Getting to WOW! : Designing for users
Posted on Saturday, December 19th, 2009
Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.
The style switchers, decorative novelties, and clever navigation schemes that Jad highlights in his post are all taken from the sites of professional design companies. Like this example from Eric Johansson’s Portfolio. Eric has created a really great little navigation scheme – a scooter ride along the lakeside – that definitely gives his visitors a reason to say “Wow!”. Exciting elements like these show off the talent and skill of a designer.
These elements go a long way toward getting potential design clients to take notice, and sign on for a “Wow!” website of their own. The “Wow!” factor is the very thing that most web design clients are looking for when they go in search of somebody to help revitalize their own online image. On sites like those highlighted in the Design Informer post, the clever elements in the designs serve far more purpose than just decoration. They work to provide a unique selling proposition for the site’s visitors.
Design should never say “Look at me.” It should always say “Look at this.”
Where these sorts of “Wow!” elements work on a designer’s website, they may just as easily fail somewhere else. As an example, let’s say that John is going to design a site for Sally, who is a high-priced corporate consultant. Seeking to add a significant “Wow!” factor to Sally’s site, and also, perhaps, to add a little extra hype to his portfolio, John creates a fancy and impressive-looking navigation system. Sally is excited about her super-cool website, and her friends are all really impressed with the neat navigation.
Mary, a CEO looking for a consultant to help manage her executive staff, is less impressed. Mary feels that the flickering, flashing, zooming navigation, while neat looking, is both difficult to use, and slightly unprofessional. She goes elsewhere for her consulting needs.
Sally may have had the “Wow!” factor, but it wasn’t appropriate for her audience. John may have built something clever, but he did so as much for his ego as for his client’s benefit. As designers, we have a responsibility to our clients to design their sites with their users in mind.
Designers should always design for users.
It is of tremendous importance that we, as designers, remember this maxim. It is down to us to make sure that our efforts aren’t spent designing for the whims of our clients, the praise of our colleagues, or the padding of our egos. We need to be certain that we are designing for the people who use the sites we build.
That, beyond anything else, is really the “Wow!” we should be striving for.