Despite all the Flash-like features, I’m all about simplicity. I believe that most people (myself included) use the web as a tool, whether it’s to pay bills or to find certain information. When you simplify what users do online, it almost always boils down to something with an end goal.
My task as an Information Architect is to create user interfaces that people can actually use. Having only the user’s end goal, I then try to reverse engineer the design by finding where the user starts. Simply put, how does a user get to where they’re going?
When it comes to user interface design, the simpler the better. Do those drop shadows really help your user achieve their goals? Maybe or maybe not. Do those gradients help or hinder your user from getting around the site?
My tip is to start designing with either wireframes or grayscale versions of the interface. Use intelligently placed and intuitive “paths-to-actions” that are clear, both visually and contextually. Our job as User Experience (UX) designers is to make our user’s task as simple and enjoyable as possible.
In many cases, it’s smart to evaluate whether gradients, drop shadows, whiz-bangs and other gizmos are needed. This might add extra visual appeal, but if those additional features slows a user down from getting to their goal, then it definitely takes away from the user experience.
Case in point: Google. According to a study released by comScore, 66.8% of the global search market is owned by Google. So why does most of the world use Google? Google’s homepage has nothing more than a search box and a few modest links. Bing, one of Google’s rival search engines, has moved towards a similar direction, albeit with a few more visuals. With their plain white background, minimalist layout and intuitive search functions, it’s easy to see that simplicity is one of the main reasons Google has captured a 58% increase in search query volume over the past year.
Simplicity, it seems, is a winner no matter how you look at it.