There is a fractionization of information going on and our web design should follow.
Books took over 500 years to develop a universally understood interface. The first feature length movies were basically filmed stage plays, and it’s taken 80 years to develop from that into the MTV aesthetic. Is it any wonder it is taking us some time to figure out how to design websites?
When we pick up a book, we already know how to manage its particular interface. We all know that we open books from left to right, that there is a table of contents, pages have numbers, and it possibly even has an index. We look right past this to interact directly with the stories or information — the content if you will — housed in the interface.
Movies first looked a lot like plays since that was the primary way audiences processed information generated through a visual narrative. Over the years, creative people experimented with elements like faster cuts, better audio, and special effects to develop a visual shorthand.
We are still in the infancy of interface design for the web. Most web sites are building off the book structure, with tabs that look like a table of contents, and a beautiful “cover”. This assumes that people will come to your homepage first and that you are telling a linear story. With the rise of search, and especially Google, this is not a useful assumption.
There is a fractionization of information going on and our web design should follow. We know from Jakob Nielson that people are goal oriented on the web. Really understanding this means that we don’t design beautiful homepages solely to be pretty. We also don’t use linear structures, metaphoric language, and lots of copy to convey most ideas. The whole user experience is now the brand, and brands are about small interactions.
This transformation of how we experience information using the web is happening faster than we expected, and the marketers who do it the best will be the winners in next few years.