Posting Date: September 17, 2002
Inconspicuous Consumption: Lessons for Web Design from Mall and Retail Design (Boxes and Arrows) -- "But, in many ways, websites are like shops in a mall--even websites that are not primarily intended for commerce. They compete with other websites for “traffic,” just as stores compete with one another for shoppers. Stores try to hold onto shoppers until they make a purchase, just as web designers try to promote “stickiness” until users complete their intended task. Stores also hope that first-time customers become regulars, just as designers of websites hope that first-time visitors will return again and again." (Comments: Holy Long URL Batman!)
"place links to high-traffic content below links to lower-traffic content, in hopes of generating interest in the latter."
Translation: Learn what people want, then promote what they do not want. Great advice. Maybe it's time for me to leave this profession. It's getting too evil.
It'll get worse. It's well known in retail circles that certain colours sell better than others when used on packaging - red is better than blue etc. So, I'm thinking he's going to recommend that web page backgrounds should be nice, bright colours...
I'd like to see it done in reverse: Lessons for Mall and Retail Design from Web Design.
For example, on the Home Depot website, each department and a myriad of items that most people would be looking for is right there on the home page. It can be somewhat confusing for some people, but you can perform a search also.
Now go to a real Home Depot or Lowe's. Yes, you've got the different departments/aisles, but a lot of times I've gone thinking that a certain item would be in one section when it's actually located on the opposite end of the store. Or if I'm not sure where a particular item would be classified I have no idea where to look for it, and sometimes its hard to find an "employee owner" to help me.
It would be great if they'd put some kiosks in the center walkway where you could type in what you're looking for and tell you which aisle to go to. Maybe they have these in Home Depots elsewhere but not in my town.
Or better yet, search for an item on the Home Depot web site and have the product listing tell you what isle the item is on in the store. And in the store, have the kiosk be powered by the web site.
I'm unable to view homedepot.com in IE 6. Perhaps they like showing blank pages to people who reject cookies?!? In Netscape I see that they invade my privacy by asking for my zip code when all I'm doing is browsing. Methinks that's heavy handed. Ask me after I've added an item to my shopping cart.
You're right on the zip code thing, Jack.
Not to get an argument going or anything, but personally what I do not like about Boxes & Arrows is not the less-than-black color of the text, but the utter lack of white space in their layouts - it's wall-to-wall text.
That, more than anything, aggravates me. It starts to get that "sea of type" effect and my eyes start to water.
An easy fix is to copy the text out and paste it into a word document. I've only done this a couple of times, though.
And the shitty sky blue color for links has to be on the worst aesthetic decisions I've seen. Sky blue and light gray - wow, Mr. Kung wonders if it's possible to make a site any more washed out and pasty looking. At least make headlines strong and allow them to stand out. Sky blue? Seriously...
(Timo, if you're reading this, this is NOT a usability rant, it's pure aesthetic appeal - or the lack of it.)
At this point, the designer (Oops, that's old Timo again) will rave about he's only got good feedback from users. Well, Mr. Designer, that's the problem with you designer folks. You don't realise that very few people will write in and tell you that your site sucks. Instead, they'll just leave and never come back. You'll just go merrily thinking that your design is a success.
I refuse to read a B&A article until they offer an alternate "readable colors" stylesheet.
Don't you dare tell me to change my browser preferences, punk. I thought all those advocates of "this site best viewed in 1024*768 in Internet Explorer" notices were dead in 1998, but apparently not. How arrogant to think that I'd change my browser setting just because you don't know jack about design.
Oh, before someone asks me for MY portfolio, you can go fly a kite. My work is not the topic here, and like Jack has said before, it's a straw man.
Mr. Kung, do you have a sister?
You have the ability on the home page to view in large fonts (top left hand corner)...but they don't follow through beyond the home page.... very strange.
I kind of like the minimal/subdued look, but I know that isn't everyone's cup of tea. I don't think Timo's an ass, I think he's very talented, but he has certain color tastes that don't agree w/ everyone's idea of legibility.
Mr. P, despite the strong language, does bring up an interesting point that I constantly worry about: people who are irritated by your design or usability just leave. If they *have* to use your site to get something done, they will, but they'll moan and never come back. I am working on one project in particular where I have been trying to get this idea across, but no one believes me. Unfortunately, there's no way to back it up because they do sometimes get a "like your site" compliment, and they throw it up in my face like that proves me wrong. Argh. I've read all the "how to convince people of ____" articles and none of the suggested techniques work.
Easy solution. Publish the site. Send me the URL. I'll rip them a new hole. You'll be vindicated, plus be paid to fix the site the way you originally suggested.
If you're staff -- not a consultant -- then it's time to jump ship. If your opinion is discounted, you must be asking yourself, "Why do they pay me to do this work if they don't trust my judgement?"
Hmmmmmm, very tempting Jack. I especially like the "paid to fix the site" idea. (grin)
I think it's one of those things where even if they did believe me, it is considered too minor to warrant a fix. The usual set of frustrations.
Lydia, I suggest that you send Jack the URL. You certainly don't have to post it any place on WebWord, but you could do that too. Go on, take Jack up on his offer.
WTF is wrong with you, Jack, Kung Pao? Let it drop...
I can't see what value there is in introjecting venom and vitriol from a different thread, with a different point and focus and topic, into what is ostensibly a discussion of a B&A article.
Discuss that article on its considerable merits, or on its equally noticeable flaws, but please refrain from the ad-hominem arguments.
For what it's worth, Gabe Zentall designed B&A, not Timo Arnall. If you have specific critiques, you can direct them his way; knowing Gabe, I'm sure he will have measured and thought-out responses to all but the most noxiously-phrased inquiry.
BTW, Kung Pao, one of the first givens of customer service is that you will *always* hear customers relate tales of negative experiences, in approximate proportion to their occurence, but that most people who have a positive experience won't bother to write or call to express this.
That is to say, experience directly contravenes your supposition that "very few people will write in and tell you that your site sucks." On the contrary, very few people will write in and tell you, to any degree of depth, that they like a given design, but almost any design will produce a greater or lesser degree of written hostility.
Finally, W/R/T the "straw man" regarding people's own work, how in the world is this a straw man? When you can demonstrate that you can produce legible, usable, and attractive work in the context of balancing user needs, task requirements, client business goals, and technological constraints - and do this all with a modicum of taste - then I'll take your whining seriously.
Until then, you're just a civilian in my book - entitled to your opinion, but to no more than that.
Adam wrote: "That is to say, experience directly contravenes your supposition that "very few people will write in and tell you that your site sucks." On the contrary, very few people will write in and tell you, to any degree of depth, that they like a given design, but almost any design will produce a greater or lesser degree of written hostility."
Here's an interesting little fact. I almost never have people complain to me about WebWord. Let's face it, the design sucks arse. The Green Bar is a crushing hammer and the white background burns the eye. Yet, almost no person ever complains about the design. It just doesn't matter to people, or they find good reasons to ignore it. On the other hand, about once or twice a month someone writes me an email and tells me that WebWord is great and that they want me to keep it up. However, I'll be the first to point out that almost none of this deals with design. If my site had anything to do with great design my arse would be flapping in the wind, or getting kicked. Or, more likely, no one would listen to me. Oh wait, people listen to me? ;-)
Adam writes: "Finally, W/R/T the "straw man" regarding people's own work, how in the world is this a straw man? When you can demonstrate that you can produce legible, usable, and attractive work in the context of balancing user needs, task requirements, client business goals, and technological constraints - and do this all with a modicum of taste - then I'll take your whining seriously."
Oh, this is not on the correct track at all. Why would a usability person need to prove anything about their ability to actually produce a good looking design? Indeed, while my design skills don't totally suck, I not a designer and people don't expect me to design well. When I do, well, that's a bonus. Many of Jack's complaints are about usability and accessibility not design. Sure, they are all related, but they are not the same. Jack and Kung have no need to produce designs. However, I do think it might be useful for the Jack and Kung show to shine more a positive light on the things. And, although they don't need to show any of their design work, it might be interesting to observe. But, not needed. In any event, while they intend to get a message out to people, they sound like complainers. That's a shame. I honestly think everyone (Jack, Kung, Timo, you) wants to Make Things BetterTM.
Like Meatloaf and Edward Norton, maybe it is time for people to hug and move on.
Point well taken, John.
While I'm the furthest thing from a shinyhappy techno-Pollyanna, though, I will point out that it's famously easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.
Adam, um, yeah. I agree. Then again, I care about people, not flies. ;-)
Lets ask Gabe Zentall some questions about the B&A Design, although I think the questions should be worded in a non-judgemental manner.
I asked Timo some specific questions about his design on A brief note about usability and the reply helped me understand what he was trying to do. Whether or not I agree with a particular design decision I want to know what the designer was thinking so that I can learn from the experience. I want to understand what makes other people 'tick'. I would not have thought that putting grey text on a black background was anything but a mistake, but Timo has explained why he did it, and I quite like it now (in that context). I know from my programming experiences that I can always explain every line of code and design decision I ever make. When someone asks me why I did it one way instead of another I can always give them the detailed reasoning behind my choices, and I never say "I don't know". I should remember that other people must be able to do the same thing. But only if we ask the questions?
I am surprised in the article or in the comments there is no mention of Paco Underhill or his book "why we buy". If you guys haven't read it, please do it NOW. Trust me, you'll find it an immensely learning experience.
For starters he says the front of the store and a few yards into the store from the front door is a 'landing pad' and he says dont keep anything 'important' there, as in if you are doing some major branding on one new product, don't have it near the front door. The reason he gives is that shoppers come rushing into the store... after parking their car, and walk the first few yards FASTER and they settle down and drink in the store/shelves etc... I tested it. I watched people looking for seats in a restaraunt... when there was a TABLE vacant just next to the front door. I went to a nightclub and was sitting with my girl near a couch adjacent to the main door, we were waiting for friends and i told her 'your friends are gonna walk straight in and are not gonna look at us" she disagreed (med students think too mucha themselves) and they walked right in missing us sitting on the right, they walked a few yards in before my girl's screams caught them. Why dont you buy the book bud?
I have Why we buy: the science of shopping. Just be aware that some of what Underhill preaches may be applicable more to American audiences. Take it with a pinch of cultural salt. ;)
I forgot to add that the title of the book is misleading. There isn't much about why we shop or buy. Yes, there's some info about how to lay out your store so people have an easier time shopping (though with very few actual figures to support it) but nothing about why people buy things on impulse, for instance.
I like the B&R design.
There is a "Large Font Version" for people who don't.
The "large font version" on B&A has a hilarious bug in it. If you've set the text size to "smaller" in IE, the "large font version" displays text smaller than the "regular" version. ROFLMAO.
Kung Pao mate, leave it out. You've pushed it too far.
Adam, this is the web site you've come to. If you don't like our discussions, ask yourself why you're here. Would you join a listserv and then ask members WTF is wrong with them? You've entered a community with its own rules, colloquialisms, and community standards.
I draw the line when John tells me I've gone too far. I'm not ashamed of anything I've said in this thread. Well, except for asking about Mr. Kung's sister, seeing as I'm married.
The only thing that really raised my brow is Mr. Kung's reference to human excrement. High brow criticism doesn't rely on an inarticulate vocabulary.
"I do think it might be useful for the Jack and Kung show to shine more a positive light on the things."
Uh, ok. I appreciate that the article is broken up with subheads.
No, no, I'm sorry, I can't do it. They started with a good idea -- dividing a long article into sections which allow the user to jump around -- and totally messed it up by making the subheads hard to see. I cannot skim down the page and have the subheads jump out.
There are four bolded phrases in the article that stand out 110% more because they are black. As Mr. Kung says, on a page that is "washed out and pasty looking," a true black really grabs my eye.
I see a couple pull-quotes on the page too. I suspect the article designer comes from a journalism background and the page designer comes from a graphic design background. I'll never understand why traditional graphic designers embrace shades of grey. I see it again and again. Or rather, I squint my eyes again and again.
In short, it's like they read a book on how to write for the web, then destroyed their effort with a page design that fights the user. That's the real reason I don't read Boxes & Arrows. I could not in good conscience take design advice from a site with such obvious anti-user flaws.
1. The Boxes and Arrows design doesn't bother me at all. I suppose it really is a pain in the ass for other folks, but it just doesn't light me on fire.
2. When I am old and cranky, I'll probably rant a lot more about poor contrast, small fonts, and other related issues. For now, I think it is good enough that other people *cough* like Jack *cough* bitch and moan. The bright side is that at least the complaining is not arbitrary and it is not off the cuff. Bottom line? Abrasive, annoying, over-the-top, but useful. Take that and $0.50 and go buy a cup of coffee.
3. Jack writes: "...a page design that fights the user." I never really thought about pages doing anything. People request them and they are delivered, but that doesn't seem to mean that they are ever out to attack me. Yet, it does seem that some pages are offensive and afford nastiness. So, my question about this is simple: Are pages offensive and nasty or is it better to say that designers are offensive and nasty? Please note that most designers that I know are pleasant, creative, and wonderful. ;-)
4. My name is John Scott Rhodes. I have two silent H's and a silent T in my name. I didn't realize that until I was 8 or 9 years old. When I did realize it, I thought it was really cool. Do you care about the silent letters in my name as much as I do? Sometimes it is important to recognize that things that matter to you don't matter to other people.
5. This is item number five. It is extremely usable and useful. It was written just for you. All the ingredients are natural although some peanuts might have touched the machinery used during production. If you are allergic to peanuts or other nuts, stay clear. About 180 animals were harmed during production of item number five. Enjoy your Friday.
A page design that hinders my action is fighting me. Like walking against the wind. However, I don't say the wind is "fighting" me because it was not designed by a person with the intention of being used.
Perhaps "fighting" is too strong a word for most web sites, but in this case, B&A knows the issue exists. They choose not to correct the issue. That's the same as saying, "We don't give a damn about Jack and the others." Yeah, fighting is the right word here.
Are all people with accessibility issues conspiracy theorists?
Seems to me that if you really want people to listen, it *might* help to not accuse them of deliberately *attacking* you. Just maybe.
I'll answer my own question above - my local UPA chapter held a meeting with a speaker talking about accessibility issues - he's totally blind and uses various assistive technologies including a screen reader and a PDA-like device that has braille output and input. His attitude was NOT that everyone should change everything to meet his needs. He put a fair share of the burden on himself to use assistive technologies in the best way possible. He wasn't a conspiracy theorist even though his accessibility issues on all web sites were much more severe than Jack's.
Jack seems to take the opposite stance - basically refusing to use any type of assistive technology to bridge the gap.
FWIW, I think any of Jack's critiques should be prefaced with a disclaimer that says "Jack is a person with low vision and who gets headaches due to eye strain (or whatever) - Jack also is a classic pain in the ass and can't give constructive criticism to save his life -- but we still love him. We're not sure why we love him -- probably for the same reasons people love ugly breeds of dogs like sharpei's."
I constantly have to remind young designers (with good eyes) that small text and low contrast are issues for older people, people with diminishing eyesight, and others. I've never seen anyone who was making it "hard to read" on purpose. Usually they were trying to fix X amount of text on a screen or liked the smaller font's look or whatever.
Anyway, this whole B&A design thread is off topic, and nearly old hat here.
Disclaimer: I've been on the B&A staff, and have authored articles for them. I DO know that the folks on their design team will *CONSIDER* this feedback.
Lyle, I refuse to use assistive technology to read one or two web sites out of the hundreds of sites I view every week. That's absurd. Other healthy WebWorders have called it absurd.
Here's something you should know about my very mild dyslexia -- web pages are EASIER for me to read than books or newsprint. But I really don't have trouble with books or newsprint, I just read them a little slower. It's a very mild preference for web pages. I tried to avoid even mentioning it because you would then perceive low contrast as an accessibility issue when it frankly annoys a lot of temporarily-abled people too.
Enough WebWorders chimed in to say the contrast is lousy that I know it's not me.
I do not have low vision. You do not even understand the term. You do not understand dyslexia.
Your making me the issue is a straw man. It's the web site. Small text and low contrast are ISSUES FOR EVERYONE.
You said, "I constantly have to remind young designers (with good eyes) that small text and low contrast are issues for older people." There's your clue. There's your proof. These healthy designers are raising issues and you're ignoring them because you like shades of gray. Start listening to people.
Hey Jack -
Consider this for a moment, why don't you?
You mention sites that attack the user. Well, I personally find your all-saturating cynicism and negativity *much* more assaultive than low contrast or small font sizing.
I've stopped by webword maybe ten times in the last few years, never bookmarking it and never making it a regular stop because of the air of self-satisfaction and smugness that rolls off of it - an air that I'm increasingly understanding has less to do with John and more to do with the sort of comments he tolerates from a very few people. You first and foremost among them, Jack.
In fact, it's chasing me away from this site. How's that for a usability issue?
Sorry Adam, I can't take credit for your infrequent visits over the years. I believe I've been here less than one year. Perhaps Mac knows. I'm not sure when I showed up.
I would also appreciate seeing trend analysis from Mac... number of posts pre-Jack and during-Jack (adjusted for by not counting my own posts).
If John wants me gone, I'm gone. He only has to say the word. But I won't be scared off by designers who believe low contrast is a good thing. That's like taking advice from someone espousing the virtues of frames. Uh huh.
Hey MadMan, got any idea how to make the font bookmarklet work on Adam's web site? This is the first site that has foiled my covert attempts at making it readable (resizeable). It doesn't seem to operate on the same principles as IE's accessibility configuration settings.
Re: Analysis of Comments
The best thing I've got at the moment is Webworders DNA which gives a view of postings since July 2001. From this simple analysis I would say that Jack's contribution does stimulate debate and encourage other comments.
My personal observation is this: I have been lurking on webword for years, but only started posting in June 2002. One of the things that I love about webword are the 'real' personalities that populate it. If Jack stopped posting on Webword then I think that my contribution would decline. I'm in it for the interaction and some real debate. Some of the discussions and interchanges over the past few months made made me laugh out loud a number of times. These are real people talking, not just a bunch of oiks trying to score points and prove that they know the latest buzzwords in the industry.
John's attitude makes it possible for anyone to contribute. He encourages debate and is willing to talk to anyone (he even lets that idiot with the usabilitymustdie site to post news items for dogs sake!)
I invest my time and effort into Webword because it feels like a community and not a point scoring talking shop. If you look at the most commented on items, you will see the type of items that produce more discussion.
Adam said: In fact, it's chasing me away from this site. How's that for a usability issue?
Adam, that's a shame, as I would rather see you on webword arguing for what you believe.
I come here for the *people*, not for what views they have on a particular subject. If you don't like the people, then it isn't the right place for you. I would like to see you continue to post on webword because I want to find out what kind of person you are.
I love Ron and his 'proganda ratings', Jack and his 'strong opinions', John S and his 'open hearted human comments', MadMan (with Chimp) and his wealth of knowledge, Lydia with her 'down to earth' human comments, and all the rest I haven't mentioned.
I love you Mac for posting my superhero pic and profile on your site :) hehehe ... play on!
Daniel, I love you too, but no kisses until you have a shave.
Just trying to compete with MadMan's chimp.