Making the web a calmer place

16th January 2020

I read an article recently about designing digital products to facilitate good mental health. In the article Francis Rowland, a UX architect at Sigma talks about the website they created for Mind.

I’ve suffered with anxiety and I find that some features of modern websites can add to it. I manage my anxiety but I wonder how people with more complex conditions are finding the modern web?

There are certain features that I keep out of websites because I’m aware of the impact they have on me.

  • Pop-up windows that keep appearing even after you’ve closed them
  • Pages that use infinite scrolling
  • Flash style navigation that’s too clever for its own good
  • Carousels where information slides away just before you can finish reading it
  • Websites that want your location or want to send you notifications
  • Pop-up windows and ads that obscure content
  • Too many calls to action and links

The web needs to develop and evolve but I wonder whether some of these techniques are necessary? Are they’re just causing or adding to cognitive problems?

In the early days of the web  there was a joy in getting your content into the world. The first website I designed was ridiculously simple but it delivered in a calm and focused manner.

Don’t make me think

Fast forward to 2020 and today’s web is a mess of links, ads, animations and overly complicated interfaces. Most of the time it adds up to a web that’s awkward and unpleasant to use. It has the potential to make us stressed and gets in the way of performing simple tasks.

Years ago I was never far from a copy of Steve Krug’s wonderful book “Don’t Make Me Think”. That book became the single biggest influence on the way I design websites. It always made me take a step back from design decisions and question what I was about to do. Was this feature for the good of the user or was I implementing it just because I could?

I think it’s more important than ever to embrace the common sense approach that ran through Steve’s book. A natural empathy towards users can make the web a calmer and nicer place to be.

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I love to work with businesses who have a positive impact on the world and see the value of great design. If you need some help with a web design or branding project I’d love to hear from you.

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