If your UI designer doesn’t understand this, fire him

Starting a web site redesign? After all of the flowery talk about brands and colors and what-ifs, make sure the creative lead understands this basic fact. Rich Skrenta, who recently completed a heavily-researched project to redesign the Topix.com interface, gives us this nugget:

People […] instantly recognize — within 100 milliseconds — which class of site a page belong to — search result, retail browse, blog, newspaper, spam site, message board, etc. And if they don’t recognize what kind of page they’re on, they generally give up and hit the back button.

Before you let someone talk you into building some “revolutionary” UI design, be mindful of Topix users’ response to Rich’s expert marketing research:

Who the fuck are you guys?

One thousand thanks to Rich for first paying to hear that and then publishing his learning, a painful reminder to be careful about when it’s good to “surprise” or “educate” users, and when it’s better to give them what they need and expect.

His blog post includes more lessons from the Topix redesign, describing processes to make your web property suck less. It’s worth a read, though I’ve already quoted all of the pruriently titillating language.

1 comment

  1. Very interesting read (the blog). I jumped onto Topix to check it out and was horrified by the level of discourse in the forums. Perhaps Philly is just a bad example but the PICURE OF WHATS ON SEEING THE NEWS FOR YOU! was enough to drive me insane after about 5 minutes. I guess if you attract a community at random your virtual neighborhood can quickly become defined by the earliest visitors. I, for one, was dissuaded from participating because almost all of the forums for my region were:

    1. Impossible to read if more than 20 comments were posted
    2. The quality of the posts were extremely poor, they were often rambling, pointless and completely devoid of grammar or spell checking, but often were inflammatory as well.
    3. The news highlighted wasn’t actually what I feel to be topical.
    4. The comment history actually discouraged me from posting to some stories (because they appeared stale, having last been updated/commented upon days ago).

    Just my (somewhat OT) thoughts.

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