Users Spend Most of Their Time on Other Websites

Another excellent post from Derek Sivers. Do yourself a favor and read it.

Web designers want their sites to be unique. There are hundreds of free online templates that will give you a three-column layout with a banner image and menu across the top. That style of design is everywhere, but no web developer wants their site to look like a commodity – they want it to be different.

This uniqueness is often met by failure. Why? Because of Jakob’s Law – “Users spend most of their time on other websites.” Perhaps your design is better, but users spend 99% of their time navigating the web a different way. If they have to think or learn in order to use your site, you’ve failed.

I fell into the “uniqueness trap” when I designed MediaSpine, my independent portfolio site. You won’t notice much on the landing page – it’s minimalistic, but looks fairly standard. Now click on About. You won’t see it right away. From the About page, try and navigate to the Portfolio page. There it is. You can’t.

MediaSpine only has a menu on the first page. The entire site was designed to be shallow – you can’t drill down more than two levels. Since it’s so shallow, it’s designed to be navigated by clicking on the logo at the top (which returns you to the home page) or by using your browser’s Back button. There are not menus on every page adding clutter and distracting from the content.

In my mind, the design is still extremely elegant. I’ve stood over the shoulder of various people looking at the site, and they’ve picked up on the navigation right away. Yet part of me resonates with what Sivers and Jakob’s Law are saying. What do you think?

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  • Ryan Murri July 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I love it! To your point about site navigation, I have two comments: Who is your target audience? If it is gen x or gen y then you are fine. Before that you are hit and miss. I had no problem navigating as a gen xer. Second, you may miss out on google points as far as page ranking goes. Super simple and elegant may be good for the eye, but may be bad for google’s spiders.