16th January 2020
Making the web a calmer place
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.