I recently read an interesting article on Web Standards Sherpa, titled “Designing for Content: Creating a Message Hierarchy.” The article was discussing the importance of establishing a content strategy early on in the planning of a website. In fact it makes an arguement that it should be in the beginning stages of the planning.
"When we integrate content creation early in our web development processes, we are more effective at orienting our conversations to the end goals for the user and the business. This is a huge win for our users, who are increasingly demanding meaningful content experiences before they engage with our web sites and apps. It’s also vital to businesses, whose success depends on communicating value in ways that convert bystanders to buyers."
The article goes on to say;
"But why not start earlier in the creative process, before a single line is drawn? What if we all start with a set of primary messages that should be conveyed to users, and then create the visual and interactive experience around those?"
They give two tremendously creative websites as an example.
Take benthebodyguard.com or nikebetterworld.com. In each of these examples, users scroll through inherent hierarchical messaging that forms each site’s primary purpose—to engage and to educate—so users will be more likely to buy. Ultimately, the design serves to highlight the content, rather than the other way around.
This is where the article, in my opinion starts to make some mistakes. This is their example of how to effectively plan out your content first and all the visual and interactive experience then flows around the content as opposed to the content flowing around the visual and interactive experience. Essentially they are making an argument that storytelling is more effective.
What they fail to do however, is to give solid proof as to why these websites are doing a better job at selling their product. They are telling us that these websites are doing a better job with establishing and communicating a hierarchical message that engages and educates the user so they are more likely to buy, but is “Ben the bodyguard” the highest selling app in the app store? What type of results has “Nike Better World” been able to celebrate? Neither of these things are answered in the article.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these websites. I’ve experienced more websites that are very similar in nature. The first one I ever came across was a website by Campaign Monitor with the primary goal to hire some talented people. Another website is Contrast Rebellion, and even the infinitely talented Mr. Joe Faux recently took this approach for his portfolio website. I tweeted, bookmarked, and talked about almost all of these websites after encountering them. They were and are amazingly creative. These websites also did an effective job at getting me to not only scroll through the entire site, but I also read all of the content on the website.
"The storytelling aspect, centered on the Ben character, has been absolutely essential to building our buzz and persuading people to ‘hire Ben,’ as we put it. From the very beginning, we gave ourselves the challenge to use this compelling, mysterious personality to get people interested in the theme of personal digital security (not such an interesting topic on its own), and we’ve definitely succeeded in building widespread interest with this method. Even when we first launched the site, there were dozens of tweets out there proclaiming their commitment to buying the app without even knowing exactly what it would offer!"
"However it should really be noted that, without our unique presentation style of the story on benthebodyguard.com, the story likely wouldn’t have gained as much interest on its own. Nobody wants to read big blocks of text online anymore."
So he is offering up proof that the website was effective in building up “buzz” about the product, and it did an effective job at sparking an interest, but was it better? Did it get MORE buzz than websites that took an alternative approach?
Also I disagree Chris… You see he said, “Nobody wants to read big blocks of text online anymore.” That is a bit of an absolute statement. One that doesn’t really offer up any actual proof as to weather or not this is a reality. I personally subscribe to the philosophy that James Archer of Forty talks about in his video presentation titled “Decision Modes: How People Buy.” In the video he basically breaks people into 4 different categories of methodical, competitive, humanistic, & spontaneous. In contrast this belief is based on a lot of years worth of psychological research on humans. Not to say that Ben the Body Guard doesn’t have each of the four decision modes in mind. However, it does support the fact that some people do indeed want to read big blocks of text online. In fact blogs are incredibly popular on the interweb. There are several websites utilizing big blocks of text online that are wildly successful.
The “Ben the Body Guard” approach reminds me of another experience I’ve found in the real world. I think the Ikea experience has many similarities with benthebodyguard.com. In contrast I feel that the Target experience (which is a more traditional experience) has a lot in common with the more traditional approach we’ve seen from websites like Mail Chimp, 37 Signals, Mint, Huge, & the ever popular dare I say cliche example of Apple.
If you’ve never been to an Ikea before it’s definitely a unique experience, at least unique to the American consumer. The store is essentially split in half. On one side is the showrooms, and on the other is the actual warehouse where they have shelves stocked with products and merchandise ready to be purchased.
When you enter an Ikea you are entering their showroom. There aren’t any registers in site, and unless you grab a shopping cart that was left behind in the parking lot, then they don’t have any shopping carts available in the front/main entrance either. You then proceed to work your way through a seemingly endless maze of enchanting and visually appealing staged environments. Essentially Ikea is telling a story and creating an experience. It is not much different then a website which strategically guides your through content like reading a story (benthebodyguard.com).
When you arrive at the middle of the story you enter the Ikea restaurant. So you stop and grab a little bite to eat as you converse about all of the amazing products and merchandise you just experienced. When you are finished with your meal and you’ve had a sufficient amount of time to gather your thoughts and decide what you want to place in your shopping cart. Speaking of shopping carts it’s at this point where they have ample amounts of shopping carts for all of their visitors.
So now with your shiny shopping cart that glides across the floor as you make your way into the warehouse portion. This is where you are greeted with shelves and more shelves of products and merchandise ready and waiting for you to throw in your shopping cart. So then you work your way back to the front of the store where the registers are.
As you make your way to the exit there is a tempting little snack bar, because you can’t go home without 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips, and a soda for $2.00. Or what about a generous sized cinnamon roll? I mean can you really say no to a delicious soft served ice cream cone? My family makes specific trips to Ikea just for the hotdogs. I mean TWO DOLLARS! Seriously? I think I might need to make a trip to Ikea this weekend just thinking about it.
In contrast, this is what the American consumer has grown to expect. In fact when I first went to Ikea I spent the first half of my experience annoyed and frustrated. It wasn’t until I thought about it, and quit expecting Ikea to be Target that I was really able to embrace the experience.
When you enter Target (You can replace Super Target with Walmart, Albertson’s, or HEB and you will basically get the same set up.) you are greeted with shiny red shopping carts. In the entrance are large visually appealing signs hanging from the ceiling advertising seasonal products on sale. The entire store is divided up into different categories and isles of shelves with products and merchandise on display. Hanging from the ceiling are large easy to find and read signs to help you figure out where each section/category is located. At the end of each isle is also more signage which helps you easily be able to understand what lives in each isle. They have made the store incredibly easy and efficient for visitors to easily navigate directly to what they came to the store for.
What Does This All Mean?
Now I love Ikea, but do I love it more than Target? Does the Ikea experience result in me purchasing more than I do at other stores? These are the real questions that need answers.
I see many similarities between these two contrasting store experiences and website experiences we encounter on the interweb. I think the problem that I am having is that this article is saying that the Target experience doesn’t do a good job with establishing and communicating a hierarchical message. That is where I disagree. I believe that both experiences can be executed in a way that effectively communicates a hierarchy of content. I also believe that you can provide a Target experience and still allow the visual and interactive experience to flow around the content. At the same time I believe that the Ikea experience also accomplishes these things as well. It’s not that I disagree with them using those examples. Instead I am disputing that the article seems to insinuate that those types of website do a better job, or essentially they are saying that the Ikea experience is better than the Target experience. When in reality they are just different experiences. I feel that the approach is dependent upon the company/brand as well as the goals of the company/brand and their products.
What Do You Think?
Graphic designers obsess over typography the way some people obsess over sports scores. In graphic design, font choice is everything: But with so many choices, how do you know which is right for your project? This infographic is a good start — it summarizes the major groups of fonts and plots out their evolution over time. That way, you’ll never have to justify your choice of type.
"Shane Guymon uses two prominent call to action buttons on his homepage. These buttons work really well, as they both stand out from, and fit in with the overall design. The red and blue buttons fit with the main colors of his logo/slogan, yet really stand out against the plain white background of the main content area. There is a clear visual hierarchy at work, as the red button is given more visual precedence. This is achieved through it’s slightly larger size, more apparent gloss style, and preferential positioning (as we read left to right we encounter this button first)."
I’ve had my website, and websites I’ve designed for clients get featured in a few web galleries around the interwebs before. But to the best of my knowledge this is the first time I’ve found anyone talking about something I designed in a blog post. Surprisingly it is all positive things that are being said. I’m beyond flattered.
Thanks for the tip Adam Haynes
My Two Cents
Although I think they are going to extremes a bit with this infographic here. I think they are mis interpreting the data to some degree. I mean, hypothetically you could do research and ask everyone that has had or is currently dealing with cancer if they eat chocolate. I’m pretty sure a REALLY high percentage will say yes. So then with that data you could very easily deduce that chocolate causes cancer.
Realistically I feel it is overly obvious that sitting less will be good for our body, but the whole, “Each extra hour of watching TV = 11% higher death risk." is a bit extreme. This is assuming that we are going to die because of health reasons. More-so that we will die from heart complications. In reality there are countless ways to die, the majority of which most likely have nothing at all to do with a person sitting. We are all actually increasing our likely hood to die just by waking up in the morning and living another day. Each and everyday we get closer and closer to the day we die. Death is not something anyone is able to stop from happening. So it shouldn’t be about how can we prevent death, but rather how can we embrace the time we are allotted, and use that time in positive ways to make us better people. I feel as long as we spend our life helping other people, and loving instead of hating then it doesn’t really matter how long we live. Death is but a stepping stone to the next phase of our eternal existence.
Really I posted this infographic because, I thought it was creatively executed, and the information is fairly interesting. I think it is also quite motivating, and I definitely agree that we are better off standing and moving as opposed to sitting.