Tag Archives: Windows 8

Why are you selling what no one wants?

Q: Why do we go to web sites?  Or to stores?  Or to movie theatres?  Or … anywhere? Have you ever really considered that question, I mean, seriously considered it. 

People go to places for information, for entertainment, to interact with people, to buy things, but people go to them always for… something.  We go to places because they have something we want.  Pretty simple model for anyone who’s in business… supply and demand.  People demand – and you supply.  Everyone walks away happy.  That’s the goal.

So, let me ask you why… when we build web sites and software and things for people that we give them stuff they don’t want?  Why do we purposely make it difficult to locate our products.  Intentionally engineer them – to be almost painful… and we as users, are so used to this experience… that we don’t even blink when we see it.

Here’s some food for thought. If you bought a magazine (yes I’m back to the magazine metaphor… work with me here it’s worth it…)  would you enjoy the magazine if every article in it began with the table of contents for the entire magazine at the beginning?    Seriously?  How ridiculous would that be.

Wired Magazine does.  Well, their web page does.  Every web page does.  We call it the navigation menu.  It’s this really cool security blanket on the top of every page.  We just … assume it has to be there because – hey, how can you navigate if you don’t have it??  Right??  I mean… right?  We have to have it. 

Let me let you in on a little usability secret.  No.  No you don’t.  In fact, you probably only seldom actually use it, and when you do – you only use it because, well, it’s there.  It’s something we put up there back in the early days when we were trying to figure out how best to navigate on the internet and we, frankly just kept doing it even after people started just using the back button. 


Here’s a standard map of a classic style web site hierarchy.  It’s not how you’d navigate it, but it is how the links function… go to the main site – then there’s a sub page… then there’s the info you actually want to see…so this is… what the site really looks like to you.  It’s pretty much your experience.

I get to the page, I click, I click, I read.

But… that’s not how a magazine works is it?  Magazine, I look upimage what I want, and then I go straight to it.  In a magazine… your experience is like this… it’s open and read.  Because that’s what you want.  That’s what you expect of it.  But… what if we drop the concept of a magazine.  Let’s say we’re going car shopping. 

Is your experience one of you go to a dealer and they have 8 cars in the window, and every time you want to look at what they have, the dealer pulls out a flip book and makes you flip through them like a police mug shot book – and then he’ll bring one up to you?  And some of the time, he comes back and says, “Sorry that units not available.”.  And every time he drags out the flipbook – there’s a map of the store that drops down in front of you, and pictures of whatever models they’re really pushing this month are stuffed into your mug shot book and they take up like 25% or more of the pages and the pictures of the actual cars to chose from are like … thumbnails, and you have to ask the guy to bring one up every time you see one that might be what you’re looking for.  That’s currently how a lot of online shopping works. 

Now, here’s what you wish would happen… I come in, I ask the guy if he has any of the model of car I like, and he steps aside and the cars I like are on display.  In fact my favorite models are on display and I can see them right there.  It’s like magic.


  Don’t believe me?  Here’s an actual car dealership website.  Here is imagethe same website… with just what I came there to do, and everything else that the web site has on it obscured…

Over 80% of the site… has stuff I don’t want to do.  I mean really, there’s more real estate on that page devoted to navigating the web site than there is stuff there for me to buy. 

imageSo… what’s the alternative?  How about considering that no matter what – there’s basically a 2 tier structure for content, and focus just on the content in those top 2 tiers.  Main Page – > Car Page. Or imageMain Page –> Deals, or Main Page –> Trucks. 

As you can see – this is already getting the customer to their choice faster… they can perform their searches, save them for comparisons, and in general – we’re getting the user where they want to go faster and easier.  We could, include things like financing and research … as an option off the page.  The idea is we get the customer to what they want, effortlessly.  We don’t waste their visuals on navigation menus, on options to download phone apps, and so on.  If we need to provide financing as an option… then we include that as an option.  A good place for this is at the bottom of the screen – because it doesn’t break the flow of what the users doing. It’s not in their face, but it’s an option available and accessible. 

And obviously we’d have a specific details page for the car itself we’ve selected.  But we don’t need all these very big navigations and distractions that break the user out of what it is they’re looking to do – which is find a car.  It lets you sell the user what they want … and not what it takes to navigate your web site.


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Why print designers have an edge with Metro…

It’s ironic that as everyone keeps reminding us “print media is dead”  that designers who have skills with print media, may very well be best equipped to design Metro UX apps. 

Ever take a look at a Metro App or web site?  Swing on over to the Dev Center at MSDN…


  Take a good look.  Its not a web page look – and it’s not an application look…

It’s all content.  In fact, if it looks like anything it looks like a magazine or a brochure more than an application or a web page.

Like a magazine,  there’s very little chrome there – as the UX Guidelines point out many times.   In fact if you look at like a print type design, it actually looks more like that – than an application.   It’s literally Content over Chrome. 

That’s a concept a lot of people haven’t quite wrapped their head around yet.  Content driving the users experience, directing it, as opposed to the Chrome of the app.   The confusion in many peoples minds comes from the concept that Chrome is buttons, graphics, and pretties, etc., and to some extent it is all of that.  But more accurately, Chrome is also buttons and navigation menus and all kinds of things we’ve come to expect on applications.

But the Metro interface is really more like a magazine or something from the printed media world.  Content is what fills a magazine.  When you turn to a page in a magazine you don’t come to a page which has a banner that tells you how to get to everywhere else in the magazine.  In fact, if every article in a magazine started with a table of contents for the entire magazine it would pretty annoying wouldn’t it?  

Here’s a few actual magazine layouts – look at them and see if you can identify a ‘Metro’ look or similarity…


What you expect when you go to an article in a magazine, are pictures and text that tell a story or provide information.  “Content” people often fail to realize that just as a magazine page has images, and  charts and data and text – that’s the content.  What’s in the text of the article isn’t the content on a printed page… it is everything on the printed page.

In Metro, Content is everything on your apps ‘page’ if you will.  Simply put, content is what the user wants to see.   Its what the user came there for.  The actual ‘point’ of your application, of your web site, of the tool your creating.   So, “content over chrome” really means to remove the extraneous, remove the unnecessary, the unneeded elements of your app, and leave behind what the user wants.

It’s in this paradigm that designers with print can really excel over web or traditional software designers.  They aren’t carrying with them the baggage of buttons, scrollers, data grids and objects.  they can say more with a compelling photo and a single line of text than someone who thinks it’s necessary for all that baggage we call Chrome.

They think in terms of typographical elements, understanding the need to punch up titles but keep them short, and that one good picture says more than 100 words.  So yeah, those with a print background have a real advantage over those of us that have to learn to break all the conventions we’ve learned.  This isn’t’ to say that a Web or conventional software designer can’t do it – but for us, there’s a lot of extra weight to carry with all that chrome.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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