Stuff and clutter on web pages

Mostly, in this thread on stuff and clutter, I’m talking about actual, tangible stuff, stuff you can throw out or hit your toe against. But stuff can be non-material too, cluttering up our brains or … web pages. Mark Hurst is a usability thinker, and has this anecdote from a recent consulting trip to a company–let’s call it Acme–with a snazzy web site:

…Anyway. Acme had a problem: research showed that their website was completely, unforgivably, disastrously hard to use for their customers. And *ugly*, on top of that, as if it was spat from a template circa 1996. So I sat down with the executives, everyone with a stake in the online presence, to help them improve the business metrics by improving their website.

Here’s an excerpt of the meeting transcript, more or less.

Me: One thing customers complained about was the home page navigation. To quote one customer we talked to, “I can’t figure this thing out and I’m leaving right now.” I think it had something to do with the flaming chainsaw animation that follows the mouse pointer around the screen. Is it possible we could remove that?

VP Marketing: Oh right, the flaming chainsaw animation. I’d love to take that off the site, really I would, but I just think it’s so neat, and besides it aligns with our brand message of innovation here at Acme.

Me: But customers would shop more, and buy more, if it wasn’t there. Wouldn’t you like to reconsider that animation?

VP Marketing: Here in Marketing we have to adhere to our brand guidelines, and innovation is central to that, so I’m afraid the animation has to stay.

Me: OK – next up is the customer complaint about the 18-level-deep flying dynamic navigation sub-menus. Several customers said all the menus zipping around the screen made them dizzy.

VP Technology: I know what you’re referring to. That menu system took our technology team six months to code up, and I have to say it’s the most advanced implementation I’ve ever seen, really an awesome job.

Me: The technology is impressive, for sure… I mean, I’ve never seen 18 nested levels all flying in unison like that.

VP Technology: Thanks, man.

Me: Uhh – sure thing. But I’d just like to push back a little on this – the customers did say that the menus were confusing. How about a simpler menu, maybe just a few links to the top-level categories, and that’s it?

VP Technology: Listen, I’m all for simplicity and ease-of-use and all that, I hear you. I really get it. But I have to tell you, Web technology is moving fast, and if we don’t keep up, we’re going to look like Google or something. A bunch of blue links. Borrring.

Me: Allllright. Now we’ve covered the flaming chainsaw and the flying menus, let’s move on to the logo graphic. Some customers complained that they didn’t want to scroll down a full page just to get past the logo, the large stock photos, and the slogan.

VP Branding: What did they say about the color scheme? I’m just wondering, because the green and fuscia palette is really supposed to, you know, bring forth assocations of innovation and holistic thinking, all while blending in with the flames from the chainsaw.

Me: I think I have a plane to catch. (Exit conference door right)

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3 thoughts on “Stuff and clutter on web pages

  1. That’s a great anecdote. When I fantasize about having a ‘creative’ job and the glamour of being a consultant, I talk myself down with stories like this (anecdote and antidote).

    Yahoo mail is not far from the Acme model.

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