resources]


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