Flow in Web Design--Chapter 2 from Speed Up Your Site (5/5) WebReference.com
Speed Up Your Site, Chapter 2: Flow in Web Design
Enabling Flow with Web Design
As you have seen, flow occurs under a limited set of circumstances. Users can experience flow only if their trips through cyberspace feel seamless, with fast response, immediate feedback, and few distractions. Users who experience flow feel their skills match available challenges. To enable flow, make sure your site has the following traits:
SpeedInteractive speed is a significant factor in all models of user satisfaction. Make your pages load quickly and minimize the variability of delay. Be especially careful to avoid sluggish response after your pages have loaded.
FeedbackProvide fast, unambiguous feedback for user input and the following elements:
Links (include hover, visited, and active styles)
Navigation widgets (menus, etc.)
Display performance variables (server load, cache state, page/file sizes, download progress bars)
Clear navigationInclude signpostssuch as site maps, breadcrumb trails, and "you are here" landmarksto help visitors find their way so they can easily form a mental model of your site.
Match challenges to skillsOffer an adaptable/adjustable interface that gives users control over their environment's complexity that is appropriate to their skill level. Stage their experience. Make it easy at first, but offer more complex challenges as users gain experience.
SimplicityUncluttered layout and minimal features reduce the attention load.
ImportanceMake your offerings appear important and credible with professional design, impressive clients, and outside recognition.
Design for fun and utilityOffer a rich yet responsive experience, plus tools to help users accomplish their goals quickly and easily.
Avoid cutting-edge technologyCutting-edge technology gets in the way of user goals. Research shows that users don't want it; they just want to get their information.
Minimize animationIt distracts users, who often have limited attention.
No matter how you slice the performance pie, it is clear that to ensure that you have satisfied, repeat customers online, you have to design for speed, feedback, and flow. Offering a consistently fast-loading web site with unambiguous feedback can contribute to a compelling online experience.
Give your users a sense of perceived control by offering them challenges matched to their skills. Use a simple layout with minimal distractions, offer interesting well-chunked and delineated content, and make navigation and performance transparent. Happy users are loyal users who will keep coming back to purchase your products and use your services.
http://elab.vanderbilt.edu/Vanderbilt's eLab research center is devoted to studying the Internet, including flow.
http://www.hcibib.org/HCI Bibliography features a searchable database of human-computer interaction resources.
http://www.humanfactors.com/Human Factors International has an excellent free monthly newsletter on user interface design issues.
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[Andy King is the founder and newsletter editor of WebReference.com. The companion Web site for this book can be found at: www.websiteoptimization.com.]
Created: February 5, 2003
Revised: February 21, 2003