Posted by: rolfsky | June 27, 2007

your audience is still made of humans

Over at A List Apart Sharon Lee has written a piece entitled Human-to-Human Design. She encourages the web designer to remember that: “A good website is built on two basic truths—that the internet is an interactive medium and that the end user is in fact human.” Because no article is good without a list, she then provides a set of goals for any design to create an immersive experience:

  • Respect me
  • Tell me a story
  • Engage me
  • Inspire me
  • Enchant me

I agree strongly with her statement that humans are indeed the audience, but there’s much to be learned by stepping back further. The list she provides is the foundation for any type of advertising and could be applied to web as well as I could be applied to a New York Times article. It could similarly be a list from “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. To me this shows that she’s still considering the web something of its own category of experience.

If you really want to boil it down, humans are fairly simple creatures. We like to be entertained, we are stimulated by new knowledge, and anything which helps us expend less energy for the task at hand? Go for it. Any project, system, product or legislation should keep these factors in mind while designing something for a user to interact with, be part of, operate or be party to. The question that Sharon doesn’t ask is whether the site is meaningful for its users. You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t mean you should open a kissing booth. If the substance behind your site isn’t there, you’d better be sure that people are coming for the pig, not the kisses. You can get by on bling for a while but if your site doesn’t ultimately satisfy a basis human need or desire, you’ll find them moving on.

In the coming months and weeks we’ll see if Facebook is really delivering the goods, or simply selling pig’s kisses.

BTW, Sharon’s list can be distilled into two shorter bullet points also suitable for a carjacker or anybody on a blind date:

  • don’t piss me off
  • give me something I want

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