I Am User Hear Me Roar
Posted on 13 Mar 2004
by Chris Heilmann (codepo8)
Rated 4.32 (Ratings: 18)
- More articles in IA/Usability
Hi there, you want me, I know you do. You got something to sell or you want tobe heard, or you want to share. In any case - you need me. To make matters worse,you don't know anything about me.
I could be old, young, boy, girl, man, woman,handicapped or fully abled. I can choose from a great variety of means to usethe internet and technology to control it, and you don't stand much chance to know what I use.
The things you do to get me
You try hard to get me, no doubt about that. After all, your income or - in saddercases - your happiness, depends on it. And to ensure I hear you, you go far. Sometimesyou get pushy, and that puts me off. Let me count the ways you can annoy me:
Don't throw things at me!
One thing you seem to think makes a lot of sense is throwing things at me.
Open new windows, cover my viewport in banners, make everything on the pagejump at me when I touch it with my mouse or tab to it with my keyboard.
You know what? This is annoying. I didn't ask for it, why do you think I wantit when you push harder? I counteract. To avoid wasting my time closing windows, I use popup blockers. To get rid of things that are unrelated to what I was looking for I use web filtering or browser extensions that turn off animation and images of a certain size. Isn't the mere existence of these products hint enough that I may not want to have things shoved in my face? If you need to usea new window for something, make me aware of it. Tell me which links open in a new window, and I know what will happen.
Don't think I am mainly interested in the technology of your site
We are all different. Things that make you go "ouhhhh" might make me go "ewwww"or "zzzzzz".
It is not as common any longer, but there was a time where a web site without along and amazing flash tunnel was no web site. Thank god that this is over.
Still, there are things you use that are amusing or interesting for the first time,but really bug me when I come back (if you are lucky and I do come back). Don't make me wait for you, don't fade the page or the navigation in and out endlessly. I mightnot have your fancy and fast computer, which means I wait a lot longer than you,and I don't like waiting, not at all. Time is money. Yes, there are flat rates andI don't pay by the minute any longer, but I still consider my time precious. I am not likely to be impressed by the same thing over and over again. You can impress me for the first time, but please, give me a chance to get rid of that same thing when I come back. Put it somewhere, in a sitemap for example, so, if I'd be inclined to see it again, I can have another look at it.Also, I might not see your fancy thing at all! I might be security aware or paranoid, or my company is, and have all plug-ins and scripting and whatnot turnedoff. If you still want me, give me another way to reach you.
Don't patronize me
I appreciate that you want the best for me. That is nice. But please don'tthink that what is best for you, is also best for me. I know what is best for me,I installed my computer or bought my mobile or my TV set top box, and, if possible,chose my browser and the plug-ins I want to have. The plug-ins I might have gotten, because I wanted to reach some content, that was nicely offered to me. Don'tthink that making your web site look and behave like your operating system givesme the same homely feeling it gives you. I willingly came to see your site, I don't want to change my browser or operating system. Don't block me out, becauseI am not like you. You like your design; you think it is the best. I might disagreeand use my own user style sheet to overwrite all that is out there. Can you still offer me your product or your content? If so, good for us, if not, bad for you.
Don't redecorate my house
I like my browser / surfing device. I chose it, or I got it chosen for me, orI don't have a chance to change it. Don't take it away from me, or I'll be miffed. I like to use the back button, when I think the page I surfed to is not what I wanted. I don't need your page in full screen, if I want that, I cando that myself. Don't take away my toolbars or my ability to right-click or shift click an element. You can't win.
- You open your site in an x by y window - I copy and paste the url from the properties into my own window
- You turn off my back button - I use a keyboard shortcut to go back to the previous document.
There is no need for us to fight an uneven battle like this. If you give animportant document to someone, you don't re-arrange their desk first, do you? Why do you think I want you to change my browser? I like it the way it is, with all my shortcuts, toolbars, sidebars and tabs.
Don't replicate what I already have - and badly at that
I use a browser, and that fabulous thing comes with everything I need: Theability to move around a document via tabbing, scrolling with my mouse wheel or my trackball or via the scrollbars, the ability to enter text and send it off toyour server.
I like these controls - a lot! I got used to them, which might havebeen a long and painful process, so please don't confuse me by changing them tofit your design.
I don't need a DHTML scroller that I cannot use with a keyboard,or that shows no indicator how big the document is. I don't want to search forform fields and buttons and scrollbars - chances are that you are not able to style them properly for my browser anyway.
These are vital elements of my surfingexperience, I don't want to think about them, they trigger automated processes in my brain. If you make me look for them, you take my attention away from your content, and that is whatyou don't want, right?
And if there is a need for a back button, then your concept of navigation failed,and I am not likely to use it anyways, as my browser comes with a cool back button and keyboard shortcut to go back to the previous document.
So, how can you get me?
There are some things, that have been and are done successfully throughout theyears of the internet. The biggest one is the big C - content.
Provide me with the content I want
A web site with the right content can look horrid and be a tad harderto use - I don't care, as I found what I was looking for. The easier to get tothe content, the better.
Write plain text and cut it into easily digestiblechunks rather than 2 pages of corporate mumbo jumbo before I find the one thing I want.
If it is a download I want, make the download links with versionnumbers and sizes available from the very beginning, I promise to read on whileI download!
Provide me with a clean and fast navigation - give me a sitemap to access everything
Your navigation is what takes me by the hand and leads me through your web site.
Don't make me search for it, don't smother me in links I really don't need atthe moment, just make it easy for me to see where I am in your site, and what else is in this section. Keep the navigation on the same spot and looking roughly the same and I feel secure and guided without being pushed. Use the right wording in your navigation, keep it short and simple, I don't needpoetry and metaphors in navigation items.
There is normally no need to allow me to go to every page in the site withinthe main navigation - this'll only mean I need to navigate through a lot of links to find what I want - keep this to the sitemap.
Let me search
I love searching, and a good search feature is perfect if I don't have the timeto navigate through your site - this time. Give me a search function that is easy to use and prominently available on each page and I promise to use it andstay a bit.
Make me feel comfortable
Use nice, clean language to help me overcome my original shyness and reluctance to stay long. Use good harmoniouscolour schemes and imagery to give me a good feeling about your site - don't forgetto add alternative content for those, should I not be able to see.
Make sure tokeep a nice and consistent look throughout the site.
When there are processes thatneed more than one step, provide me with an indicator how far I am in the processand allow me to go back any time.
Invite me to participate
Give me options to tweak your content to my desires, allow me to get rid ofparts and add others that I am interested in. Tell me what I have looked at beforeand alert me when there was an update in that section. Offer me related articlesor products and greet me when I come back to your page next time. Nothing is betterfor you and me than me coming back and be reminded of a good experience.
The home page should not be a static "hello to yaddayaddayadda" page, it has tobe a living and changing element of the site that tells me about changes and highlights special features and new content. Only that way I can find the goodies immediately.
Don't cry, I didn't take your toys away
I am aware that your web presence is your baby, and you are proud of it, andyou want to make it interesting for you and for me. That is how you ended up using cool technological tricks and web design ideas that are the talk of town at the moment in the first place.
I don't want you to create boring text sites, youcan add cool stuff, just make sure to do so in moderation.
Make sure thatonly those who can access the cool enhancements get them, and that they fall back to a usable HTML construct for everybody. I like nice designs as much as you do, but I still want headlines in my document. I love navigations that have smoothrollovers and effects, but I might need those as lists of links at the same time. Degrade gracefully, as they call it, it is harder to do, but fun to find out how to do it.
Trust me, for I am user, and you want me.