Building websites for Humans
“We all build websites for humans! It’s implied. Why do you need for a post for that?”
We web designers often find ourselves in a situation where there’s plenty of opportunity to make fast money by building fast and cheap sites with absolutely no brainwork behind them. They show no respect or feeling for the relationship we build with our viewers or web audience. We could create new websites with stock photography, clichéd templates and 10-year-old rusty copy that we assume makes everyone happy. Or we could follow a different path where we consider that preserving the human touch and showing ourselves in our work isn’t optional, it’s essential.
Now, why so much drama over this “human” thing in design in the first place?
First off, it’s one of the fundamentals of the term ‘User eXperience’, after all we do thrive to provide the best experience. It’s that hidden attribute to any website that makes it distinct from all others. We, as users, want to see something very unique, even if we are visiting a daily news blog, we want to read, view something that’s pleasant to us while not thinking about how many lines of code have been written behind it.
Think of it like this: when you visit a restaurant, do you even once think about the meal’s nutritional value? I doubt it. You went there to fulfill your body’s need – the tasty steak or the delicious kebabs to fill your stomach while satisfying your taste buds, the immense pleasure of the experience of that meal will form the memory in your brain, one which you will carry for a long time.
Why don’t we aim for a similar goal with web design? We have been designing good interfaces, usable interfaces, that’s something we, as web guys, are supposed to do. However, the question is: how often do we create interfaces that make the audience happy and consequently, remember the website? Why do we settle for just usable when we can make design and interfaces both usable and pleasurable?
As humans, we like to emote. We all have distinct emotional baggage and personalities. To engage your audience emotionally, your must let your brand’s personality show.
Wufoo is a popular web app that helps people build forms and connect them to databases. For someone who may not be very technical, making forms and connecting to databases could be tricky and tedious. But Wufoo has successfully made it fun.
Wufoo keeps the tasks flow very simple and focused with neat and simple interfaces. Its personality specific user experience helps it achieve the trust of millions of users who use the app for forms. You can actually sense the app developers personality after spending a couple of minutes on the site, and notice that it shines through in the copy – e.g. In the sample copy atop a fresh form awaiting the customised text: “This is my form. Please fill it out. It’s awesome!”
The subtle primary colors on each page, sans-serif typefaces portray familiarity and informal tones that make the user relax and use the app at ease. Wufoo uses this engagement using visuals to create lasting impressions with their customers/ users.
MailChimp’s mascot Freddie has this incredibly friendly face. Scientists believe that the primary reason we evolve to love baby faces is so that we wouldn’t kill them. Cuteness is a baby’s first line of defense. Designers should also use this principle. Users start using MailChimp and gradually start loving Freddie, as the chimp with a cute vibe, who doesn’t come in the way of your interaction with the application, cracks good jokes sometimes and gives you a sense of comfort. A similar manner of mascot interactivity builds engagement with the users, which can make the design experience feel like a chat with a friend. This effective method used to build positive memory increases the chance that users will continue to use and trust the application.
Visual design of any website is one of the key steps to building a relationship with your audience. Usability, where most of the user experience work comes in, is another key step that will make users start using your site voluntarily and engage the audience to explore information, look for surprises, spend more time and keep them coming back for more.
Tumblr is another website that has been successful in implementing top-notch user experience and aspects of the human touch in its design. The site has recently gone through some homepage and dashboard design changes but still manages to present an undeniable user experience.
The new homepage displays the top posts from users while giving brief navigation for both top users and different tags. Unlike before, when Tumblr showcased its features, flexibility, themes on the home page, this time they’ve taken a slightly different approach. Their tagline “Follow the world’s creators” is a strong message that tries to indulge the user to follow their favorite blog on Tumblr by either signing up or logging in.
The current design is more content centric and encourages people to use the website for what they are more interested in – great content. Subtle form animations between Log in and Sign Up actions and page scroll are intelligent.
When your brand contrasts with others, your audience is more likely to easily identify and remember it for a long time. Web designer Ricardo Mestra’s website gets the contrast.
Duplos’ website design doesn’t follow a strict grid; it’s organic. The rich textures, unrefined edges, and layers of flat shapes give the impression of elegant paper craft than a website. The purple monster and the humorous copy create an emotional imprint on his audience, making his portfolio unforgettable, which helps when you’re competing against web desginers.
Cognitive and visual contrast in design not only makes you stand out, it can also influence the way people use your interface.
Red Interactive Agency
Red Interactive Agency offers something very unique right from their web address – www.ff0000.com. The website immediately engages the user in the virtual chatroom (they call it the RED UNIVERSE) while still browsing the website for portfolio, company recognition and clientele.
If we are to build great websites and not just workable websites, we need to understand the depth of human emotions that get involved when they come to our sites. How does the site built by us make them feel? What would their initial reactions be? Will they come back to the site? Why? And why not?
We have the ability to go that extra mile and channel our own personality or the brand’s into our work so that our users can feel like they’re interacting with a real human and not a some corporate avatar. Being sincere and honest helps our users trust us even more as they see themselves in our brand, product and website.
Going the human way, we’d love to know your opinions and feedback in the comment section below. It’s time we interact!