One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of any design is that it’s “poor user experience”. UX is set up as the ultimate achievement for any design project. But is this an over-simplification of the designer’s role? Should everything be about user experience?
To paraphrase Leonard Hofstadter: “UX is a ‘smart decision’; it is like a bran muffin—a thing that you’re choosing because it is good for you…But sometimes, you want things in your design to be a Cinnabon, you know? A strawberry Pop Tart. Something you’re excited about even though it could give you diabetes”.
Today I’ve put together a list of sites that are rarely credited with good user experience, but that are still praise-worthy despite—or perhaps because of—that fact. We can admire their originality, their interactions, and their creative direction.
1. Scrolling: parallax, long and infinite
While scrolling, in all its hypostases, underlies a bunch of today’s websites—especially those that bring to life a storytelling experience—UX gurus find this technique “mauvais ton”. They consider it bad for many reasons:
- users may not know what to do when first they stumble upon such a site;
- users can feel confused and frustrated;
- users often become bored after several minutes of constant moving;
- there is no way out, whatsoever;
- the navigation is not transparent and habitual;
- relatively bad site performance;
- in some cases, it does not work in mobile devices;
However, we still eagerly click on a website that promises to take us on a long exciting adventure. Does the “comfort zone” matter? When all you need to do is to toy with a mouse scroll wheel and amuse yourself with some inventive tricks.
What does the Bank of England do?
2. Experiments with Typography and Taglines
As all we know, your message to the targeted audience should be as clean and clear as a little angel’s tear. Good contrast, optimal readability, and some other factors ensure the successful transmission of the company’s message. For example, Six Potatoes or Biron: their titles are pretty straightforward and plain. Without a doubt, this technique works: it is really hard to miss the tagline.
However, what about the homepage of Bolden? Their “welcome” message is a true mess. Letters overlap each other looking much like the Venn diagram. The first thing that comes to mind “What a…?” Undoubtedly, such a peculiar solution evokes mixed feelings. Nevertheless, these feelings ignite our interest. Curiosity is our natural instinct that is truly powerful.
What’s really hidden inside this tiny chaos? The team is managed to seize and hold our attention, and not only convey the message and reflect a creative thinking but also use our short memory span to their advantage.
3. WebGL Experiments
Can anyone call WebGL along with Chrome experiments an example of good UX? Absolutely, not. Some of them even do not work on the majority of browsers, so a lion share of online audience are simply unable to open them on their desktops, to say nothing about the tablets and mobile devices. But still, the upsurge of using high-end features and experimental libraries in building web applications is evident. Interland by Google, DEVX Experiments, 86 and half years—all these and many more concepts slowly but surely are earning their place in the sun. They are impressive, ingenious and intriguing; and if they open in your browser you will definitely forget about the comfort at least for 10-15 minutes.
Welcome to Fillory
4. Original Navigation
“Should I stay or should I go?”
Navigation plays a decisive role in whether your users stay or leave. No one wants to fish in the dark. Navigation’s power to destroy user experience (or vice versa) take it to the next level. Good practice encourages us to make the main menu simple, handy, intuitive, but at the same time all-embracing. Everything should be on the surface, or at within easy clicks. The user should get answers to their questions quickly and without much pain.
Plain top bars with nav links, hamburger menu buttons and of course, sticky nav bars that accompany us on our journey through the website are really popular these days. Staying conservative and pragmatic in choosing the navigation lets you provide your visitors with a Navigation GPS Unit rather than a map with descriptions written in Moon-letters. Nonetheless, to a certain degree these trivial solutions will take away all the fun and playfulness of your interface.
Unexpected menus are creative, thought-provoking and captivating. Yes, they can be misleading, but when done right they are almost flawless masterpieces that pique our curiosity.
In The Box
Without a doubt, user experience is a vital aspect of a good web application whether it is just a plain blog, complex corporate portal, or huge e-commerce website. Along with such important things like mobile-friendliness or cross-browser compatibility it forms a safe and sound foundation that ensures success. However, sometimes, like in the real world, there are things that we find truly uncomfortable, like taking long trips in a sports car or wearing high heels, but still we admire them, want to possess them, they make us turn our heads.
So, should everything be about UX? Should we all abandon the desire of going off the beaten track and follow the same old roads over and over? Is it possible to strike the balance between creativeness and pragmatism?