Digital Media

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Aesthetic experience

Give customers short paths to what they want
Mistaking the forest for the trees?
Aesthetic Experience and the Importance of Visual Composition in Information Design

"Give customers short paths to what they want" focuses on keeping site menu structure flat by having desired content within two or three clicks. Some of this seemed to contradict Steve Krug a little bit at first, because Krug says that it's not so much how many clicks one must go through, but how easy it is to click on. As I continued through the essay, however, I realized that the study was less about clicks and more about smart usability practices.

For instance, the essay talks about devoting home page space to navigation, not decoration. At first I was worried this meant put so much on the home page that the user no longer knew what the main purpose of the site is. I'm not a big fan of overcrowded home pages. However, the essay goes on to say that the designer should prioritize and group content so that users can skip over entire lists of links they don't need. By grouping content users may not realize that there is so much on the home page, especially if two or three most important things on the home page are highest in the hierarchy.

As a musician I am familiar with ABA form. I'm trying to figure out how that would translate into Web site design as explained in "Aesthetic Experience." Would the user go from the home page to a different page and then to a page that's like the home page again? I'm curious how that would work in practice. I do understand, however, the need to maintain consistency within the site so that variations of the site do stand out and cause the user to recognize what's different.

Seeing the forest through the trees is important when designing a Web site. A designer must keep the big picture in mind, and must always be thinking about what the site is to accomplish. It's also becoming more important to realize how people are using the site in relation to the Web as a whole. One interesting site I came across recently is, which doesn't really use original content, but draws from wikipedia, google and other sources to provide a definition or information when a user double-clicks on a word. The site even has a download that allows users to use a key combination (mine is ctrl+alt+click) to have a bubble pop up in any application on the computer. I've tried it in word, QuarkXPress - it works in all of them. I love it because it means I don't actually have to leave the document I am in to quickly check the definition of a word or the spelling of a famous person's name online. I'm able to use this Web application without ever having to go to the site.


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