Wednesday, August 13, 2008

gloves are off in the boxing ring

Well I'm going to sound like I'm complaining but I'm sharing and that is what the interweb is about, right? Did we agree on that in a previous post? Let's pretend we did even if we didn't.

I'd like to toss my hat into the ring, on the issue of BOXES. What is up with all these boxes on line? What makes a site with BOXES more navigable that one without BOXES? Why do we think that putting a BOX around something and then putting another BOX right next to that with something else in it is the best way to design a site? Who died and made the BOX king?

The problem is not the BOXES themselves. BOXES are nice and good and if you love them and pet them and feed them they will grow into healthy corrugated recyclable companions. My issue is how many sites use BOXES and how we've become accustomed to seeing them. So accustomed that we don't really need to think about seeing content in any other form. It's disconcerting, to say the least. Why?

We are only a few steps away from turning our "lean forward" medium to a "lean back" medium just because we are getting lazy. BOXES are the lazy-man's answer to a site with a lot of content. I don't mean to insult anyone here. I know how easy it is to slip into a groove when you have so many big builds and so little time. But we have stopped solving our problems creatively. We are resorting back to the same old layouts for no particular reason. Am I wrong or did www 1.0 go out with New Kids on the Block? Oh wait, some of you are still dreaming about hanging with Donnie.

You know, when I was still gushing over a Donny it was an Osmond. Back then the cars could seat 4 portly aunties across the back bench and you still had room to sit 4 kids on their laps on the way home from a family picnic. And that was legal. No seat belts required or even recommended. Back then you had to opt for power steering and take 12 minutes to roll down your window if you wanted to let some air in when you left your kids in the car while you sat in a bar for a quick snap. Back then everybody smoked Rothmans and Export A. Back then you pushed hard on a button to change the AM dial. Back then things were mono. Back then Jack Nicholson was hot and Tony Manero was cool and Cher was fresh off one of the Allman Brothers and Canadian Club was a luxury. Now I feel old.

But you know what else makes me feel old? BOXES. BOXES make me feel old because they are so throw back I can actually reminisce about a 14.4 modem when I see them. Enough with the boxes already.

Unless we challenge people to actually look at a page and roll their mouse over something and think while they use the navigation we might as well forget the notion of user experience altogether. Forget content. Just take your TV ad and put it on a page with a logo. Hope that if you build it they will come. Wait. We covered that already.

I'm not recommending we make it difficult to navigate a particular site but I am advocating that we start challenging ourselves to challenge our users. Isn't that the spirit of fresh marketing? Mr. Whipple =BOXES. Stop squeezing the Charmin and start treating your users like they have the ability to learn and change with the technology they're using every day.

Down with complacency up with clickers!


Leigh said...

Hey your blog template has boxes all over it. And ones with rounded corners. What up with that?

Damien said...

Boxes aren't the problem. Boxes are a solution created to solve another, greater problem -- Web 2.0.

Since everything is connected and everyone is sharing, we need to showcase how everything is connected and everyone is sharing.

We need to have related topics, associated articles, popular tags, promoted videos, comments, responses, user details, descriptions, and galleries. User tools, sharing functions, rating abilities and log-in abilities.

We need to have header navigation and convenience navigation and left navigation (with primary, secondary and tertiary! categories). Not to mention ad units. And footers.

To keep all this crap in as useful a state as possible, boxes are actually a pretty reasonable solution -- they keep dissimilar content groups all living peacefully together on the same limited real estate. It's the same strategy the US is using in Iraq to quell sectarian violence.

The problem is, like in Iraq, boxes are a stop-gap and don't address the underlying problem -- too many dissimilar and competing content groups all vying for the same real estate.

Boxes are easy to get rid of: all you need is a little focus and boxes so small they're invisible to the naked eye.

We have navigation (primary, secondary and sometimes even tertiary. Tertiary!), page content, related page content, call-outs, sharing tools, comments,