The Secret to Wow Factor is Invisible Design
This was also published on Digital Ministry on 10 July ’09.
It resonated with me because many prospective clients and agency partners regularly ask, “can you show me some web design with wow-factor?”
It’s a question that can be tough to answer succintly and politely, as the website design alone shouldn’t make you go ‘wow’—if it does, in my opinion it is bad web design. It should actually be the website’s content that creates an experience that impresses you. And I believe that good design is the vehicle for this.
To illustrate this point I’ll refer to Jared’s article where they interview an online DVD store’s customers about its new website.
“What are the things you like best about the site?” Lots, apparently.
They liked how you didn’t have to return the discs right away. They liked that there were no late fees. They liked that the selection of movies was great. They liked how the site’s recommendations were usually really great films, that they otherwise would’ve never heard of. They liked that you could now watch movies online, without even waiting for the discs to arrive.
Did you notice how the customers didn’t mention that the design had wow-factor or that the technology was cutting edge? Instead they raved about how good the experience of ordering and watching DVDs was. Jared continues:
While all these things are what the designers work hard on every day, they go unmentioned by their customers. It’s not because these aspects aren’t important. It’s because the designers have done their job really well: they’ve made them invisible.
It’s the final point that Jared makes about becoming invisible that I like. It is an eloquent way to explain the ‘wow-factor’ question we’re so frequently asked.
Consider the most valuable piece of real estate on the Internet Google.com. Its design is so simple and uncluttered but the experience is absolutely mind-blowing. With the click of a button, Google will search over 150 billion web pages and deliver results specfically for you, all within a fraction of a second!
Back to Jared’s article, he draws other parallels:
The Better the Design, the More Invisible It Becomes
When things are going well in a design, we don’t pay attention to them. We only pay attention to things that bother us.
It’s like an air conditioner in a conference room. Nobody ever interrupts our meetings to tell us how comfortable the temperature is. They don’t even notice.
We only notice the conference room temperature when it is too cold or too hot. Or perhaps we notice if the unit is too loud or is leaking all over the floor. But when it’s working perfectly, it becomes invisible.
The same is true with online designs. We attend to things that aren’t working far more than we attend to things that are. When the online experience frustrates us, we pay attention to its details.
if we do our job really well, nobody can see what we’re doing. It’s only when we do it poorly that we have something to show.
Fortunately, as the web design industry matures, I think we’re seeing much less “creativity because I can” on the Internet. Good designers focus on the person visiting your website and the true skill in creating ‘wow-factor’ lies in making your web design invisible:
The path to an invisible design starts with eliminating all of the frustration.
With every improvement to our design, the design itself should become more invisible. When the design itself is invisible, the experience comes to the surface.
For me, Jared’s article clarifies what great web design is all about. I look forward to any further thoughts on the subject & welcome any feedback.
Usability Brisbane: For web design that is focused on usability contact Bluewire Media on 1300 258 394.
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