I just cannot stand companies who want to be on the internet and social media but don’t understand how it works. They want to have a social media presence because ‘everyone else has one’ but they don’t understand they have to be responsive. Or they want a website or web shop, but the designer in them means they never think about function. At all!
I cannot stand companies who choose form over function for their web shop. I don’t want to have to negotiate minutes of splash pages, noisy audio or award winning bells and whistle images from overpaid PR and web design agencies in an attempt to find the products in a webshop – I want to find the product, be able to see it from all angles and be able to buy it. Quickly and easily. I want FAQs, information about shipping, easy to read text, and colours that don’t make my eyes bleed.
I was part of the first wave of people who grappled with this new thing called the internet. In the mid 199os I worked with techies who had no idea about design and only saw the code behind everything. I also worked with designers who just wanted things to look pretty but didn’t realise people just wanted to click through, not wait for huge graphics and third-generation splash pages to load or flinch at the unreadable text. We needed to marry form and function in a user-friendly union for the average man in the street.
My huge challenge was teaching design students to choose function over form in this new virtual world where people wanted to navigate quickly, not luxuriate in and marvel at the skills of the designer.
I was part of the team that brought the internet to Africa in November 1991. I was part of the team that put the first newspaper in Africa online in about 1995. I was the first person to teach African journalists how to research and report online, and how to design newspapers and websites for online readers. In 1998 I was named one of the top women in new media by the Online Journalism Review. At that time I knew we were in a new world that had no rules. A Wild West as it were. I had great hope for the future where we learned how to navigate this new reality.
Now, more than 20 years later, it is sad that some companies are still like that. Last week I discovered this horror of a website, that of Lars Wallin, a Swedish designer.
I challenge you to navigate it to find the ring part of the jewellery section, find out where to type in your search query and find information about the products – such as how much they weigh and stockists. See how many times you think something is clickable when it isn’t, and try to get back to the home page without using the back button. Imagine how easy it would be to read for someone who is visually impaired or reading in a place with less than optimal lighting. What if you had limited battery life left, slow internet connection or a very expensive internet connection on your holidays?
As loyal and regular readers know, I am seldom critical about any product or company. I am the kind of person who says something needs work, rather than that it does not work. So you must know how frustrating I find this site in order to be so critical. And how disappointed I am that in 20+ years some companies have learned so little about what their customers want in a website. Or maybe they just don’t care.