Untested reinvention? Are you sure?

October 25, 2012 Written By Marco Monteiro

There’s one thing that has been bothering me a lot lately. It really “grinds my gears” when web-designers try to reinvent concepts that are well founded and tested. Let’s get one thing out of the way, I’m not against reinvention. But one shouldn’t just reinvent with the only purpose of being different. Why am I writing about this in the first place? Well last week I tweeted this:

Webdesigners! A tag should look like a select tag. Why do you always try to re-invent the damn thing?Oct12, 2012

I tweeted this because I was kinda fed up with all the selection boxes that looked just like buttons until you click then. When you do, instead of being taken to another page or something being submitted like any other button does. No, you now have more options. People even go to the trouble of making a fake select that triggers the original hidden select.

So I’m writing this post because I need to explain my rant on twitter a bit better.

That tweet wasn’t about selects obviously, I was just explaining my frustration on how some web-designers are doing their work.

I’m all about innovation, I think the web has been evolving amazingly well since I know it. But all those changes happened for a reason. Most of them happened because people understood how the users where behaving inside the applications we built for them. If those changes are accepted by the users then they are moving one step forward to becoming standards. However, these days most “changes” are just trends. Worst than that, webdesigners test their “new” concepts in real life, with real users, without making some tests on a controlled environment first. You know, basic usability. Let’s see one example.

Forget about the looks of it and look at this structure and tell me if you don’t see this everywhere? Menu on top, the freaking slideshow and 3 or 4 columns of content at the bottom.

First let’s talk about the slideshow seriously, web makers. We should know by now that our users don’t want to wait for one image to slide every 5 seconds. Why? Because people these days are impatient, they want everything here and now. They hate the wait. Forget about putting a next and prev buttons in your slideshow, if that slideshow doen’t have a specific and well defined purpose the user will not use them. But no, people continue to reinvent the slideshow navigation. Arrows, bullets, numbers, random click… you name it.

Then there’s the 3 columns of random meaningless text that actually points to pointless places. At least there’s a pattern here (pointless text => pointless places). I bet you that in most cases the contacts are not even one of those columns. There’s actually statistics that say that it’s easier to find someone’s contact by using google than that person/company’s website.

What’s my point here?

My point is: webdesigners have to start making a bit more effort when doing their work; they need to design stuff that works first and that actually needs to exist, then think about the looks of it. Most of all, if you’re changing a core element of the web make sure that the user is going to recognize it for its affordance. Make some tests, and see how the users react to that element.


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"Untested reinvention? Are you sure?" via @marcogmonteiro