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Cognitive seduction (a Typology of User Experience Pleasures)

Is Sudoku seductive? Is chess sexy? Is crafting code a turn-on? To
our brains, absolutely. But while most of us don’t use the word
“seductive” in non-sexual contexts, good game designers do. They know
what turns your brain on, and they’re not afraid to use it. They’re
experts at the art of “cognitive arousal”, and if we’re trying to
design better experiences for our users, we should be too.

I’m not talking about using sex to arouse your brain.
I’m talking about the kind of “experiential pleasure” that comes from
solving a puzzle, overcoming a challenge, exploring new territory,
becoming swept up in a narrative, interacting with others in a social
framework, and discovering something new about yourself. I’m talking
about things that engage the brain in a way that Gregory Bateson
describes in The Ecology of Mind, discussing games:

“… they are important emotions that we feel and go through and enjoy and find in some mysterious ways to enlarge our spirit.”

In the book Rules of Play, by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, game designer Marc LeBlanc
defines 8 categories of experiences in a “typology of pleasure”. (A
slightly different approach also described in the book was developed by
Michael J Apter, developer of Reversal Theory.)
I took a moment to tweak the “the kinds of experiential pleasure
players derive from playing games” to apply it to the NON-game
experiences we create for our users.

Typology of Cognitive Pleasures
(in no particular order)

1. Discovery
User experience as exploration of new territory

2. Challenge
User experience as obstacles to overcome, goals lying just beyond current skill and knowledge levels

3. Narrative
User experience as story arc (user on hero’s journey) and character identification

4. Self-expression
User experience as self-discovery and creativity

5. Social framework
User experience as an opportunity for interaction/fellowship with others

6. Cognitive Arousal
User experience as brain teaser

7. Thrill
User experience as risk-taking with a safety net

8. Sensation
User experience as sensory stimulation

9. Triumph
User experience as opportunity to kick ass

10. Flow
User experience as opportunity for complete concentration, extreme focus, lack of self-awareness

11. Accomplishment
User experience as opportunity for productivity and success

12. Fantasy
User experience as alternate reality

13. Learning
User experience as opportunity for growth and improvement

I’m going to add this as one of my gazillion checklists to help stay
focused on what’s going on between the user’s ears, and to keep
motivating me to think about ways to give users a better experience.
Clearly we can’t–and wouldn’t want to–design a user experience that
includes all of those things, but even the best games don’t.
The point is to see if there are some we can add, or at least tune, to
give our users a richer (hi-res) experience.

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Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain

Everyone’s favorite A-list target, Robert Scoble, announced the unthinkable
a few days ago: he will be moderating his comments. But what some
people found far more disturbing was Robert’s wish to make a change in
his life that includes steering clear of “people who were deeply
unhappy” and hanging around people who are happy. The harsh
reaction he’s gotten could be a lesson in scientific ingorance, because
the neuroscience is behind him on this one.

Whether it’s a good move is up to each person to decide, but
I’ve done my best here to offer some facts. [Disclaimer: I’m not an
authority on the brain! I have, however, spent the last 15 years doing
research and applying it, both in my work and also because I have a
serious brain disorder, and my brain knowledge could be a matter of
life and death. Another disclaimer: I haven’t spoken with Robert about
this; I’m simply offering some science that supports the decision he
may have made for entirely different reasons.]

A few things I’ll try to explain in this post:

1) One of the most important recent neuroscience discoveries–“mirror neurons”, and the role they play in a decision like Robert’s

2) The heavily-researched social science phenomenon known as “emotional contagion”

3) Ignorance and misperceptions around the idea of “happy people”


Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons have been referred to by scientists like V.S. Rmachandran as one of the most important neuroscientific breakthroughs of recent history. This Nova video is a great introduction, but here’s the condensed version:

There is now strong evidence to suggest that humans have the same
type of “mirror neurons” found in monkeys. It’s what these neurons do
that’s amazing–they activate in the same way when you’re watching
someone else do something as they do when you’re doing it yourself!
This mirroring process/capability is thought to be behind our ability
to empathize, but you can imagine the role these neurons have played in
keeping us alive as a species. We learn from watching others. We learn from imitating (mirroring) others. The potential problem, though, is that these neurons go happily about their business of imitating others without our conscious intention.

Think about that…

Although the neuroscientific findings are new, your sports coach and
your parents didn’t need to know the cause to recognize the effects:

“Choose your role models carefully.”
“Watching Michael Jordan will help you get better.”
“You’re hanging out with the wrong crowd; they’re a bad influence.”
“Don’t watch people doing it wrong… watch the experts!”

We’ve all experienced it. How often have you found yourself sliding
into the accent of those around you? Spend a month in England and even
a California valley girl sounds different. Spend a week in Texas and
even a native New Yorker starts slowing down his speech. How often have
you found yourself laughing, dressing, skiing like your closest friend?
Has someone ever observed that you and a close friend or significant
other had similar mannerisms? When I was in junior high school, it was
tough for people to tell my best friends and I apart on the phone–we
all sounded so much alike that we could fool even our parents.

But the effect of our innate ability and need to imitate goes
way past teenage phone tricks. Spend time with a nervous, anxious
person and physiological monitoring would most likely show you
mimicking the anxiety and nervousness, in ways that affect your brain
and body in a concrete, measurable way. Find yourself in a room full of
pissed off people and feel the smile slide right off your face. Listen
to people complaining endlessly about work, and you’ll find yourself
starting to do the same. How many of us have been horrified to suddenly
realize that we’ve spent the last half-hour caught up in a gossip
session–despite our strong aversion to gossip? The behavior of others
we’re around is nearly irresistible.

When we’re consciously aware and diligent, we can fight this. But
the stress of maintaining that conscious struggle against an
unconscious, ancient process is a non-stop stressful drain on our
mental, emotional, and physical bandwidth. And no, I’m not suggesting
that we can’t or should’nt spend time with people who are angry,
negative, critical, depressed, gossiping, whatever. Some (including my
sister and father) chose professions (nurse practitioner and cop,
respectively) that demand it. And some (like my daughter) volunteer to
help those who are suffering (in her case, the homeless). Some people
don’t want to avoid their more hostile family members. But in those
situations–where we choose to be with people who we do not
want to mirror–we have to be extremely careful! Nurses, cops, mental
health workers, EMTs, social workers, red cross volunteers, fire
fighters, psychiatrists, oncologists, etc. are often at a higher risk
(in some cases, WAY higher) for burnout, alcholism, divorce, stress, or
depression unless they take specific steps to avoid getting too sucked
in to be effective.

So, when Robert says he wants to spend time hanging around “happy
people” and keeping his distance from “deeply unhappy” people, he’s
keeping his brain from making–over the long term–negative structural
and chemical changes. Regarding the effect of mirror neurons and
emotional contagion on personal performance, neurologist Richard Restak
offers this advice:

“If you want to accomplish something that demands determination
and endurance, try to surround yourself with people possessing these
qualities. And try to limit the time you spend with people given to
pessimism and expressions of futility. Unfortunately, negative emotions
exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones,
thanks to the phenomena of emotional contagion.”

This sounds harsh, and it is, but it’s his recommendation based on
the facts as the neuroscientists interpret them today. This is not new
age self-help–it’s simply the way brains work.

Emotional Contagion

Steven Stosny, an expert on road rage, is quoted in Restak’s book:

“Anger and resentment are thet most contagious of emotions,”
according to Stonsy. “If you are near a resentful or angry person, you
are more prone to become resentful or angry yourself. If one driver
engages in angry gestures and takes on the facial expressions of
hostility, surrounding drivers will unconsciously imitate the
behavior–resulting in an escalation of anger and resentment in all of
the drivers. Added to this, the drivers are now more easily startled as
a result of the outpouring of adrenaline accompanying their anger. The
result is a temper tantrum that can easily escalate into road rage.”

If you were around one or more people with a potentially harmful
contagious disease, you would probably take steps to protect yourself
in some way. And if you were the contagious one, you’d likely
take steps to protect others until you were sure the chance of
infecting someone else was gone.

But while we all have a lot of respect for physical biological contagions, we do NOT have much respect for physical emotional
contagions. (I said “physical”, because science has known for quite
some time that “emotions” are not simply a fuzzy-feeling concept, but
represent physical changes in the brain.)

From a paper on Memetics and Social Contagion,

“…social scientific research has largely confirmed the thesis
that affect, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour can indeed spread through
populations as if they were somehow infectious. Simple exposure
sometimes appears to be a sufficient condition for social transmission
to occur. This is the social contagion thesis; that sociocultural
phenomena can spread through, and leap between, populations more like
outbreaks of measels or chicken pox than through a process of rational
choice.”

Emotional contagion is considered one of the primary drivers of
group/mob behavior, and the recent work on “mirror neurons” helps
explain the underlying cause. But it’s not just about groups. From a
Cambridge University Press book:
“When we are talking to someone who is depressed it may make us feel
depressed, whereas if we talk to someone who is feeling self-confident
and buoyant we are likely to feel good about ourselves. This
phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, is identified here, and
compelling evidence for its affect is offered from a variety of
disciplines – social and developmental psychology, history,
cross-cultural psychology, experimental psychology, and
psychopathology.”

[For a business management perspective, see the Yale School of Management paper titled The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion In Groups]

Can any of us honestly say we haven’t experienced emotional
contagion? Even if we ourselves haven’t felt our energy drain from
being around a perpetually negative person, we’ve watched it happen to
someone we care about. We’ve noticed a change in ourselves or our loved
ones based on who we/they spend time with. We’ve all known at least one
person who really did seem able to “light up the room with
their smile,” or another who could “kill the mood” without saying a
word. We’ve all found ourselves drawn to some people and not others,
based on how we felt around them, in ways we weren’t able to articulate.

So, Robert’s choice makes sense if he is concerned about the
damaging effects of emotional contagion. But… that still leaves one
big issue: is “catching” only positive emotions a Good Thing? Does this
mean surrounding ourselves with “fake” goodness and avoiding the truth?
Does surrounding ourselves with “happy people” mean we shut down
critical thinking skills?

Happy People

The notion of “Happy People” was tossed around in the
Robert-Lost-His-Mind posts as something ridiculous at best, dangerous
at worst. One blogger equated “happy people” with “vacuous”. The idea
seems to be that “happy people” implies those who are oblivious to the
realities of life, in a fantasy of their own creation, and without the
ability to think critically. The science, however, suggests just the
opposite.

Neuroscience has made a long, intense study of the brain’s fear
system–one of the oldest, most primitive parts of our brain. Anger and
negativity usually stem from the anxiety and/or fear response in the
brain, and one thing we know for sure–when the brain thinks its about
to be eaten or smashed by a giant boulder, there’s no time to stop and think! In many ways, fear/anger and the ability to think rationally and logically are almost mutually exclusive.
Those who stopped to weigh the pros and cons of a flight-or-fight
decision were eaten, and didn’t pass on their afraid-yet-thoughtful
genes. Many neuroscientists (and half the US population) believes that
it is exactly this fear != rational thought that best explains the
outcome of the last US presidential election… but I digress.

Happines is associated most heavily with the left (i.e. logical) side of the brain, while anger is associated with the right (emotional, non-logical) side of the brain. From a Society for Neuroscience article on Bliss and the Brain:

“Furthermore, studies suggest that certain people’s ability to
see life through rose-colored glasses links to a heightened left-sided
brain function. A scrutiny of brain activity indicates that individuals
with natural positive dispositions have trumped up activity in the left
prefrontal cortex compared with their more negative counterparts. “

In other words, happy people are better able to think logically.

And apparently happier = healthier:

“Evidence suggests that the left-siders may better handle
stressful events on a biological level. For example, studies show that
they have a higher function of cells that help defend the body, known
as natural killer cells, compared with individuals who have greater
right side activity. Left-sided students who face a stressful exam have
a smaller drop in their killer cells than right-siders. Other research
indicates that generally left-siders may have lower levels of the
stress hormone, cortisol.”

And while we’re dispelling the Happy=Vacuous myth, let’s look at a couple more misperceptions:

“Happy people aren’t critical.”
“Happy people don’t get angry.”
“Happy people are obedient.”
“Happy people can’t be a disruptive force for change.”

Hmmm… one of the world’s leading experts in the art of happiness is the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Just about everyone who hears him speak is struck by how, well, happy he is. How he can describe–with laughter–some of the most traumatizing events of his past. Talk about perspective

But he is quite outspoken with his criticism of China. The thing is, he doesn’t believe that criticism requires anger, or that being happy means you can’t be a disruptive influence for good. On happiness, he has this to say:

“The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one
thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect.
There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are
relative. Realizing this gives you hope.”

And among the “happy people”, there’s Mahatma Gandhi, a force for change that included non-violent but oh-most-definitely-disobedient behavior. A few of my favorite Gandhi quotes:

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.

But then there’s the argument that says “anger” is morally (and intellectually) superior to “happy”. The American Psychological Association has this to say on anger:

“People who are easily angered generally have what some
psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that
they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration,
inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and
they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust:
for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.”

Of course it’s still a myth that “happy people” don’t get angry. Of
course they do. Anger is often an appropriate response. But there’s a
Grand Canyon between a happy-person-who-gets-angry and an
unhappy-angry-person. So yes, we get angry. Happiness is not our only
emotion, it is simply the outlook we have chosen to cultivate because
it is usually the most effective, thoughtful, healthy, and productive.

And there’s this one we hear most often, especially in reference to
comment moderation–“if you can’t say whatever the hell you want to
express your anger, you can’t be authentic and honest.” While that may
be true, here’s what the psychologists say:

“Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous myth. Some people
use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that
“letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and
does nothing to help you (or the person you’re angry with) resolve the
situation.

It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and
then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over
the edge.”

And finally, another Ghandi quote:

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

If the scientists are right, I might also add,

Be around the change you want to see in the world.

Havingfun_1

Remember the flight attendant’s advice… you must put on your own oxygen mask first.

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Notes

String theory cont’d

What is largely beyond question, and is of primary importance to the journey
described in my book The Elegant Universe, is that even if one
accepts the debatable reasoning of the staunch reductionist, principle is one
thing and practice quite another. Almost everyone agrees that finding the
T.O.E. would in no way mean that psychology, biology, geology, chemistry, or
even physics had been solved or in some sense subsumed. The universe is such a
wonderfully rich and complex place that the discovery of the final theory, in
the sense we are describing here, would not spell the end of science.

Quite the contrary: The discovery of the T.O.E.—the ultimate explanation of
the universe at its most microscopic level, a theory that does not rely on any
deeper explanation—would provide the firmest foundation on which to
build our understanding of the world. Its discovery would mark a
beginning, not an end. The ultimate theory would provide an unshakable pillar
of coherence forever assuring us that the universe is a comprehensible
place.

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Notes

A Theory of Everything?

The fundamental particles of the universe that physicists have
identified—electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and so on—are the
“letters” of all
matter. Just like their linguistic counterparts, they appear to have no
further
internal substructure. String theory proclaims otherwise. According to
string
theory, if we could examine these particles with even greater
precision—a
precision many orders of magnitude beyond our present technological
capacity—we would find that each is not pointlike but instead
consists of a tiny,
one-dimensional loop. Like an infinitely thin rubber band, each particle
contains a vibrating, oscillating, dancing filament that physicists have named a
string.

In the figure at right, we illustrate this essential idea of string theory by
starting with an ordinary piece of matter, an apple, and repeatedly magnifying
its structure to reveal its ingredients on ever smaller scales. String theory
adds the new microscopic layer of a vibrating loop to the previously known
progression from atoms through protons, neutrons, electrons, and quarks.

Although it is by no means obvious, this simple replacement of point-particle
material constituents with strings resolves the incompatibility between quantum
mechanics and general relativity (which, as currently formulated, cannot
both be right
). String theory thereby unravels the central Gordian knot of
contemporary theoretical physics. This is a tremendous achievement, but it is
only part of the reason string theory has generated such excitement.


Field of dreams

In Einstein’s day, the strong and weak forces had not yet been discovered, but
he found the existence of even two distinct forces—gravity and
electromagnetism—deeply troubling. Einstein did not accept that nature is
founded on such an extravagant design. This launched his 30-year voyage in
search of the so-called unified field theory that he hoped would show
that these two forces are really manifestations of one grand underlying
principle. This quixotic quest isolated Einstein from the mainstream of
physics, which, understandably, was far more excited about delving into the
newly emerging framework of quantum mechanics. He wrote to a friend in the
early 1940s, “I have become a lonely old chap who is mainly known because he
doesn’t wear socks and who is exhibited as a curiosity on special
occasions.”

Einstein was simply ahead of his time. More than half a century later, his
dream of a unified theory has become the Holy Grail of modern physics. And a
sizeable part of the physics and mathematics community is becoming increasingly
convinced that string theory may provide the answer. From one principle—that
everything at its most microscopic level consists of combinations of vibrating
strands—string theory provides a single explanatory framework capable of
encompassing all forces and all matter.

String theory proclaims, for instance, that the observed particle
properties—that is, the different masses and other properties of
both the
fundamental particles and the force particles associated with the four
forces
of nature (the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and
gravity)—are a reflection of the various ways in which a string
can vibrate.
Just as the strings on a violin or on a piano have resonant frequencies
at
which they prefer to vibrate—patterns that our ears sense as
various musical
notes and their higher harmonics—the same holds true for the
loops of string
theory. But rather than producing musical notes, each of the preferred
mass and
force charges are determined by the string’s oscillatory pattern. The
electron
is a string vibrating one way, the up-quark is a string vibrating
another way,
and so on.

Far from being a collection of chaotic experimental facts, particle properties
in string theory are the manifestation of one and the same physical feature:
the resonant patterns of vibration—the music, so to speak—of fundamental
loops of string. The same idea applies to the forces of nature as well. Force
particles are also associated with particular patterns of string vibration and
hence everything, all matter and all forces, is unified under the same rubric
of microscopic string oscillations—the “notes” that strings can play.


 
A theory to end theories 

For the first time in the history of physics we therefore have a framework with
the capacity to explain every fundamental feature upon which the universe is
constructed. For this reason string theory is sometimes described as possibly
being the “theory of everything” (T.O.E.) or the “ultimate” or “final” theory.
These grandiose descriptive terms are meant to signify the deepest possible
theory of physics—a theory that underlies all others, one that does not
require or even allow for a deeper explanatory base.

In practice, many string theorists take a more down-to-earth approach and think
of a T.O.E. in the more limited sense of a theory that can explain the
properties of the fundamental particles and the properties of the forces by
which they interact and influence one another. A staunch reductionist would
claim that this is no limitation at all, and that in principle absolutely
everything, from the big bang to daydreams, can be described in terms of
underlying microscopic physical processes involving the fundamental
constituents of matter. If you understand everything about the ingredients, the
reductionist argues, you understand everything.

The reductionist philosophy easily ignites heated debate. Many find it
fatuous
and downright repugnant to claim that the wonders of life and the
universe are
mere reflections of microscopic particles engaged in a pointless dance
fully
choreographed by the laws of physics. Is it really the case that
feelings of
joy, sorrow, or boredom are nothing but chemical reactions in the
brain—reactions between molecules and atoms that, even more
microscopically, are
reactions between some of the fundamental particles, which are really
just
vibrating strings?

In response to this line of criticism, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg
cautions in Dreams of a Final Theory:

At the other end of the spectrum are the opponents of reductionism who are
appalled by what they feel to be the bleakness of modern science. To whatever
extent they and their world can be reduced to a matter of particles or fields
and their interactions, they feel diminished by that knowledge….I would not
try to answer these critics with a pep talk about the beauties of modern
science. The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal. It has to be
accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the
world works.

Some agree with this stark view, some don’t.

Others have tried to argue that developments such as chaos theory tell us that
new kinds of laws come into play when the level of complexity of a system
increases. Understanding the behavior of an electron or quark is one thing;
using this knowledge to understand the behavior of a tornado is quite another.
On this point, most agree. But opinions diverge on whether the diverse and
often unexpected phenomena that can occur in systems more complex than
individual particles truly represent new physical principles at work, or
whether the principles involved are derivative, relying, albeit in a terribly
complicated way, on the physical principles governing the enormously large
number of elementary constituents.

My own feeling is that they do not represent new and independent laws of
physics. Although it would be hard to explain the properties of a tornado in
terms of the physics of electrons and quarks, I see this as a matter of
calculational impasse, not an indicator of the need for new physical laws. But
again, there are some who disagree with this view.

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The Search Lurch: Have We Become Lazy Googlers or Smarter Web Researchers?

Question: As the power and influence of search engines such
as Google increase, will Web users bother going to homepages and trying to
figure out each site’s navigation scheme? Or with our increasingly
shortened attention spans and demands on our time, will we just Google
everything?

Nielsen: Users have never wanted separate interaction designs
on each Web site, and the associated learning overhead. That’s why it has
always been a strong guideline to comply with user expectations and avoid
deviant design. Search engines are simply making this trend stronger; they are
not its cause. I know from user testing that one of the reasons users have been
embracing search engines so warmly is as a way to liberate themselves from
awkward and clumsy design on individual Web sites. One user told me: “I
don’t want to navigate this information the way this Web site wants me to;
I just want to go straight to the page I want, so I’m going to search for
it.”

Garrett: I don’t think we should lament the passing of
an era in which users had to master navigation schemes in order to use sites. In
some ways, search may be the best thing that ever happened to
navigation—we’re seeing lots of sites now paring their navigation
back to just what’s really necessary and essential to user needs, rather
than trying to cram an entire site map into the left rail on every page.

Calishain: I don’t think they’ll Google
everything. I think instead what will happen—what is happening—is
that standards are developing for site navigation. Users will not have to grasp
new site navigation schemes since they’ll get used to going to a site and
looking for the nav bar HERE and the content HERE and the search box HERE. I
think people understand that search engines don’t include the entire Web.
As long as that’s understood, they’ll further understand they
can’t Google everything. They’ll have to explore sites.

McGovern: I think people everywhere are very impatient when
they’re on the Web. If they don’t get what they’re looking for in
the first page of search results, they’re not very likely to go to the
second page. Very few people will use advanced search. I haven’t seen this
basic pattern of behavior change in the last five years.

Q: Do you think it’s futile for site designers and
information architects to struggle with developing effective navigation schemes
for their sites? In other words, is search engine optimization becoming more
important than navigation optimization?

Calishain: Good lord, I hope not. A truly effective navigation
scheme, it seems to me, should prove effective for both a human visitor and a
spidering ‘bot. The challenge is to build a structure that a ‘bot can
appreciate and a human can understand, and build a vocabulary of description on
your site that a human can appreciate and a ‘bot can understand. I believe
these are complementary aims.

McGovern: No. In my experience, there is a difference
between the behavior of someone when they are on Google and when they are on an
ordinary Web site. People may use Google to find a type of Web site, but then
they are likely to navigate around it if it’s well-designed. They will
often only resort to using search on that site if the navigation is poor.

Garrett: Navigation still has a very important role to play.
First of all, there is a large audience for whom search is not their preferred
method of information retrieval. Secondly, navigation helps users make
connections between content elements that they might not otherwise make. Search
is great when you’re looking for a particular piece of information;
navigation helps you find information you didn’t know you were looking
for.

Nielsen: Good navigation is still essential, especially
local navigation to information in the neighborhood of the current page. First,
search engines are not magic, so they don’t always lead users to exactly
the right page. Sometimes users need to move around a little inside the site to
zero in on the stuff they want. Second, Web sites often have additional
information to offer that’s spread among multiple pages. This is especially
true for B2B sites where products and services are too complex for a single
product page to offer everything users want. There’s a need to navigate to
whitepapers, spec sheets, and much more, and there’s also often a need to
navigate between members of a product family before users can decide which one
is the most appropriate for them.

Q: On the premise that Web users are already Googling more,
navigating less, what would you recommend to site designers to make their sites
more usable and searchable right now?

McGovern: Creating a good navigation will always be a core
challenge for the Web designer. What is often forgotten is the relationship
between well-organized content and search. The better organized and written your
content is, the more searchable it is. And it’s not an either/or. Search
and navigation needs to work in tandem, with some people using people to get to
a certain part of the Web site, then using navigation to go further.

Nielsen: Good usability has always been essential, since
people have always left sites that were too complicated. The rise of search has
simply lowered the threshold of what’s considered “too
complicated” a good deal because users have nine other sites at their
fingertips on the SERP [search engine results page]. There is now more of a
tendency for users to dip into sites briefly for a very quick visit of 1–5
pages. As a result of this information-snacking behavior, Web sites must design
to be attractive snacks and offer value for these ultra-short visits.

Calishain: If there are any pre-existing organization
structures that would work on your site (organizing by date, alphabetization,
card catalog number, etc.), use them. Consider using a site map. Have a Home
button on each page. Put an About button somewhere, no matter how bloody obvious
you think your site’s purpose is. Make sure that if someone does
come to your site via Google that they have some way to quickly get to a summary
of what your site is all about.

Garrett: It used to be that we could reasonably assume that
most of the audience seeing a page deep in the site will have already seen the
home page, a section page of some kind, and possibly some related content. As
search engines become more effective, we have to acknowledge that users may not
have all that context when they come to the page, and design every page as if it
were the very first page the user sees in their experience of our site. The
homepage is no longer the only place where we have to make a good first
impression.