Fact of life: most people are still low in computer literacy. Even a high level of education would not guarantee survival in the IT world. Not so much of a big deal outside the web, but for those whose business is Internet-based, this problem is a serious threat.
Let’s take a look at George, a 50-something politician who is preparing for the local elections. He has a very nagging idea in his mind of how he wants his campaign posters and fliers to look like. On the advice of his peers, he wants to try the printing services in the Internet. One of his friends strongly recommends The Gabriel Group. George was given the link. He types in http://www.gabrielgr.com/ (and it wasn’t easy for him to type it), then he hits ENTER. For reasons unknown to him, George sighs as the page loads at turtle speed. Finally it’s there, pretty angel and all. George looks at the page. Very pretty. Now what? Oh, ok, there: “Global Web-to-Print”. Is this it? Maybe. He clicks on it. Page loads. OH, NOW WHAT???? Forget it! Too bad for this gold standard company, George would have ordered tons of printing jobs. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!
Ok, your turn. You’re a computer and Internet pro, right? C’mon, give it a try. Click on the link. What do you see? Well, in all fairness to its designer/s the site does look very, very pretty. But that’s not what we need. We’re in the do-it-yourself business and we’re trying to sell something. So, is our user interface friendly enough for people like George?
At this point, let’s see what happens as a person tries to operate your user interface. Is it simple or complicated to find stuff and make preferred events happen? This is vital because if your clients can’t make out how to work with the interface, you lose them!
What can you do about this? Here are some guidelines:
Keep it simple. I’m talking about the URL. Keep it simple, easy to remember, and above all, easy to type. Short doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Wacky isn’t always cool. Try to come up with something that will appeal to general patronage: from low-computer-literacy people to computer geeks; from high-school drop-outs to business executives. Hmmm…sounds really challenging!
Keep it basic. You would love to have the latest in web technology running in your website but it will attract only the nerds and not the potential buyers. Focus should be on content. It should scream good customer service.
Keep it peaceful. There is no need for rudiments that are in constant motion. Keep in mind that moving images tend to overpower the human senses. They’re like noise hammering inside your brain when you’re trying to read important text. Give the users some peace and quiet so they can go about what they need to do.
Keep it legible. A lot of modern web designers try to be cool and trendy by using super tiny fonts that nearly blend into the background and can only be clearly seen on mouse-over. You know what I mean? For some reason, someone came up with this silly idea and now it’s the craze in web fashion! Please don’t do this! This is NOT for the do-it-yourself business such as web-to-print. Keep in mind that a good number of your clients are nearing the geriatric stage and could barely read without their glasses on.
Keep it speedy. The number one turn-off for web visitors is, I’m sure, long download times. Most viewers would leave the site if it hasn’t completely loaded in 8 seconds. So that means goodbye flash effects…goodbye awesome graphics….we’ll see you at the gaming sites!
Perhaps you’ve heard of these web design pointers time and again. But maybe there is a need to review about them because they can never be overemphasized. Remember, what is being addressed here is the problem of low computer literacy. You cannot educate your clients but you sure can make things simple enough for them to say it’s “user-friendly”. So that’s five tips. I’ll give you some more next time.