What our home pages are really saying (a dialog)

Imagine a website could talk. Here is what most of the conversations would be like.

Often when I’m designing I try to imagine a screen interaction as a face-to-face dialog between two people. Specifically, I try to imagine that the person visiting or using the screen is trying to have a conversation with a person representing the website or software the screen is part of. Of course, real-life conversation is by its nature reactive…we can instantly respond to a direct question and generally structure our responses based on where the conversation is going. When we design, we don’t have this luxury, and so we are left with designing a one-sided static conversation. This is hard!…and the results are often stilted and not at all like a real human conversation.

In the conversation below I imagine what it would be like to talk to most home pages…you know the ones…with the giant “Sign Up” button that commands your attention above all else.

(BTW: the following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Make them Care!)

Setting: The beautifully designed lobby entrance to your company’s corporate headquarters.

You: “Hmm…I just found this place by taking a path that looked interesting. You do software or something?”

Him (Salesperson in building lobby): “We offer amazing Software!”

You: “Ok, what is it?”

Him: “Sign up Now”

You: “Um…what does it do?”

Him: “Sign up Now!”

You: “How does it work?”

Him: “No obligation or credit card necessary!”

You: “I’m trying to figure out if this thing can work for me.”

Him: ” Did I mention it’s free to sign up?”

You: “Ok, what does it look like?”

Him: “Here’s a tiny screenshot you can’t see any detail on. Sign up Now!”

You: “You’re not answering any of the questions I have.”

Him: “Sign up Now!”

You: “I’m done here.”

Him: “Sign up Now!”

Published: October 20th, 2011