Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Assumption 11 – When does change in front-end design and usability become self defeating and when does it improve?

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on March 4, 2010

This final assumption analysis posting in this series (at least for now) shifts gears to look at the user experience. And I have to admit that I have a poster child in mind here as I write this, with www.Facebook.com. I have recently started to hear a lot about the pace with which they have been changing their user interface and the basic user experience. I am not writing here about addition of new features, but rather of redesign and further redesign of current features. And this brings up a fundamental set of assumptions as to when change is good and when change seemingly simply for the sake of change can be anything but.

I used to do a lot of web design and building and I made a point of studying the basic issues in this from the user experience perspective. One detail I found that I suspect holds regardless of what back-end technologies are deployed is that web sit visitors hate, and virtually above all else online having to figure out as a problem solving exercise how to navigate a site. They will give up and click away to one where they can see and use the links and without having to work at that.

At the time, this meant keeping link text underlined and it often meant keeping it in the standard link blue for un-clicked, and purple for clicked with mouse-over link color optional if used. Link colors can be more flexible, but most people still seem to prefer those standard underlined hyperlinks in the web pages and other online content they visit.

If this applies to simple details like setting up a link on a page, it most definitely applies to the more complex and conceptually demanding design of more complex online functions and capabilities, and their user interfaces.

The more complex and functionally rich a feature or feature set is the most forgiving a site visitor is in having to learn how to use it. But no one wants to go through a learning curve as to where the tools and options are, what they do and how to use them simply to have to relearn all of that because of cosmetic-only changes.

I could add www.LinkedIn.com to this with the way they tried cosmetically changing the networking contacts screens for their site users – making it much more limiting and difficult to use for anyone with any significant number of contacts. Showing member photos in this context did not add any value and took so much room on the screen as to degrade functionality for the features that users did want. Fortunately, the developers who set this up offered a link to restore the traditional and more functionality rich older option.

Any web site, any social networking site, any blog site, any any site can fall into this trap of letting marketing and a desire for a fresh look collide with usability and the user experience.

I add this here as usability and the user experience impacts on everything online and for everyone who connects and networks, does business or anything else online. Ultimately good user experience drives development of solid, sustaining and sustainable online communities and it becomes a significant value driving production and sharing of value.

The assumption here is in how we should and should not connect the development the fresh and new which is vitally important, with an equally important need for framework of continuity. We are all going through learning curves in this and we all carry basic assumptions as to what to do and where to find and reach that balance point where the user experience is truly great.

2 Responses

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  1. Large Plastic Storage Boxes said, on March 21, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Can you provide more information on this? take care

  2. Large Plastic Storage Boxes said, on March 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the awesome work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.


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