Alan Funk Interface Blog 1-Good Design in the Digital Age

Richard Buchanan’s article “Good Design in the Digital Age” stresses the responsibility of the digital designer’ to immerse the user in an activity that provides a meaningful and comfortable experience. The most effective interface communication relies not only on a visual appealing layout and persuasive information but also on how the content provides a meaningful experience to the user. According to Buchanan, the essential components of good design are usefulness (providing content with an understandable purpose), usability (the ability to easily access and explore the potential aspects of the content) and desirability (the comfortable atmosphere of the content that the user can identify with). With the vast diversity in products and cultural niches in the marketplace, the designer must plan out a good balance of usefulness, usability, and desirability in order to effectively communicate to the user.

According to Buchanan’s article, one of the most essential components of good interaction is reliable navigation in interfaces such as websites. Vincent Flanders often exposes the flaws of confusing and structurally awkward websites. Flanders criticizes “mystery meat navigation” or the misleading hyperlinks to menu options that are disguised inside images or graphics. A perfect example of mystery meat navigation is on the Hermes website indicated on Figure 1 and 2 below. Similar to Buchanan, Alan Cooper argues that reliable navigation in a website will fulfill a user’s requirements regarding usability, usefulness, and desirability. However, Cooper believes that financial or business websites should limit or have no navigation needed when visiting a website. A perfect example of a good navigation in a website is CityMax with its clear typographic hierarchy and straightforward descriptions to tell users what the site is all about (see Figure 3).


Hermes Homepage

(1 Figure) In this homepage from Hermes, the user finds it difficult to navigate, as there is no clear indication where the menu bar is to start clicking on. There doesn’t even appear to a company logo for the user to feel sure that he or she is on the right site.


Hermes Navigation

Figure (2) Once the user clicks on a random image, there is still no indication of any menu options. On the left when the viewer clicks on the thin orange bar with a question mark on top where the menu finally appears. Furthermore, the user cannot read the menu with its overlapping animation, poor choice of typeface and transparent colour contrast.



CityMax Homepage


Figure (3) There is very little scrolling on the homepage of the CityMax website. The identifiable logo, contrasting headings, and well-organized imagery allow the user to navigate easily. CityMax won the web awards from the Web Marketing Association for Outstanding Achievement in Website Development in 2008 and 2009.


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