Thursday, October 24, 2013

UX = The Web Feng Shui

Web Feng Shui

When I was a bit younger, I was helping my mom's small food business, things weren't going very well for her. So her friend suggested that we had this feng shui expert come to our house and do his thing. I had never heard of such things then, I thought it was the silliest thing in the world. He said, "move the kitchen facing here, because whatever you have now, you're just throwing all your luck away. Rearrange the tables, don't have it face the front door!"

After all that redecorating, moving the kitchen, rearranging tables for a whole week, it worked... A lot of people started to line up to buy my mom's food, people tend to stay a bit longer. Feng Shui, to me, is a bit like a decorator/interior designer/display manager/luck-enthusiast. At the end, it's about creating a flow that is comforting for your market/audience/customers.

So what does all that got to do with UX? Well, I know its silly, but that's how I got myself into UX, implementing Feng Shui into my design and development process for the web.

The State of Design Process

How many times have you heard yourself say, "this design just works, it makes sense!" Every placement, every image, every heading, everything seems like it was there for a reason and whatever those reasons are, it just works. Any good, responsible developer or designer knows how to use data to accommodate users. That's why websites and web applications are the way they are today and it is a constant evolution. But does that mean that they are using data or just following the best practices of good and usable design?

Recently, Gamespot has made a drastic change, it is nicely done, everything works and very usable.

Web Feng Shui
The old Gamespot

Web Feng Shui
The new and improved gamespot

This is a great study case of an evolving design process. We will never know what went through the designer/developer's head, but nevertheless, a hell of an execution.

A good design decision does not always have a drastic execution, subtle decisions works well.

Web Feng Shui
Older CNN website

Web Feng Shui
Current CNN Website

It is very challenging to design for an information hub that clearly has an abundance of content, making something drastic may not be the best option. This is a great use of data into the design process. Think about how many people of all ages that read CNN.com and how they are used to browsing it in 2008 and how it will affect them if there is a drastic change of the flow and how to accommodate old users and slowly migrate user's thought process into a fresher CNN.

The design state of the web is very relaxed at the moment, everything is about "flat" and "blurred backgrounds" which is nice, but let's not forget those raving parallax days, which I think is a usability nightmare, its great if its subtle. Sometimes design decisions are based on trends, not data or rationale; its a playground for designers and developers. Every time a new toy comes out, we implement it, exhaust it and quickly discard it as soon as the new thing comes out.

So where do you stand in making design decisions?

Are you a rational designer?

Are you a data-driven designer?

Are you using trend?

Or all of the above?