January 2010

Obvious-ify. Not Stupidificate

Take by Travis MillwardHow many times have you pulled on a door that was meant to be pushed open, even when it had a big sign that says "push" on it? It has a handle that makes you think "pull". This could easily be fixed by swapping out that handle for a push bar. Think how many people per day go to pull on that door and get frustrated. Maybe not MAD or really FRUSTRATED… but for that split second you think

"What the hell is happening here? Are they closed??? It looks like i'm supposed to pull… OH… It says PUSH! I are dumb."

Some might say,

 "Oh i know how to fix this… make that "PUSH" sign at least THREE times bigger, no, NO! make it FOUR TIMES bigger and make it flash different colors. And then put a paragraph description there explaining that in order to open the door you must push on it. and make it big for those dumb idiots who can read."

Hmm.. It's not that people can't read, it's that they don't want to have to think about it.

If you were to put a push pad there in place of the handle or replace the door with a door that had a pull handle on one side and a push pad on the other think how much frustration you would save the people using it everyday! Just with that one minor change...

By now you should know that we're not suggesting you dumb your site down by putting flashier buttons with descriptions all over the place. No, we just suggest you make it obvious what the user is to do so they can think less about how to operate your site and more about what they went there to do.


Think about a good experience you had at a store. You walk into the store. It's clean and inviting. No construction on the sidewalk out front, no detours, etc… You shop around the store for a bit. You look up for maps and store navigation. They're easy to understand. The store is very consistent and organized. Think about how easy it is to find things. Peanut butter and jam (jam is arguably WAY better than jelly) are on the same aisle. Tools are all on the same aisle. Kitchen appliances are all together. So you get to the store, you find exactly what you need and quickly. No brain games trying to up sell you or trick you into buying things. No getting stuck in mazes… just quick and simple with just the right amount info about what you're looking for. You then go to check out. There are a few things that are generally forgotten (gum, snacks, drinks). The checkout process is quick and flawless. You swipe your card. The cashier is friendly. Not cheesy. Not pressuring. You are given a receipt that shows exactly what you paid for with only necessary information on it. You don't have to read through several paragraphs of information just to find how much you paid etc. Now you're out the door with no other up sells or anyone trying to keep you from leaving. You're out, on your way, and happy. The store was not easy to use because it was dumbed down with big clowns there to guide you through and tour guides to walk you around. It was easy because everything was tidy, organized, simple, and quick. No paintings all over the place just to make the store look nicer, that are actually just distracting and drawing you away from what you're there to do.

NOW imagine if your current website was an actual store right now. When you get to the site is it obviously where you are on your site? Is it obvious how to find what you are looking for? Are you overly distracted by the design of the site? Are things in logical order? Give your users/customers a reason to want to come back. Here's a hint. If you're site requires a walk on person to guide you through it… you're in trouble!

Think of what a typical user would come to do and in what order…

Go to the url, start shopping, click on item to purchase, purchase item, leave.

What are they actually having to do to get the the purchase item, and leave steps?

Go to URL, find the login which is hidden, get to their main menu,  browse around looking through the cluster of text trying to find the link for gifts. Once they click it the site's look and feel changes so they're wondering if they are at a different site now. They finally see your logo again so they know they are still there, but wondering why it's different. Now that they are browsing your gifts, they are interrupted with an ad or a random up sale effort. They look at a gift and it is cluttered with information that they don't need so they take a few minutes to figure out exactly what the product is. They determine that is what they came for, they click to purchase it, for some reason your site logs them out and asks them to re login. They're now at the page for the items. It requires that they retype in their credit card information.  They click purchase, immediately are emailed a newsletter for the rest of their life and then eventually emailed a receipt. They are thrilled with themselves that they actually made it through alive!

Just something to think about :)

Thanks for reading, now go fix your site/app/program/car design/what ever it is that you design!


Snow Leopard Fuzzy Fonts and Dell ST2410

I recently bought a 24" LCD Dell Monitor(ST2410).  I know what you are thinking....its a Dell.  Well I heard they had good monitors and it turns out they do.  I bought the monitor to be used with my 15" MacBook Pro.  I stumbled across this model, and after reading several positive reviews(great color, etc) bought it on sale directly from Dell for $189 plus tax, free shipping.

Upon receiving it, and after a quick calibration, I was pleased with how it looked, save for one thing: fonts.  The fonts appeared fuzzy.  Those who know me know that I am a bit compulsive when it comes to HD and quality of audio and video so this won't fly.  When coding, I love how the fonts look within TextMate(my editor of choice).  It actually compells me to code.  The fonts looked skinny and blurry and not right.  I figured I'd deal with it, after all, not a bad price for a 1080p monitor.

The next day I plug it in the the fonts look great!!  Now I am very pleased and happy.  The happiness faded quickly though when the fonts were ugly looking and fuzzy again the next day.  What gives?

After much fooling around I was able to get the fonts looking great again.  It took multiple restarts unplugging and replugging the monitor in.  I started searching around and find that Snow Leopard handles anti-aliasing differently than previous OS X versions.  It looks like it handles it correctly.  Snow waits for the monitor to tell it that it is an LCD.  Since older CRTs and such don't have anti-aliasing it won't bother turning it on.  Some brands of monitors don't bother sending the signal over *ahem* Dell *ahem*.  So what to do?  Enable it!  Open up Terminal and type this:

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

Voila!  Beautiful fonts are back.  Thanks to Joe Mullins for this information.  Check out his blog for the original source.

As for the monitor...  I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you can catch it on sale.  Feel free to send questions my way!