Belief in scientific design has led to the new “science” of user-experience research. This might help designers get short-term acceptance, but it often detracts from the most important dimension of their work: The human dimension – things like judgment, taste, and creativity. Preaching the mantra of, “I’ve seen the research,” is just a way of hedging and dodging the real issues.
Is research a defense mechanism to avoid conflict?
User-experience research has now become complicated, pseudo-scientific nonsense, appealing to big companies with the time and money to analyze, theorize, test, and prototype. As designers venture out of their studios and into company boardrooms, they run into questions like “How do we know this process will work?” or “How do we know which design is best?” or “How will people react to this?” The truth is that the design process can be messy and unpredictable, but no customer wants to hear that.
Can just anyone become a user-experience designer?
Web design is flooded with unqualified UX designers who often spout high-sounding gibberish in order to justify their own gut feelings or to conform with something they’ve read somewhere. UX design has degenerated into a confused mess of visual design, usability, wireframing, psychology, and lots of other stuff. But real user-experience improvements come from common sense.
User tests may be insightfully designed, but it’s easy to inadvertently skew the results, and to subconsciously influence the users so they will say exactly what we want them to say. In the absence of an organization to represent and regulate user experience at a professional level, it’s possible for anyone (at any skill level) to call himself a user-experience designer, architect, or UX consultant.
Purely visual and at-a-glance. People will evaluate your website’s “body language” in a split second. Consciously (and even more importantly) subconsciously, they decide (at first glance) if your site is attractive, usable, and credible. And if that first impression is negative, your chances of changing their minds later is almost impossible. Human preference is for websites that make sense, are clear and legible, and stimulate thinking. This requires a balance of classical and expressive aesthetic elements. Aesthetics should be transparent. If people are distracted by decoration, it’s not transparent.
Design is about emphasis, proportion, and balance.
Classical aesthetics correspond to visual clarity and usability, but when overdone produce boredom. Expressive aesthetics use ornamentation, character, and theme for memorable branding. If expressive design is overdone, the page becomes cluttered and hard to focus on. Novelty confuses. Users prefer uniformity and consistency for a flow experience.
What matters to us.
We want websites with an empathetic but brave design. It’s not really “innovation.” Hospitality has been around for thousands of years. Politeness and courtesy never go out of fashion. User experience design is really just design for the sake of others.
When performance, aesthetics and transparency are properly orchestrated and balanced, we have a sense of being in the right place to satisfy our search (findability). Findability is a term for the ease with which information contained on a website can be found, both from outside the website and by users already on the website.
- Core web design principles make a difference. No-fluff. Just straight talk.
- Credibility gives you power to make decisions without micromanagement from committees.
- Learn to say, “No” to self-defeating web features, site-bloat requests, or even whimsical demands from committees or bosses.
- Find creative alternatives to prevent professional design obsolescence.
- Always add value to your websites, not features.
- Use variety to differentiate your WordPress sites from boring, off-the-shelf, repetitive themes.