Usable Means Simple


Usable Means Simple

Can we make that rotate, and this flash?

Although the actual question varies among clients, the premise remains the same. Clients and multimedia artists want cool, and cool to them often means whiz-bang-flash-pop!

I’ve been developing websites for over 10 years, and I’ve started to see an interesting shift back to the basics. Originally, in the days of Netscape 1.x, pages were simple. They used standard HTML elements, like H1, P, and LI, and the most decoration you saw was an atrocious background image.

However, soon after that time, websites started to include things like animated GIFs, and blinking text. The web community was ecstatic, now they could make unique websites that no eye had ever seen before, nor would want to see again.

As the limits of web design and technology were pushed, we started to see client-side Java applets that could bring a puny computer to a halt, and Flash sites that would navigate the user into a dead end street.

The peak moment of web design was when sites were mixing all of the technologies above into a giant mish-mash of processor and memory crunching swill.

The common theme of these changes was making it cool, not usable. For many years, web designers rejected the notion that a web site should be simple. They felt like they should be using the latest technologies. This was further encouraged by an industry that couldn’t distinguish the difference between a cool looking site, and a well designed, usable site.

The new era of design is starting to suggest the latter. The return to a simple, usable website is being pushed by usability experts, and search engines like Google. Web users are tired of having to wait for a web page to download and/or render, and they don’t have patience for sites that are hard to navigate and read.

Even in the midst of broadband everywhere, the future of text content on the web is thin. Most users prefer to get in, and get out, as quickly as possible. If content is hard to find or read they will look elsewhere. Gone is the casual user who wants to be entertained on every website. The new user wants a clean layout that uses a standard way of displaying content. Fortunately, this has been around since HTML was invented, and is exactly how it all started.

Designing simple websites that deliver the content users are looking for will not only improve the usability of your website. It will also increase your SERPs in search engines like Google, and will develop true site stickiness. Remember, when in doubt, usability means simple.

Here are some examples of usable websites that are simple and thin

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