.COMmentary: Power from the people

.COMmentary: Power from the people

By Mike Lotz

Power from the people

By Mike Lotz

Forget the bells and whistles, the slow-loading, resource-draining flashing thingies. The fad of Flash is over. These days, web design is all about usability, ease of use and enhancing the user experience. According to a Forrester Research survey, poor user experience has “helped drag down a number of online retailers.”

Web developers often misunderstand what usability means; many believe they’re supposed to dominate the user, when they should empower the user. Web designers need to provide more options to users so that it is easier for them to do what they want.

Even this year’s Internet World Spring 2001 show was low-key; there was not the eye-popping, “wow, neat” technology, but rather companies that make websites faster, manage content and provide software to let companies handle their relationships with customers. The attitude of many web companies in the recent months reflects the back-to-basics approach.

The nature of a website springs out of the presence of the people who are visiting it. A great example of that is eBay. It would be just an empty marketplace if there weren’t people in there selling stuff. The power of the site comes from the people who are visiting it, as opposed to coming from the people who are making it. The attitude has been, “make it and hope the user understands it, but if they don’t, they just don’t understand design.”

“No-brainer” design is what a website needs to be; users don’t want to have to think about the design; they want to think about their problem and how the website can solve it. The goal of a website should be to impart information to the end user in a swift, efficient and easy-to-follow manner. Flashy, slow-loading, unorganized websites are not what the average Internet user is looking for, and surveys show, will not visit again.

Another problem is companies who get into web development because it’s the new medium. The Internet is not a new medium; it’s a new economy. Wanna-be web design companies are popping up everywhere, but don’t be fooled; otherwise, you will have a website that takes three minutes to load, and no one will visit ever again!

According to estimates from research company IDC, businesses will spend $99.1 billion a year on web development by 2004, over a tenfold increase since 1998. And when you’re ready to spend your share of that market, you’ll have plenty of options –today there are more than 6,000 web development and consulting companies around the world. I can’t tell you which one to hire. But I can give you a sampling of the current thinking on web design–what works, what doesn’t and where we may be heading.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at questions@iwebwerks.com.

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