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The new information design

Apr - 18 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ve talked about others who have said it – but this topic bears repeating – over and over until it’s stuck in everyone’s head!! The way we design web pages needs to change – it’s changing all around us and it’s time to learn from others and use those new rules on our library sites. Today I got to see a test version of a new site for a public library (sometimes public libraries get to do the coolest things!) and it was amazing! I made notes and shared them with work (who are considering a redesign this year). Last week I wrote about user-centered design (an awesome topic). Today, I’m writing about Ellyssa Kroski’s talk on the new information design.

The fact is (if you hadn’t figured it out) the user experience with the web is changing. Users are changing the way they consumer information, the technology is different and most importantly the user’s expectations have changed. Today’s web design should be simple, social and provide alternative navigation structures.

Simple

Ellyssa included a quote from The Paradox of Choice: “The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better … there is a cost to having an overload of choice.” And then showed us a picture of MS Word with all of the toolbars turned on!! That is bad choice!

New web apps are just showing the user what’s necessary, there’s a lower learning curve this way. This is also known as the “less is more” philosophy – we’ve all heard it – now we just have to apply it to our web redesigns. Lastly, and we all know this (but most don’t do anything about it) users are expecting a DIY (do it yourself) service model!!

Today’s websites (mostly web 2.0 sites) have clean simple designs. Sites need to be designed with a purpose, just for design’s sake (no need for flash on that library homepage just cause you took a flash class last year). Some formatting choices we’re seeing often are:

  • centered pages
  • round edges (provides a casual feel)
  • san serif fonts
  • lowercase fonts
  • large fonts for important concepts
  • simple persistent navigation
  • strong colors
  • bold logos
  • subtle 3D (like the site I saw a demo of) using reflections and shadows
  • original simple icons (like our intranet)
  • zen like feeling by using white space effectively (provides a fresh look)

Social

Just like every other talk at this Library 2.0 themed conference, Ellyssa reminds us that what used to be personal and singular is now shared (pictures, videos, etc). Users are expecting to interact socially with information on the web. This means commenting, ratings, send to a friend, subscribe via RSS, save for later and the ability to see all of that for the other users of the site.

Alternative navigation

Ellyssa showed us some need options for navigation (things librarians would never go for because they’re too chaotic). Some sites are trying to use a visual representation of what’s important on the site. Steve Krug writes in Don’t Make Me Think (great book by the way) that we don’t read pages, we skim them for important items – things that catch our eye. An example of an alternative method of navigation is a tag cloud. Others I’ve seen have included web like graphics linking pages together. Neither should be used as the main navigation – but the option can be there for users who like that sort of thing – it’s an easy addition.

Conclusions

Pretty simple! You have to evolve, be nimble and be willing to abandon bad ideas!! Doesn’t sound to hard – does it?

[update] More from Ellyssa [/update]

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