April 2003 - Posts
Steve Krug suggested in his book, Don't Make Me Think, that one of the most distracting hindrances to users is too much content. His suggestion mentioned in the title of today's blog is intended to make a point to "BE RUTHLESS ABOUT THIS".
In many web applications, I see many chunks of text that I most likely will never read. In addition, the mere existence of many chunks of content implies that it might be important to me, and over complicates my user experience. Good candidates for removal are the following:
- Happy Talk - These are the chunks that usually say "hello and welcome to the blah site..." In fact, a good indicator to determine if text is happy talk is to see if you hear a "blah blah blah" in your head when you read it. Text that tells you what you will find at the site is also considered happy talk. You should convey this with intuitive navigation instead. Imagine if each television show had a 10-minute introduction telling you what you were about to see. You'd be saying, "Just show me the program please!"
- Instructions - One thing developers do not understand is that users do not read instructions; at least they do not read them until they have "muddled through" the site with no luck using it. You should eliminate the need for instructions by making everything self-explanatory. When instructions are absolutely necessary, they should consist of as few words as possible. Remember that users are accustomed to the instant gratification the World Wide Web provieds, and will not linger long to read the instructions before clicking on things again.
Remember, according to Krug, removing all the needless words from your site enables you to:
- Reduce the level of noise in a page
- Make useful content more prominent
- Make pages shorter, allowing users to see more of each page at a glance
Krug does not of course, recommend removing article content and such, just the "noise" so many of us overlook when trying to make user friendly sites. We assume the user's experience is improved with things they actually never bother to view.
That's the tip for today! Those of you in the Atlanta Area, come hear me speak more on usability at the June meeting of the Atlanta .NET User group (http://www.atlantadotnet.org/) .
Having to recently do a complete set of technical specifications for a client in addition to coding, I was wondering just how many developers are being called upon to also handle information architect tasks, dba tasks, project management tasks and support and training. Working as a private contractor/consultant, I probably run into this more than in the corporate sector. My last job in the corporate world was a bit different.... there was no documentation (I'm sure you guys are familar with this) - they just had us code prototypes which they ripped to hell and then informed us we had 15 hours of budget to do what had now grown to 80 hours of work. Well needless to say, they could not support an entire IT staff when all their projects go down like that. I have, however had jobs where the division of tasks was very clear. In one job the ONLY thing I messed with was ASP. We had html guys, IA guys, dba guys, and the com guys. The wanted me ONLY to tie it all together, and that was kind of cool.
I'm really curious to know how many different hats some of us wear on our jobs and how people feel about that. I kind of like the variety myself, as I have a bit of ADD .......now what were we talking about?
Everyone seems to need to match up colors sometimes and often it's a real pain trying to get exact #000000-esque values by eye. I posted a sweet little tidbit on the aspFriends lists when they were active and again recently on the aspAdivce list. People really like it and keep telling folks, "ask Dana - she knows of a good one". Since folks keep asking me (Bryan Andrews *wink*) I figured it was too good not to share with the rest of the community. ANYHOW, it's called "Color Cop" and can be found at download.com or tucows.com. It's this neat little "always on top" program that has an eye dropper tool that you can drag over anything in your screen's display. As you drag it, watch how it tells you the values of each and every color. It also has some other neat color pallette features. It's very cool and I would DIE without it. Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but I sure do love it :)
"Color" me Perky :D