Don't Make Your Users Muddle
“Muddling through" is a term which author Steve Krug introduced in his book on web design called "Don’t Make Me Think." The term refers to what happens when it
isn’t clear to a user of your web site what they are supposed to do in any given situation. And if it’s not immediately clear what should be done when a user arrives at your site, they will begin a process of trial and error until finding what they are looking for.
Designers often assume they know how users will interact with their web site. But
they may not have consulted with actual users. We all need to remember that we have no control over what happens when people use our sites. Krug notes that users
often are not interested in learning the detailed workings of our web sites.
So they may not get the experience we intend.
Web developers can also muddle, for example when trying to transition to modern,
standards-based design. It's important they be granted time to learn new design
and development concepts away from the stresses of deadlines. Or some developers
may not care. Look for these people, and fix things, or replace them if all
Here are areas where developers can often improve, and deliver a better experience
to the user as a result:
1) Code. Most designers are not stylesheet experts or XHTML geeks.
Tools: Today's tools are complex and it's likely you are not using only a single, integrated development tool. You’re more likely using a combination of tools for
different tasks like editing, graphics, testing and so on.
Process: This is one of the biggest problem areas. As deadlines near, good process
can go out the window.
Even if you have an established process that you use, chances are there’s room for improvement.
So here are some suggestions to guide developers:
- Be aware. Pay attention to what you're doing. Are you
doing development in a logical way?
- Keep learning: When you conclude you've mastered web design, you should stop immediately and begin to re-educate yourself. There’s no way you can
everything. And in the standards world, new techniques are invented every day. Keep current.
- Assess your tools, especially if you’ve been using your
current tools for some
time. Chances are your knowledge of the marketplace has lost ground.
- Assess your development process: Is it documented? If not, how can you assess
it? Then review your process after each major project and update your documentation to reflect things you've learned.
Peer review: Form a small review group of other web designers, and analyze your
work on a regular basis. Offer constructive suggestions for improvements
I welcome your comments.
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