Think about your users first before getting out the paint brush

11 Nov 2009

I am working on slicing up a pretty large site that a group of 3 designers have been working on. They are creating psd files for almost every page to define the layout and modules used on each page. After looking over the designs I started seeing things that look very “pretty” but make it so the user has to think or do something that is not what they naturally would do.

On the news section of the site the page has a list of the different news articles that have been published. When you click on an article to read it a “lightbox” type popup will open up with the article content. Having the article open up in a lightbox type of popup in the page is new and different but I don’t know if I would call it bad. It does let make it very quick and easy to get back to the list but it I don’t know if its that much better then loading new content in the page and then clicking the back button rather then a close button.

If that news article is longer then the defined height of the “lightbox” the designers wanted the article to be split up in to pages and to add the slick looking page buttons at the bottom. Wait, you want the user to click a button and have what they are currently reading removed and replaced with the next “page” of content, making it so they can’t look back at the rest of the article.  How many people are just going to decide that the rest of the article isn’t worth it and just close the “lightbox”?

The user is going to get to the bottom of the first “page” of the article and spin the mouse wheel a few times, when that doesn’t work he is going to look for a scroll bar. After he finds that there isn’t a scroll bar he is going to re-read that last sentence and make sure he really was right in thinking that there is more content. Then he is going to finally see those slick looking page buttons and click on the next arrow.

The design makes the user have to think multiple time just to read the content that we are trying so hard to get him to read.  Yes there are times when making a user learn something new makes the usability better, but it has to be worth the users time to spend learning.  When you are trying to get a user to read your content you want it to be as simple and easy for him to do that, not make him think about why he just spend 30 seconds trying to figure out how to get more content.