Ever been in the situation where you’ve missed some valuable information because you didn’t realise there was something on the other side of the paper? Or the second page was missing? Or even that two pages were stuck together? It happens.
There’s even more of a risk of this happening on a website, because there’s no equivalent physical presence. Visitors don’t know if your site has 10 pages or 10,000. So you must make sure that you guide them through everything that’s there, step by step. Unfortunately, many gimmicks used by thoughtless website designers seem to have no function other than to hide material. Why do we let this happen?
Here are some examples. “Tabs” on a product page. Just what is going on here? You see a box labelled “Description”, and then there’s a description of a product. You read that section. And you scroll on. What you didn’t notice (or did notice, but have already forgotten) is that next to where it said “Description” were little “tabs” saying “Specs”, “Applications”, etc. If you went back up and clicked on these, the description would slide out of the way and be replaced by other valuable information …which for no discernible reason, was hidden by default. This makes no sense. Is someone trying to save on pixels or something?
Then there are slideshows. You see a picture of a blue widget, and you think: “OK, this website (or this page) is about blue widgets”. And based on that, you either scroll down or leave. Ah, but if only you’d hung around for another five seconds! Then you’d have seen the picture of a blue widget fade into a red widget, and you’d have realised that there was more to this website (or this page) than blue widgets. But nobody stays that long. And all that expensive effort involved in getting someone to your site was wasted.
Then there’s the calamity of valuable resources being put in some sidebar which nobody ever sees. Shouldn’t they be part of the main text? I’ve looked at the photo, I’ve read the sales blurb, and now you’re asking me to fill in your enquiry form. Hang on, I need to see some basic technical specifications first. Where are they? Oh, forget this, I think I’ll go somewhere else.
What a tragedy. If only I’d noticed at the start, or scrolled back up to the top of the page now, I might have registered that stuck in the right-hand sidebar where nobody looks were a whole series of sad, neglected PDF datasheet links…