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Will they remember?

... duh... could you repeat the question?

I just came in from an online "designers" conference and what did I learn?

First off, I learned that very few people remember things.

They remember, but they can't remember what they remember. Of all the people at the conference there were only two who actually remembered important details about the web pages they had been to recently. Oh, they remembered bits and snatches, but NOT important information. Only one person could actually reference the actual site and its address.

It's ok to wow the reader or even dazzle them with "coolness" -- but if you didn't gain a foothold in that reader's mind -- that precious real estate we call mental positioning -- you lose. In some cases you lose big.

What was the question again?

The other overwhelming impression I got from this conference was the ratio of questions to answers. Everyone had questions. All attendees have web savvy, all have done their share of surfing, they all know how to search, yet they're filled with questions. Questions that designers at this point should already have the answers to. I went to the session to pick up information... and ended up providing it instead.

It's important to quest for information with a decided goal in mind. So much affects the reader that they actually don't see. Alex White puts it every elegantly in his book Type in Use saying:

"So what is [good] communicative design? It is the presentation of information in a clear, un-self-concious way. The reader must not be aware of the act of reading."

Alex has hit the nail squarely and powerfully on the head. I continually ask questions. I'm continually aware of my own reactions to the visual window. I try to inspire my readers and workshop attendees to develop this same 5th sense. Yet the reader should never be aware of the reading activity.

Do you suddenly discover that you're two pages into the text information? Or, do you begin to get restless after a paragraph or two... letting outside stimulus distract you, wanting to close this and move on to the next activity. This is the true designers' worst nightmare.

Once you're aware of things people won't see, you're armed with a different kind of design weapons. Ones that persuade.

Once you see the subtleties of masterful directional devices, and how they keep that reader interested, you'll understand how to wield literal user interaction tools to reinforce reader eye flow and a logical presentation of the web page's most important aspects.

Next: Visual Crimes


Fred Showker toured with DGEF (Dynamic Graphics Educational Foundation) from 1989 through 1995 conducting seminars throughout the U.S. on Creative Layout Techniques, Web Design and Newsletter Design.

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