Why do we design websites to confuse our users?

22 May 2015

Help me out here, because there’s something I just don’t understand.

When you look at a book, you see a front cover, usually with the title, the author’s name and some artwork capturing the ‘essence’ of the book. Open the book and you see a page with publication details, a cover page, often a table of contents and then the meat of the book itself – the story.

Every book follows the same pattern.

This is true for newspapers too – top stories on the front page, national news, international news, features, the sports section – you know what to expect and you have a fair idea of where to expect it.

Magazines, TV, radio, movies, the theatre – they all follow agreed patterns.

So why are websites all so different? Why do we feel like we have to make our site ‘unique’? Are we so scared that our content won’t capture our audience that we have to make the way we present it ‘interesting’?

Have you ever heard of anyone having to user test a book?

Have you even seen someone throw down a newspaper because it was ‘hard to navigate’?

I used to worry that my websites were a bit ‘boring’ because I tended to use the same basic layout:

I’ve lost count of how many times my designers tell me that we have to make the site more ‘dynamic’. And no they weren’t talking about automatically updated content.

Come on people, give our audience a break! Let them get used to consistent designs and layouts. Stop making them work so hard to understand the design and let them spend more time digesting your content.

Consistency may be dull and boring for the designers but it makes the lives of our end users (you know, the people who justify our existence) a lot easier.

I’m not saying every website should look the same, but couldn’t we at least agree on a few main principles?