The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Are users blind?

– January 20th, 2005 –

There’s currently a lot of talk about whether users are blind to this, blind to that, don’t look at this, ignore that. So I ask you, what do they look at?

A while ago I also commented that users generally don’t read and use visuals clues to access the content they are looking for. Usability designers go blue in the face preaching this very theory but typographer’s have been doing this for centuries. It really is nothing new. So, what’s my point?

Well, i’m currently at the starting points for my article for Design In Flight. One of the sections in this article is going to be about Access Structure, from a typographic angle. I won’t give too much away as i’m sure Andy will want you to buy the magazine ;-).

Basically Access Structure is just that - how people access content. In book design access structure is made up of several page components - folios, running heads, content pages, index etc - in addition to typographic heirachy. A lot of these conventions have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. They are conventions that people, and let’s remember that users are people, have been used to looking at for that duration. (more detail on this in the upcoming article)

I think we, an industry, can work a lot harder so that our readers/users can access the content they want quickly and effectively.

Instead of looking towards usability gurus and modern web accessibility practice, what can we get from the past?

What can we learn from book designers, typographers, signage and information designers that we can then apply to modern website and application design so that our users are not blind to the content, but use it? My guess is, a lot.

Filed in: design.

Further reading