Optimizing Your Graphical User Interface – Case Study
Designers like cool widgets. These can hinder GUI optimization, however. In the end, your site serves the purpose of your visitor, not the purpose of your designer.
— Phil Chavanne, CTO
During this user experience session, we cover our interaction with the home page of the Accenture website, a beautiful site that presents a couple of issues with the optimization of the Graphic User Interface.
We downloaded the site and started our journey, scrolling down the home page, first using the scroll bar, then the mouse wheel.
At first the scroll down motion is smooth and predictable. At some point however, we enter a wide section of negative space, with some sort of a greater-than symbol.
As we continue to roll the mouse wheel, the scrolling down motion stops, and the V expands on the screen.
Our discovery experience is interrupted. There is no way to bypass the animation, we have to let it play to the end. The mouse wheel doesn’t bring us down the page anymore, the man-machine interface has switched function.
At the end of the animation, we reach another area with an edge-to-edge photo; and the same animation but reverted: the scroll down motion stops, and we are forced to go along with the animation until it reaches its conclusion.
Now we back our way up using the mouse, and we meet the same issues. We have to obey the will of the web designer and play the animations till they end, before we are allowed to continue our quest for information.
Observations on User Experience
All this happens in a matter of seconds, but during this time, our user experience has been subjected to 2 bothersome events:
(a) An unpredictable interruption in the operation of the mouse wheel;
(b) We were forced to obey the web designer’s will, instead of going on with our own discovery journey.
In our opinion, this design feature violates a couple of well-proven GUI rules.
3 Well-Proven GUI OPTIMIZATION Rules
- A user interface must remain predictable and consistent. A mouse wheel is designed to scroll up and down a screen. When it stops working as predicted, its regular operation seems disabled, and this leads our mind to wonder if something is broken in the man-machine linkage.
- Visitors are on your website to discover information, not to dwell on how cool your design is. When you invert these priorities, you impose your will on their intent
This is the case of sliders with layers of textual information which force users to wait for the next layer to display. Your will, not theirs.
If they can, they will bypass these sliders, and you will lose an opportunity to provide them the information for which they can to your website in the first place. GUI optimization seeks to help your visitors accomplish the purpose for which they came to your site.
- Do not interrupt the discovery journey of your visitors. Offer them options, crossroads, places of choice, but keep the flow going. No one likes to be interrupted.
We love things flowing smoothly. We dislike unwanted, unpredictable events that disrupt our activities.
This is a great website. But violating these GUI optimization rules does not serve the purpose of the website. Using this animation serves more the purpose of the designer than the purpose of the visitor.