Another argument emerges for simple web design (see my previous post Creating Your Web-Scape) in Drake Bennett’s article on cognitive fluency, Easy=True. Cognitive fluency is the psychological precept that “people prefer things that are easy to think about to those that are hard…In any situation where we weigh information, fluency is implicated in our decisions about everything.”
In a nutshell, when information is easier to mentally process, people feel attraction and belief. The opposite, disfluency – making things difficult to grasp, creates a cognitive roadblock that makes people wary and uncomfortable.
While this might seem intuitively obvious, evidence abounds that plenty of businesses (and web designers) don’t get it.
Bennett’s article is a terrific resource for more information on fluency and disfluency and the supporting research.
For the purpose of this blog let’s take a look at the practical implications of fluency and disfluency in terms of web design. Keep in mind this is all based on research, not my own preferences.
Disfluency:the art of making things difficult –
Web Design that Loses Business
Here are some characteristics of a disfluent web site that will leave web site visitors with a negative impression.
- Unfamiliar words (for example, technical jargon and acronyms)
- Names and words that are difficult to pronounce
- Complex syntax
- Illegible text (see my previous post The Dog and the Lotus)
- Missing information or convoluted instructions
- Functions that don’t quite work
- Overcrowding the page
- Visual distractions
- Multiple columns of disparate text
- Little or no white space
- Flickering animation
- Confusing navigation
- Poor organization
Fluency:the art of making things easy to understand –
Web Design that Encourages Business
Here are some characteristics of a fluent web site that subliminally suggest to visitors that your business is reputable and trustworthy.
- Consistent navigation and page layout across the web site
- Artful repetition of key ideas(note: repetition is good, redundancy is bad – know the difference)
- Legible fonts and color coordination
- Plenty of white space
- Language and syntax that everyone can understand
- Message boiled down to its essence
- Graphic design and content that are easy to assimilate (accessible) both visually and conceptually
Let’s take a look at the web site for The Glass House and see how well it does fluency wise.
Repetition: The grey box is repeated throughout as the background to the title (I like the opacity that reminds us of the see through quality of glass), the background in the drop down menus, and the background for other important pieces of information.
Clarity: The site contains a lot of information, notice how it’s been logically organized and categorized.
Simplicity: One column layout, plenty of white space.
Verdict: Fluency. I’m convinced this is a reputable organization dedicated to professionalism on all levels.
Analysis by Smart Alice Web Design & Photography, smart web design for businesses who want a unique and effective presence on the internet.