Commentary

Reading time: 3 mins

Hanni linked to a post which discusses whether weblogs and standards are ruining the internet, with the entire thing prompted by Heather Champ, the woman’s influence is considerable. I’ve commented about this on the former linked sites but thought I’d expand (clarify) my position here. If you are so inclined I suggest you go and read the above links including my comments, in reverse order.

If you’re not so inclined, stop reading. This is about how people ‘use’ the internet. It also contains many generalisations. I know both topics bore some people.

In response to the original article then:

“I’ve long since given up worrying too much about this kind of thing. The cycle at the moment is leaning towards 2/3 columns. It’ll veer back to single column or multi column again at some point. Hell, if someone comes up with a workable alternative to frames expect that to be the next big thing (you heard it here first! LOL).

As for standards – I wish people would refer to them as guidelines or references. A standard isn’t “standard” until it’s adopted by everyone, and I’m afraid the browser creators have a way to go yet. When THEY get their collective acts together maybe I’LL start worrying a little more about it. For now, a ‘close enough’ attitude is suiting me fine thankyouverymuch.

Question – if I redesign my blog to be ‘different’ will people know how to navigate? where to find the info? No they’ll have to learn MY way. What kind of designer does that?”

Hanni then asked me to expand on the navigation aspect, don’t worry, she’ll learn not to ask in future (honestly, I never realised how much I can GO ON, you should have told me!).

Well, it’s quite simple. I think it’s called commonality or something but it’s the reason why certain UI features prevail even if ‘in theory’ they are ‘wrong’.

For example, if you see a dialog box with OK and Cancel buttons, you expect that OK will confirm an action and make the dialg box disappear. The Cancel button will NOT confirm an action and make the dialog box disappear.

Now consider if, for some reason, Microsoft changed that so that you had to click Cancel to have an action confirmed (easily done by changing the wording on the dialog to negative terms). It would throw everyone and there would be outrage.

Same goes for website navigation. The lowest denominator tells us that blue underlined words are links to another webpage. We’ve since learnt that the link can change colour, be underlined or even be an image. Most designers ensure the navigation is obvious, and place site navigation in one place on all/most pages. That way people learn that “when I visit site A, the text down the left hand side links to other parts of the site”.

Taking that further, I think it’s safe to assume that most sites have their main/core navigation (to the main areas of their site) in either the left or right side, or under a banner/header.

Now, what would happen if we all switch to 4 column layouts and placed the navigation in the 3rd column, and made it look like plain text? Confusion.

Some people would figure it out, others wouldn’t even try as it wouldn’t be obvious and if there is one thing the web tells us it’s that if it ain’t easy to use, people won’t.

And there you have it. The core reason that, whilst I do read many of them, I don’t comment often on any of the sites that focus on web design is because they too often concentrate on code, standards, and the like, forgetting one thing. The user, the audience.

What say you?