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I Am User Hear Me Roar

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Chris Heilmann

Member info

User since: 29 Jul 2002

Articles written: 17

Hi there, you want me, I know you do. You got something to sell or you want to

be heard, or you want to share. In any case - you need me. To make matters worse,

you don't know anything about me.

I could be old, young, boy, girl, man, woman,

handicapped or fully abled. I can choose from a great variety of means to use

the internet and technology to control it, and you don't stand much chance to

know what I use.

The things you do to get me

You try hard to get me, no doubt about that. After all, your income or - in sadder

cases - your happiness, depends on it. And to ensure I hear you, you go far. Sometimes

you get pushy, and that puts me off. Let me count the ways you can annoy me:

Don't throw things at me!

One thing you seem to think makes a lot of sense is throwing things at me.

Open new windows, cover my viewport in banners, make everything on the page

jump at me when I touch it with my mouse or tab to it with my keyboard.

You know what? This is annoying. I didn't ask for it, why do you think I want

it when you push harder? I counteract. To avoid wasting my time closing windows,

I use popup blockers. To get rid of things that are unrelated to what I was

looking for I use web filtering or browser extensions that turn off animation

and images of a certain size. Isn't the mere existence of these products hint

enough that I may not want to have things shoved in my face? If you need to use

a new window for something, make me aware of it. Tell me which links open in a

new window, and I know what will happen.

Don't think I am mainly interested in the technology of your site

We are all different. Things that make you go "ouhhhh" might make me go "ewwww"

or "zzzzzz".

It is not as common any longer, but there was a time where a web site without a

long and amazing flash tunnel was no web site. Thank god that this is over.

Still, there are things you use that are amusing or interesting for the first time,

but really bug me when I come back (if you are lucky and I do come back). Don't make me

wait for you, don't fade the page or the navigation in and out endlessly. I might

not have your fancy and fast computer, which means I wait a lot longer than you,

and I don't like waiting, not at all. Time is money. Yes, there are flat rates and

I don't pay by the minute any longer, but I still consider my time precious.

I am not likely to be impressed by the same thing over and over again. You can

impress me for the first time, but please, give me a chance to get rid of that

same thing when I come back. Put it somewhere, in a sitemap for

example, so, if I'd be inclined to see it again, I can have another look at it.

Also, I might not see your fancy thing at all! I might be security aware or

paranoid, or my company is, and have all plug-ins and scripting and whatnot turned

off. If you still want me, give me another way to reach you.

Don't patronize me

I appreciate that you want the best for me. That is nice. But please don't

think that what is best for you, is also best for me. I know what is best for me,

I installed my computer or bought my mobile or my TV set top box, and, if possible,

chose my browser and the plug-ins I want to have. The plug-ins I might have gotten,

because I wanted to reach some content, that was nicely offered to me. Don't

think that making your web site look and behave like your operating system gives

me the same homely feeling it gives you. I willingly came to see your site, I

don't want to change my browser or operating system. Don't block me out, because

I am not like you. You like your design; you think it is the best. I might disagree

and use my own user style sheet to overwrite all that is out there. Can you still

offer me your product or your content? If so, good for us, if not, bad for you.

Don't redecorate my house

I like my browser / surfing device. I chose it, or I got it chosen for me, or

I don't have a chance to change it. Don't take it away from me, or I'll be

miffed. I like to use the back button, when I think the page I surfed to is

not what I wanted. I don't need your page in full screen, if I want that, I can

do that myself. Don't take away my toolbars or my ability to right-click or

shift click an element. You can't win.

    You open your site in an x by y window - I copy and paste the url from the

    properties into my own window

  • You turn off my back button - I use a keyboard shortcut to go back to the previous document.
  • You change my browser history to always go back to your page - I disable Javascript
  • You use a "no right click" script - I disable Javascript

There is no need for us to fight an uneven battle like this. If you give an

important document to someone, you don't re-arrange their desk

first, do you? Why do you think I want you to change my browser? I like it

the way it is, with all my shortcuts, toolbars, sidebars and tabs.

Don't replicate what I already have - and badly at that

I use a browser, and that fabulous thing comes with everything I need: The

ability to move around a document via tabbing, scrolling with my mouse wheel or

my trackball or via the scrollbars, the ability to enter text and send it off to

your server.

I like these controls - a lot! I got used to them, which might have

been a long and painful process, so please don't confuse me by changing them to

fit your design.

I don't need a DHTML scroller that I cannot use with a keyboard,

or that shows no indicator how big the document is. I don't want to search for

form fields and buttons and scrollbars - chances are that you are not able to

style them properly for my browser anyway.

These are vital elements of my surfing

experience, I don't want to think about them, they trigger automated processes in my brain. If you make

me look for them, you take my attention away from your content, and that is what

you don't want, right?

If I want to print out your page, I do so by pressing the cute printer icon of

my browser, or I use my keyboard shortcut, I don't need a link, image or button

sending me to that one, a gadget that only works with javascript anyway. If you

add a "print this" feature, then please give me a proper print version of the

document, with stripped backgrounds, no unnecessary navigation and the inline links

as a list of URLs underneath so I can look them up next time I go online.

If I want to bookmark your site, I can do that, no need for you to give me an

extra javascript link for that, thanks.

Popups I close almost immediately - no need to add a javascript close button.

And if there is a need for a back button, then your concept of navigation failed,

and I am not likely to use it anyways, as my browser comes with a cool back button

and keyboard shortcut to go back to the previous document.

So, how can you get me?

There are some things, that have been and are done successfully throughout the

years of the internet. The biggest one is the big C - content.

Provide me with the content I want

A web site with the right content can look horrid and be a tad harder

to use - I don't care, as I found what I was looking for. The easier to get to

the content, the better.

Write plain text and cut it into easily digestible

chunks rather than 2 pages of corporate mumbo jumbo before I find the one

thing I want.

If it is a download I want, make the download links with version

numbers and sizes available from the very beginning, I promise to read on while

I download!

Provide me with a clean and fast navigation - give me a sitemap to access everything

Your navigation is what takes me by the hand and leads me through your web site.

Don't make me search for it, don't smother me in links I really don't need at

the moment, just make it easy for me to see where I am in your site, and what

else is in this section. Keep the navigation on the same spot and looking

roughly the same and I feel secure and guided without being pushed.

Use the right wording in your navigation, keep it short and simple, I don't need

poetry and metaphors in navigation items.

There is normally no need to allow me to go to every page in the site within

the main navigation - this'll only mean I need to navigate through a lot of links

to find what I want - keep this to the sitemap.

Let me search

I love searching, and a good search feature is perfect if I don't have the time

to navigate through your site - this time. Give me a search function that is

easy to use and prominently available on each page and I promise to use it and

stay a bit.

Make me feel comfortable

Use nice, clean language to help me overcome my original shyness and reluctance to stay long. Use good harmonious

colour schemes and imagery to give me a good feeling about your site - don't forget

to add alternative content for those, should I not be able to see.

Make sure to

keep a nice and consistent look throughout the site.

When there are processes that

need more than one step, provide me with an indicator how far I am in the process

and allow me to go back any time.

Invite me to participate

Give me options to tweak your content to my desires, allow me to get rid of

parts and add others that I am interested in. Tell me what I have looked at before

and alert me when there was an update in that section. Offer me related articles

or products and greet me when I come back to your page next time. Nothing is better

for you and me than me coming back and be reminded of a good experience.

Stay fresh

The home page should not be a static "hello to yaddayaddayadda" page, it has to

be a living and changing element of the site that tells me about changes and

highlights special features and new content. Only that way I can find the

goodies immediately.

Don't cry, I didn't take your toys away

I am aware that your web presence is your baby, and you are proud of it, and

you want to make it interesting for you and for me. That is how you ended up

using cool technological tricks and web design ideas that are the talk of town at

the moment in the first place.

I don't want you to create boring text sites, you

can add cool stuff, just make sure to do so in moderation.

Make sure that

only those who can access the cool enhancements get them, and that they fall back to

a usable HTML construct for everybody. I like nice designs as much as you do,

but I still want headlines in my document. I love navigations that have smooth

rollovers and effects, but I might need those as lists of links at the same time.

Degrade gracefully, as they call it, it is harder to do, but fun to find out how

to do it.

Trust me, for I am user, and you want me.

Currently employed in London as a Lead Front End Developer, Chris has been bouncing around the globe working for several agencies and companies. A web enthusiast from 1997 on workplaces include Munich, London, Santa Monica and San Francisco. More of Chris' writings can be found at and he blogs at

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