Visitor Centered Web Design

Visitor Centered

What is a visitor? If you are reading this it means you are a visitor to this website. Or, from a slightly different perspective, you are a user of the website. That was easy, but what do terms like user centered or visitor friendly mean?

Let's imagine you come to my home for a cup of tea or coffee. You may not share my taste in interior design, care for the color of my living room walls, the pictures hanging there, my carpet, or my furniture. Just the same you're not expecting to be able to do much about that. That's life. Anyhow, let's say for whatever reason all I have for you to drink is black coffee which you don't particularly care for, even though it would be very easy for me to set out milk or sugar on the table for you. Read: visitor unfriendly. If I am at all visitor centered and since this is Maui, I'll set out not only milk and sugar, white and brown, but also honey, cinnamon and nutmeg powder. Now you have choices. You can make your coffee the way you like it. I call this being visitor centered or visitor friendly. For a website you could also say user friendly.

Often I'll visit a website where a slideshow starts up automatically and continues non-stop. Even where the pictures are nice I might also like the option of pausing or stopping the show when I want to move on to read information on the page without being distracted. Maybe this is my second visit to the site and the slideshow I've already seen is now more a distraction than something of interest. Maybe I find the slideshow moving too fast or too slow. In any case, like the visitor to the house where the only way the coffee served is black, I have no options.

As a user centered or visitor friendly web designer if I needed to present a slideshow I'd present it in a way that would give the visitor or user as much choice as possible, one that they would be able to start, stop, or pause at will.

User centered design goes beyond this. It designs so that if visitors who are visually impaired decide to make the text larger the rest of the page retains its proportions and doesn't look weird. User friendly design understands the way a website meets the eye can vary greatly from person to person as well as from device to device and tries to accommodate.

One of the challenges for us is in trying to see websites we create in the many different ways our diverse users will. Consideration and respect for the visitor is something it doesn't pay to ignore.