Web Design News 08/06/10

Paul Boag

This week: A psychologist’s view of web design, a gaggle of usability testing posts, the need for speed and inspiration kills.

A psychologist’s view of web design

As you will have gathered from last week’s show and our interview with Stephen Anderson, there is a lot of excitement about the impact of psychology on web design at the moment.

Human Brain

This week alone we have 3 great posts on the subject…

The Psychologists view of UX design is an informative rundown of how the human mind influences our behaviour on the web. Topics include…

  • People don’t like to work or think more than they have to.
  • Human memory is complicated.
  • People create mental models.
  • People crave information.
  • Most mental processing occurs unconsciously.

There is a similar article about the psychology of web design on the Web Designers Depot. This post covers topics such as…

  • Building trust.
  • Familiarity and pattern recognition.
  • Colour psychology.
  • Focus.
  • Reading patterns.

Finally there is a brilliant video on emotional design featuring Aral Balkan’s talk at Future of Web Design. According to twitter this was the highlight of the conference and is definitely worth checking out.

Whether you are a web designer or website owner it would appear that psychology has a lot to teach us and we need to start paying attention.

Inspiration kills

Talking of FOWD, one of the things I said in my presentation was how we spend far too much time looking at inspiration galleries.

Interesting the same issue has resurfaced this week in a post entitled ‘Inspiration Kills.’

My argument against inspiration galleries was that they are sinkhole for your time. That the time spent paging through endless ‘cool’ designs would be better spent learning something new.

Inspiration Gallery

The ‘Inspiration Kills’ post takes a different tact arguing that inspiration galleries replace creativity with other people’s work…

I think though that there is a darker side to inspiration galleries. This darker side is the thing that sucks up your imagination and fills the gaps with other people’s work.

However great other people’s designs are, by following their lead you surrender your opportunity to innovate and create original work.

For me the author sums up the best approach beautifully when he writes…

If you do go out to seek inspiration, don’t look for it in the usual places, the countless galleries and showcases displaying work of your fellow designers. Going this route will ensure your originality gets killed. Look for it elsewhere, in nature and in designs unrelated to your subject.

As I have said before, I am increasingly turning to subjects areas like physiology, marketing or business for inspiration. Not all design inspiration has to be visual and it certainly doesn’t have to be web based.

A gaggle of usability testing posts

First we had a plethora of physiology posts, now we have a gaggle of usability articles.

This week I have found 3 posts on usability testing that I just can’t help but mention.

The first is A List Apart article on quick and dirty remote user testing.

The idea of remote user testing has become increasingly popular thanks partly to advocates like Steve Krug who spoke about it recently on this show.

Remote testing is a viable alternative to conventional testing and although it is not as effective as face to face, it is cheaper and easier. If you run a website and have previous considered user testing too time consuming or expensive then read this article.

Talking of Steve Krug, he has released a video demonstrating just how easy it is to run a usability test session. If you feel you need an expert to run test sessions and that is stopping you from testing then watch this video. I challenge you to find something in here you couldn’t do yourself.

The final post is from UXBooth and focuses on encouraging negative feedback during user testing.

User struggling to be honest in a test session

Konstantin Chagin, Shutterstock

It can be surprisingly hard to get users to be honest about their experiences when testing. They fear offending you or looking stupid so they are often guarded about being negative. Its therefore great to see an article tackling how best to encourage people to be honest.

The need for speed

Our final news story for the day is another post by Gerry McGovern. This week, Gerry is talking about the “Need for Speed“.

The post focuses on users obsession with speed. He sums it up best at the end when he writes…

Time is the most valuable resource, and it will only become more and more precious. Those who relentlessly focus on saving the customer time will have a truly future-proof strategy. Those who waste their customers’ time with disruptive marketing and advertising, confusing menus and links and smilely people images will ultimately end up as road kill on the information superhighway.

Setting aside his reference to the information superhighway (really Gerry? Who uses that term anymore?), he makes a good point.

It is easy to build websites that are too slow and insist on communicating information the user just doesn’t care about.

Gerry quotes Google…

“We may be the only people in the world who can say our goal is to have people leave our homepage as quickly as possible.”

He then goes on to write…

It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? Get them off your website as quickly as possible having done what they came to your website to do. It’s truly the opposite philosophy to sticky websites or sticky marketing.

Although I disagree with his definition of sticky websites (for me it is a site that users return to rather than stay on a long time), I do agree that we should be helping users complete their tasks as quickly as possible.

Google’s decision to factor in speed into its search algorithm is not down to an illogical obsession on their part. They know users want to complete tasks as quickly as possible and Google want to help them.