The business purpose of all website design should be to focus on the user or reader of the material. That means designers need to include how the site design works from the perspective of the people landing on the site. Last year when I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things it revealed a lot about doing this effectively.
In reading a web post this morning, I was reminded of how important this is. Don Norman suggested four principles of screen interface. They make a lot of sense to users.
1. Follow conventional usage, both in the choice of images and the allowable interactions. In other words, don’t get too creative and violate conventional usage of symbols and other design less you risk a reader not being able to figure out your intent. Violating convention is doomed to failure because it simply does not meet expectations. An example he used was to suddenly require double-clicking when a single click is what they expect. A double-click would appear to be a broken link and therefore would likely not be used.
2. Use words to describe the desired action. What is wrong with “Click Here” or “Click to Download”? This is why menus are so easy to understand. Except for their location on the page, their use is pretty standard. But words alone are not enough. There needs to be a highlighting, bordering, or some depiction of an actionable object. Changing from an arrow to a finger is popular.
3. Use of metaphors – This is both useful and harmful and it is usually the latter. The problem is that not everyone is going to understand the point. A striking similarity is the over-use of industry-speak that only “insiders” understand. An industry acronym is a great example.
4. Follow a coherent conceptual model so that once part of the interface is learned, the same principles follow for the other parts. This is one of the main reasons in brand-centric design to use a style sheet for the client before any design starts. You are able to agree on design concepts, in writing, before guesswork starts.