I have been thinking a great deal recently about the work I do and how much of it is purely functional before someone else goes away and ruins it with their bad design choices. I attended ThinkVisibility 2 last September and it was a real eye opener with regard to the talks I was subjected to. One was to do with eye tracking and we were shown an example of a number of users’ browsing patterns for different sites. I never realised how predictable users can be with the way they look at some sites.
However, one of the sites we were shown was Amazon and it shows the users having trouble getting around. I have to ask myself exactly how on earth Amazon makes money at all when people are obviously struggling to find what they want, or worse, find what they want but can’t work out how to pay for the thing!
I have started looking at websites in a new light now and often refuse to buy anything from a site that I deem to be unworthy of my custom. It sounds a little bit odd for me to say that but I honestly do think twice about getting out my wallet if it takes me longer than I want to spend finding the items in the first place.
I would almost be inclined to start a black list of sites that, in my opinion, were badly designed but before long it would be unmaintainable
What, however, I will do is comment on a few sites that I do get along with and tell you why…
I was introduced to Google in 2001 when I was at college and my lecturers suggested they use it because of the distinct lack of advertising. This, of course, has now changed and Google has a colossal advertising network. Let me ask you this though… does it get in the way of your browsing? I say no it doesn’t and the clean cut and fast interface they provide is exactly what I want to see.
#2 eBay & Paypal
I have been using eBay and Paypal for years as I am sure most of Europe and the US have been as well. I find the interface on eBay inkeeping with the ‘fun’ theme of the dutch auction and the clean lines of Paypal when you come to actually hand over your money a refreshing contrast. Would you really want to hand over your card details on a site that looks like a child has written it? eBay offers a good and intuitive search functionality but also excellent browsing and viewing product pages.
I may be criticised for saying this but I think that apple also have the right idea with regard to their site design. Design, of course, is something that Apple have grown up with and have continued to excel at through the ages. I find the homepage to be a no nonsense view of what they want you to see (which at the moment is the new iPad (a big iPod in my opinion.. not a great deal of product design elaboration there!)). The shop is non contentional but you always manage to find your product and get it into your shopping cart with no problems.
I don’t use the search engine at all to be honest as I am firmly a Google man (stubborn really if anything else) however, one has to appreciate the front page of Bing. Instead of going the Google route and showing nothing or the Yahoo route and showing everything they have shown interesting bits of information about random things. The picture in the background changes frequently (much like Googles header image) and the hotspots on the image give interesting information about the scene and it’s contents. I like this method of not being forced to swallow news (or worse, wait for it to load!) that I don’t want to see but providing me with an interesting picture with the opportunity to easily get more information. Well done Microsoft on your first half decent search engine page!
The list could go on and on but I have things to do. Please do feel free to add your own likes and dislikes to my list. The point was to highlight the fact that design and placement of a website is often not as important to some people as it should be. These examples are sites whom I think have done it properly. Copying them is not the best thing to do at all but use them as an inspiration to guide you in making the right decisions for your own homepages.