Right now, if you’re sitting at a computer, how many interfaces are you accessing? The way I normally hear that interface question is “How many windows do you have open?” and I’m hoping to be platform agnostic. If you’re not sitting at a computer, hang in there for a minute.
Think about it for a second. You have MS Windows open (XP, Vista, 2000, NT, 98se, …). Maybe OS10 or whatever the Linux/Unix equivalents are. Whatever you’re using, you have the operating system interface before you can get any real work done (1st figure).
My guess is that you also have an email client open (Thunderbird, Eudora, NetScape, Outlook, Yahoo, GMail, …, 2nd figure).
Maybe you have a single email open or perhaps a calendar program (3rd figure).
Most people will also have one or more of the big three – word processor, spreadsheet, database — open (4th figure). The big three now are now the big five — browser and graphics (5th figure).
How many windows are open in your browser? Three? Five? Nine? Maybe a media player or two? Do you have a PDA linking tool? Maybe a VoIP such as Skype?
I can keep on going and let’s make it easy and call it ten.
Now for you folks not sitting at a computer. Your reading this somehow so its either in hardcopy or on some kind of electronic gadget, probably a PDA. Is the radio on? How about the TV? Both, maybe? Are the kids around? Do you have pets in your lap, by your feet, sitting next to you on the floor, on the sofa or on the bed? What else is going on in the house or outside? Do you have a significant other subtly or otherwise asking for your time?
Distractions Distractions Distractions
What I’m writing about is distraction. I’ve written previously about distractions in Keep It Simple to Maximize Market Share using Simplicity Theory. We’re going to continue with Simplicity Theory here, this time making use of NextStage R&D to explain how Simplicity can work for you.
A complex interface — unless it is a brand within your market — has to gain and keep visitors’ attention right out of the gate. It doesn’t matter if users need what a complex interface provides, that’s a consideration down the road.
Right now, right out of the gate, that complex interface needs to gain and keep visitors’ attention when they’re being distracted by ten or more other interfaces also wanting to gain and keep their attention.
And in case you haven’t heard it, let me be the first to tell you; Attention is at a premium. It’s in limited supply. Far more limited than gold, real estate and fossil fuel put together. And it’s getting worse.
Your Competition Is Everything Else On the Desktop
People in business understand the concept of competition. Here’s how it applies to interface real estate; The competition for your user, your website visitor, is every other interface they have open when they open yours.
Let’s say the total time on your interface is short by definition, such as a search or lookup tool. People spend a lot of time on the web and that “lot of time” is on a lot of sites, so the time on any one site is going to be short by definition.
The shorter a time period a given visitor spends on your site the more satisfactory their experience on your site has to be. Total satisfaction — essentially branding the user with pleasure — is required in order for visitors to return to your interface or site. That’s the equation you need to remember; as their time on your interface decreases the level of satisfaction must increase exponentially. They’re not using your interface long enough to get branded by your logo, they have to be branded by the experience so that they’ll return again and again and again.
This of it this way: You’ve heard that the secret to investing in real estate is Location, Location, Location? The secret to good interface design is Simplify, Simplify, Simplify (the theme of Keep It Simple to Maximize Market Share) and these two axioms are tied together in an interesting way. The more screen elements (images, menu items, text blocks, action items, links, videos, chat rooms, etc.) there are in your interface (Location Location Location) the more you need to Simplify Simplify Simplify in order to attract your audience and have them stick to your website.
How Many Screen Elements is Enough?
This is one of those interesting questions to answer. How many screen elements does your audience expect? How many will they tolerate? There are lots of ways to answer this and the best way is How many do they need to achieve their objectives?. We’re going to answer that in my next column.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
Links for this post:
- 2 Strategies for the Future of Online TV IMedia column
- Two Strategies for the Future of Online TV Society for New Communications Research Update
- Headlines That Attract Attention
- Intelligent Website Design: Expand Your Market
- Make Sure Your Site Sells Lemonade
- Reading Virtual Minds Chapter 6 “Experience versus Satisfaction”
- Usability Studies 101: Experience as an Equation
- Usability Studies 101: Landmarks Ahead?
- Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds
- Where You Should Stick Your Ad and Why
- XChange on 20-21 Sept 07
- DC Emetrics Summit on 14-17 Oct ’07
- Society for New Communications Research Annual Research Symposium & Awards Gala on 5-6 Dec 07 in Boston.
Come on by and say hello.