Design works when it solves problems. And there aren’t many problems on the Web that you can solve using a hammer. Slamming someone upside the head is generally not the best way of getting them to do what you want. Brute force has its place, but if you’ve pummelled someone into submission, they’re not likely going to respond appropriately. And the Web, being as fickle a place as it is, allows people to simply ignore you, log out, close a tab … even if you’re trying to bludgeon them to death.
Design with a scalpel.
The folks at 37Signals have a good example of this in their post: Design Decisions: When to prompt for an upgrade.
Inside their Backpack app they changed the way they try and upsell users. Instead of having a permanent “ad” for upselling at all times, they only show the “ad” when you hit the free limits they’ve setup in the system, so that when you want to take one more action (in this case “create a new page”) you’ve got to spend money. It’s a more personalized, precise approach to getting people to do what they want. They’re using a scalpel.
Now it might take some time before you can whip out your scalpel and start delicately carving up your design to improve it. And if you start with a scalpel to work on subtle refinements, you may get caught in too close to the details without seeing bigger picture design issues. But you absolutely need to look at how you’re solving key problems with design, and when is the right time to work on (and test!) important refinements.
One of the areas in Web apps that I find the most frustrating is the experience immediately after signing up. Too few startups invest an appropriate amount of design thinking, strategy and effort on that experience. Instead they use a hammer to bulldoze you into the Web app, giving you very little direction or motivation to keep going.
Take a look at your Web app with a scalpel in your hand and see where you can make potentially small and easy design changes that could have a huge impact.
Image provided by ArtmannWitte – Fotolia.com