Shiny Sites: All that Glitters…
Magpies are not the only creatures attracted by shiny objects, and anyone who tells you otherwise has clearly never seen Times Square. Or a McDonald’s sign. Or a circus, a disco, a diamond, or a television. And even though Momma says it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we all know that adding a shiny necklace never hurts. The same holds true for your website.
But do all the bright lights help or hurt? Below are four sites, which I’ve divided into “Flash and Trash” and “Oooh Shiny!” Flash and Trash sites have a poor user experience. Though attractive, these sites are frustrating to navigate. A combination of too many videos, too many bright lights, and too much going on can drive away potential customers. “Oooh Shiny!” sites, on the other hand, pull us in and keep us hooked. These sites use intelligent user experience design to guide us right where they want us.
Flash and Trash
I’ve chosen two websites to show the dark side of bright lights. The first, Boink, is a tech company. In order to show their tech savvy side, they’ve chosen dark, flashing colors. These, along with constantly moving pieces and text that animates by letter evokes a video game. It’s a very attractive homepage, at first glance. Unfortunately, the moving pieces are so distracting that after the first glance, the user is uncertain where to look. Where is the homepage directing the user? Which areas are important and useful? Ultimately, this site is too distracting for its own good.
The second site, Café Int’l, is equally distracting. The overly long load time, followed by smooth jazz elevator music was irritating from the start. Add to that the menus, which slide away from the mouse, and the site quickly gave me a stomachache (no pun intended). Although eye-catching, with professional yet hip colors and luscious food images, the usability of the site is exceedingly poor.
One of the shiniest sites I’ve seen is Ikea’s “Rooms Ideas” site. This section of the Ikea site takes longer to load than Café Int’l, but to speed the time the user is entertained by a moving image of a clock. Once the site is loaded, the message is straight forward and clear – first, that everyone should have a “quiet space” to decorate, and second that the way to decorate it is via Ikea’s furniture. As the user mouses over the accompanying image, prices appear. Directly above the image are two links which go directly to Ikea’s main site. As opposed to Boink, here the user is clearly directed toward another page.
Nike is another site with excellent a user experience. Almost every page has some video component, however the videos never begin unless the user presses play. This small choice gives the user control, and also speeds the site’s loading time. On the homepage, the user immediately has a choice of categories, similar to Café Int’l. However, a simple hover effect replaces Café Int’l’s many moving parts. The hover effect still attracts the eye, but without the accompanying motion sickness.
As seen from these few examples, shiny things alone don’t always help your site, and can, in some cases, negatively affect usability. However, a little extra sparkle can certainly enhance your site. Please, share your most favorite and most hated examples of user experience design. Whether or not you analyze why it works, good user experience is easy to spot.