web designing for the consumer vs. blah

in musings, Paperbean Design  0 comments
Sep 3 2004

starting in the late 1980s and throughout the 90s, the big thing was functionality and usability in website design. this movement led by Jakob Nielsen glorified websites that were quick to load and less chunky and clean. with his bare-bones website www.useit.com, this movement stormed the corporate world. it features no more than 3 colours, no fancy fonts, no pictures, no fancy borders… no style… just bare text and links. his claim was that online surfers who intentionally or unintentionally seek information don’t care to be entertained or their senses pleasured. his crusade was to promote an Internet with just information, bare-bodied, not candy-coated.

but one only needs to take a bird’s eye view of history to see that human beings are turned on by their senses much more than “usability”. if anything, our need to be entertained has only grown bigger. our appetite to be candied has expanded… our greed for pleasure increased by leaps and bounds.

so old-style experts like Nielsen now have to bow out and concede that visual entertainment is equally important as the information provided for a complete online experience.

why? because it creates a “come back” desire. so like krispy kreme donuts, consumers are left wanting more.

our society is a consumer society. we seek to be tantalised, to be seduced into staying, wanting more. in this throw-away society, we shop -or style- hop. everything is disposable. don’t like that, move on, find something more.

a quick look at Nielsen’s staunchiest followers, websites that are full of information and absolutely no intelligent work gone into design and style… websites like Microsoft (pre August 2004), Dell and government websites. these websites deployed the bare bones style: resulting in a world-wide community of people who hate their websites. thankfully, Microsoft have gone over to the bright side… kudos to their new look.

Apple.com on the other hand has always sought to tantalise the four senses (if the electronic devices could translate the olfactory sense, i’m sure apple will exploit that too!). they provide consumers with sleek looks and minimalistic modernity that goes a long way to portray the culture of the company itself. but don’t be deceived: their website is chock full of information – in easy-to-find ways!

white space is used wisely: left as white space.

trend experts say that everything has trends… from furniture to haircuts to clothes to shoes to cars to book covers to kitchenware to wall treatment to flower arrangements to drink bottles. Target recognised this and hired Michael Graves to design high quality household products instead of churning out second-grade crap. now their sales have tripled.

we seek to fulfill our senses every way in the natural world, what makes people think that just by sitting in front of a screen that we automatically shift?

comments welcomed.

signing off from the train, drey.

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