User Interference

There's a lot about todays web-site interfaces that bug me.  First, let me say that many sites are utterly fantastic and its not the lack of content or style (that plagues many home page sites for example).  It's the sheer overload of unrelated information that makes sites practically indecipherable.

Back in the 'old' days before GUI's there was this thing called text.  Back before there were guidelines and other supremely popular apps from which you could borrow/lift your app's look and feel, there were apps that took over control of your entire machine, where every app was its own domain, where every app had its own rules determining how you could or could not interact with it.

Let's just say, things were bad.  Of course, nobody knew it then.  Everyone just accepted it as the way things were.  Then GUI's came into vogue, there was the Lisa and Mac that showed what a consistent user interface could do for productivity.  Then we had nearly a decade of UI bliss. 

Then came the WEB, and we are back in undiscovered territory.  Interfaces are a mishmash of individual designers whims.  You cannot go between sites and carry forward any knowledge or understanding about how to interact.  Sure, there are buttons to click and fields to enter, but do the buttons always look like buttons and are the fields so obvious?

Every day I visit many sites on the web, and every time I click between them I have to shift mental gears and remember how to navigate each.  Some are so crowded with uninformative text and ads that its near impossible to recognize what you need to do.

Some have menus in side lists, some on top, some on bottom, some embedded in clusters surrounded by ad copy or informative messages.  Some have one or more or all at the same time.  Most 'buttons' are text links to other pages, etc, and they are hard to distinguish from other forms of text cramming a page.  I visited one site for over a month before I realized that you could actually register an account and log in, it was that difficult to recognize what I was seeing on the page.

I guess,  I just wonder if most site designers actually know what they are doing.  I mean there is a lot of knowledge that can be acquired in the design and layout of pages for books, magazines, billboards, etc.  There must be something like that by now for web page design.  Or are we all just flying blind?