We've had our new TV for five months now, and when we watch a DVD we still go through a complex procedure that involves changing TV channels, manually flipping through the TV's menu, and praying that some glitch hasn't invalidated our cumbersome but effective technique.
The TV comes with an instruction manual and a remote control that clearly has a button on it for switching to the DVD player. We continue to follow the luddite path of least resistance, because by trial and error that's the one that worked.
The same goes for several gadgets in the house that my technologically advanced children should be able to operate. But the usage is counter-intuitive enough for them to remain stumped for weeks or months. The instruction manual is somewhere around, but wasn't the purpose of buying a gadget to simplify your life, not bog you down in poorly written tech speak that seems to have been run though an automatic translator?
We want our technology to be easy to use. We want it to simplify our lives, not make them more complex and stressful.
Fast Company takes a look at the balancing act at Google, where the extremely complex technology behind the search engine and other functions is sheathed in a strikingly simple design that eschews eye candy in favour of white space and text, ranked in a useful order.
As is typical with clean design, it's not as easy as it looks. But it's worth it. I gave up the news portal concept at Yahoo! years ago, because the customization I could achieve wasn't worth the assault on my eyes and my attention every time I wanted to do a search. I still seek out news, but I try to find portals that are designed for the reader more than the advertiser.
When someone comes to your web site, do they immediately understand the key functions it offers, and the key services you provide? Does it provide a shortcut to the kind of transaction or information exchange the visitor is likely to be looking for? Have you made that first handshake with you as simple and functional as possible?
Look again and think simple. Not necessarily Google simple. But a simple that is appropriate for your site.
Thanks to Judy Gombita for the regular tips, this one about the Fast Company item by Linda Tischler.
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