Is it Clickable?

In Don’t Make Me Think!, Krug helps define an extremely important filter when designing for the web. Like many other users, I’ve developed an unthinkably short attention span when it comes to scanning pages, typically because I have a task in mind with little wiggle room for distractions. I want to get in, get out.

What struck me the most about this article was how, though written in *gasp* the year 2000 (a.k.a. medieval times), there are a lot of guidelines and parameters that wouldn’t be unwelcome in today’s neverending flat design sea-of-sameness.

Krug’s examples are largely skeuomorphic, and yes I had to re-look up that word because I forgot it. Is it because skeuomorphism is dead and decidedly untrendy? Perhaps. But, for example, in class last week there was discussion of missing the original iPhone battery icon:

This is where we’ve arrived today, and I agree that it’s a little underwhelming:

Krug writes about any slight delay in comprehension can frustrate a viewer. Skeuomorphic design was always fairly clear on what was clickable or not. Remember how the iPhone apps each looked like its own tiny button? You can see the huge difference between then and now. I’d imagine that they felt confident their users were good and trained and no longer needed to know that each app was meant to be touched:

However, for interfaces that we haven’t been “trained” to use over time, how have we become so comfortable with so little information? Krug warns against redesigning the wheel unless you know you have a homerun. Otherwise, relying on conventions is a wise choice, because they will deliver every time.

I found an interesting study that used eye-tracking equipment to determine how users were interacting with a flat design page (right) and skeuomorphic design page (left):

They found that users spent 22% more time on the flat page with, which they called, “weak signifiers”. This is just one instance, but it proves a lot of what Krug was talking about: that any extra work the user does causes frustration and distrust in the site’s content.

After spending some time down memory lane in the year 2000, I wonder if the pendulum will swing back the other way? If everything converts over to flat design, surely someone will break through the noise by making what once was old new again.


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