Elevate the Standards

Standards are a wonderful thing, because they give us solid ground to stand on when designing applications. But for the Web to progress, we need to find ways to elevate the standards and drive the possibilities of the Web further and further.

Many designers resist standards, saying that standards leave no room for innovation. But there's definitely a middle ground here. Between standards and innovation is elevation.

The Web would have never reached the point it's at now without a constant push toward new solutions and technologies that give the Web more power and more sophisticated possibilities for interaction. These technologies do this by improving what's already possible. (The W3C's HTML specification hasn't changed in years, but other technologies keep pushing the limits of what it can do by working within the constraints of HTML.)

We don't need to innovate to make things better. Most often, we can elevate the standards and achieve very effective results that incrementally push the envelope.

In fact, it's especially important to avoid innovation when introducing new interaction styles on the Web, because users expect things to work the way they always have, and often have a difficult time learning new paradigms. It's far more effective to leverage existing paradigms and try to improve upon them in smaller, less dramatic ways.

The inline editing features of Page Creator make editing a Web page very simple, but users commonly expect to have to perform round-trip editing because they're not yet used to the notion of inline editing. This means the application now has a slight learning curve. Typically, users figure out how to use it very quickly, because its feature set and interactions are largely self-evident, but not every feature is as obvious as it could be.

The ability to drag an image from one side of a page to the other, for example, can be difficult if the user doesn't understand the meaning of the mouse icon that displays when an image is selected. It often takes a little time to assess the page and experiment with the tools to figure out how to move an image.

The key to making editing features like this successful is to apply some instructive design. If rolling over the image also displayed the word "drag" next to the mouse pointer, it might be much clearer to users that the mouse icon shown means the object can be dragged. This small addition can clarify the interaction and lower the learning curve. The instructive element is also insignificant enough that it won't annoy more experienced users.

That said, many users become familiar and confident with Page Creator within about 15 minutes. For an application used to design entire Web pages, this is very impressive.

For Google, the key to success was to offer elegant task flows and interactions that are easy to learn and use.

Be smart about it. If you can prove that your way is better, then you're onto something. If you can't, rely on the standards until you come up with something that is better.

Designing the Obvious. A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design
Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design
ISBN: 032145345X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 81

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