Friday, 5 December 2008

The web is not a sheet of paper

Print-turned-web designers:

  1. Learn the medium you're working in. A five minute video of even the best print advert makes for a lousy TV advert. Likewise, techniques and habits refined by years of print design are often sub-optimal or flatly counter-productive when applied to the web.
  2. For the love of god, give up on pixel-perfect positioning and learn to appreciate flow layout. Sure, it makes design harder... but if you think designing flow layouts is hard, think about the poor schmuck developers who have to implement the damn things. And if you think flow layouts are ugly, let's see how good your precious pixel-perfect design works when I do something freakishly unusual like resize my browser window.
  3. Print pages are Things To Look At. Web sites are Things To Use. Prioritising aesthetics over usability or functionality is like putting a car steering wheel in the middle of the dashboard. Sure it looks nicer, but it makes the whole product useless. Incidentally, I swear if I get one more design through with a "button" image specified but no "pressed button" image (or "link" style but no "active/hover/visited link" style) I will personally bite off your head and defecate into your body-cavity. You have been warned.
  4. Conventions are not boring - conventions are your friend. Putting light-switches near doors is a convention. Sure, putting them square in the middle of the ceiling is innovative, but then so is cheesegrating your knees (hey - do you know anyone who's done it?). Innovative means "nobody else is doing it". Accept the possibility that nobody else is doing it because it's a fucking stupid idea.
  5. I don't want to "explore the interface". I want to get in, do my shit and get out again. If you think forcing users to explore the interface is such a good idea, try ripping the labels off all the cans of food in your cupboard. A couple of meals of cat-food, chilli and peaches should demonstrate exactly how "fun" this is for your users.

PANT, pant, pant... pant... ahem.

Originally via reddit.

Fear, Instincts and the Patented Lightning Test

Our mass-media (meme-propagation system) has increased in efficiency tens or hundreds of times faster than our context-supplying instincts.

We evolved in loose groups of 150-250 individuals. If you heard about someone getting eaten by a tiger then, chances are you should watch out because he was likely only a few hundred metres over that way, so the danger to you was very real.

Then we started to hear about things that happened to someone at the other end of the country, and suddenly it seemed like there were murderers and rapists and nutjobs everywhere, because barely a day went past when we didn't hear of someone getting killed in an inventive or gruesome way.

Now we've got the web, and e-mail, and satellite TV, and blogs, and we hear about it if a mouse farts in Buttfuck, Antarctica. And now it's not even safe to let your kids walk to school for fear of them getting molested, you can't get on an aeroplane for fear it'll be bombed out of the sky, and you can't visit the toilet in your own house without getting abducted and beheaded by terrorists.

The only way to tackle this is by recognising what's going on and overruling your instincts. They served you well ten thousands years ago when you lived in a tree and had to avoid tigers, but now we're living in condos and keep small tigers in the house as pets.

Try my patented Lightning Test: Look up the statistics of whatever the latest mania/terror/panic is about, and only worry about it if it's more likely than… oh… say… getting hit by lightning.

Try terrorism - look up the number of deaths from terrorism each year, then look up the number of people who get hit by lightning.

Now if someone's advocating taking away civil rights because of terrorism, or locking up our children because of paedophiles, you can apply the simple test: Are they also advocating the compulsory wearing of earthed metal hats and rubber gumboots?

If not, then their little pet crusade is clearly disproportionate and can be safely ignored.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from the Lets All Get A Fucking Grip Society. Have a nice day.