Earlier today we had a creative team meeting to kick-off the week as we always do. We were reviewing a design brief that had come into the studio that gave details of a website redevelopment project that was in the offering. Whilst I read the brief, a colleague tapped in the URL to review the current online provision. As the site appeared there was an audible exhalation of breath and a collective muttering of "oh dear". This prompted me to tweet "The trouble with being a designer is that one lives in a world of almost constant disappointment".
To clarify, I'm an optimist, I don't walk around in a perpetual state of depression, but I do feel somewhat resigned to the fact that much of what we are presented with is pretty darn poor. The website we were looking at wasn't actually all that old (maybe 4 or 5 years) and yes, it worked I suppose, but it looked dreadfully old fashioned. What's more, it offered a very poor user experience when viewed on a mobile. It gave the overall impression of having been created in about 1996, with little thought for the user and had been neglected ever since. It did however highlight just how quickly things have moved on in just a few years.
Throughout the twentieth century there were periods where the design (and the design profession) took great leaps:
- The Art Deco movement of the 1920s where technology and craftsmanship were so successfully fused
- The Modernist movement 1930's where form and function were so brilliantly and confidently combined
- The post-modernist movement (post war 1950's) - typified in the beautiful graphic design of the Swiss school
- The early digital revolution (1980s) - with the development of desktop publishing and the digitisation of typography
And now in our 'digital first' world we are seeing another great design renaissance, led by us, the consumer. We have the power to effect real change and we are now exercising this 'right'. All of us, as consumers of design have raised expectations of what we feel is acceptable - no where more so than with our online experiences. Who amongst us will persevere with a website if it:
- looks old fashioned
- doesn't work on a handheld device
- has a difficult or complex navigation structure
- gives a poor UX or user experience (such as annoying pop-ups; those infernal online 'questionnaires'; important information 'hidden' under layers of clutter etc)
- takes a long time, or doesn't load properly
In short, if a website is poorly designed we'll not visit. In fact we'll stay away in our thousands! Indeed, according to Lead Forensics - "98% of people are coming to your website looking around and leaving". I'm pleased to say that the design industry has recognised this and is going back to first design principles (which we are now fashionably labelling as UX design) - identifying the user and putting their needs foremost!
And on the upside (I'm ever the optimist remember) the number of times I experience feelings of disappointment when browsing online should diminish - right?