Technology Director

Too Much of a Good Thing

I ordered a Cubano for lunch today from a local sandwich shop. It came with a delicious dijonnaise dressing. The sauce really kicked the sandwich up to the next level. For the first few bites.

The meat was slathered with sauce, and the bread quickly began soaking through. It was running down my hands and dripping back on to the plate. The dijonnaise was coated so heavily that soon it was all I could taste. The other ingredients were overpowered and the sandwich became a soggy mess.

Sometimes we make this same mistake with design. We find some element we like and we use it as much as possible. To the point that the functionality of our product–its original purpose–is overwhelmed by the dressing.

Maybe you have a creative hover effect that emphasizes an element on the web page. Add it to a single button and you’ve got a cool trick that impresses your visitors. Add it to every hyperlink and you’ve got a mess that distracts from functionality.

Find your secret sauce and use it sparingly. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Be Invisible

Whenever possible, be invisible. The less you intrude, the better your user experience will be.

Think about the website that immediately interrupts you to beg for an email. We haven’t even met yet and they’re already asking for something. Talk about an intrusion! It’s a panhandler standing by the ATM to hit every person up for money the instant they withdraw it.

You might get a few dollars, but at what cost? You’ve compromised your integrity and alienated 95% of the people you approach. The visitors you lose in the first ten seconds will never come back. Never. Maybe not a big deal for the panhandler, but terrible practice for a business.

If you’re providing good information and creating a powerful user experience, you’ll get the loyalty you seek. Your conversion rate will be higher and your bounce rate will be lower. People will come back. They’ll stay longer. They’ll tell their friends about you.

The more visible you become, the worse your user experience gets. Let your content do the talking for you. Create good experiences without begging for attention, and your visitors will come looking for you instead.

Be invisible.

Content into Stories

A website is nothing without the people who visit it. You can have the best information available, but if people can’t find it, it’s worthless.

This is why Information Design is so vital to the success of a website, and increasingly for the success of the business as a whole.

Is your navigation structure clear and concise? I’m not talking about clever. Clever navigation can be even worse than messy navigation. We’ve all seen websites with fancy one-word menus that tell us nothing about the link we’re clicking. Do your visitors know how to find the information they seek?

And keep in mind that not all visits start at the home page. Your visitors should be able to clearly navigate the website from any page.

Good navigation is only one small piece of an Information Design strategy, but it’s a good place to start.

Use the navigation structure to begin telling your story. It’s the outline from which you will write your chapters. An important step toward turning “content” into stories.

If visitors can’t find the information, they can’t read it.

Hold Back

With creative work, the thoughts never end. We can’t stop at 5pm and turn off our brains. The ideas keep coming. We have to cultivate the art of holding back.

Exercising the discipline to hold back is especially important for project leaders. We know what we want. Will voicing your perspective help the project? Is everyone working hard and motivated to complete the job? Don’t push. Hold back.

I find it particularly difficult to hold back when new ideas come at the end of the day. Open the laptop. Send the email. Sketch the drawing. Is there value in doing this right now or can it wait until tomorrow morning?

Starting the project or sending the email late in the day adds unnecessary stress because it hangs over our heads that night.

Close the laptop. Save the draft. It will be there tomorrow.

Hold back.