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Web Creep

05 Jun 2003 by LukeW

“These projects, not to mention the experience of watching TV lately, have convinced Greenberg that Web design is seeping into the broader visual culture.” - The Web Changes Everything

It’s all well and good to have Flash-like animations on ESPN, but pop-up ads during the Simpsons? CNN TV looking more and more like The Web is influencing other mediums, that’s a given. But when or where is that a good thing? A bad thing?

21 comments so far (Post a Comment)

05 Jun 2003 | Steve Miller said...

While I would not be shocked if there is Web Creep, neither of those two examples are very good.

The 'Joe Millionaire' teaser was a gag on The Simpsons, that was making fun of other shows on FOX were an actual ad like that ran. At the end of the gag, Homer picks up the 'Joe Millionaire' logo and takes a bite out of it.

And the other example comes from CNN HeadlineNews, which now seems to be aimed as competition with Bloomberg News, cramming as much information on the screen as possible. This is something Bloomberg has been doing for years.

05 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

You are correct the Simpsons ad was sarcasm. Two weeks earlier a Joe Millionare ad did run during the Simpsons. This episode, S14-EABF09-Mr Spritz Goes to Washington, featured a parody of that ad.

cramming as much information on the screen as possible.

Sounds like :)

05 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...

Anything that is designed to be displayed in a box (most of our media, including non-electronic media, fits in this constraint) will have influence across the box spectrum. Everything seeps into everything else.

Look at initial Web design c.1993-1995... everything was very GUI, because that was how people expected to see computer displayed content. Now that control of an interface through the Web has come so far, along with the proliferation of Web users, people expect that kind of control for client apps as well (or such is my experience).

I think the biggest thing (problem) that drives this "cross-dressing" of content is that it is all the same content. These companies produce content for various types of media, but do not seem to care/want/be able to consider the media in which the content is presented. Hence a television commercial has the same structure and cadence as a radio commercial. Pop-up info on music videos, Web sites, and glorious Simpson's episodes.

I don't know if it has something to do with broad branding issues, or setting the expectations of the user (being able to tell the difference between a commercial content and the main content). Perhaps more the former. The company want you to know, when you look at the box (whatever box it is), that you are looking at their product.

05 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

Before the Web, broadcasters would have thought that people couldn't take in all of that information at once.

That scares me. My cell phone already has too much crammed into it. How long before my toothbrush advises me on driving conditions and the weather while I brush my teeth? I think the Web has something to do with this (oh, the the "Information Age"). Don Norman, the only man I beleive can be called guru, address such issues in The Invisible Computer. A must read.

One device. Once task...

05 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...

One device. Once task...

I guess this depends on how you define the task.

Is the task "opening stuff" and the subtask opening a screw, a tree branch, a can, a bottle or beer, a bottle of wine, etc.

I get your point about cell phones, but a Swiss Army Knife is a device with multiple tools. I suppose you could call it all one task, but you could make the same argument for a cell phone: the task is communication.

The dissonance is that the devices are defining the tasks and not the other way around.

05 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

I wouldn't call this 'web creep' as much as a 'fluff over substance trend' that has been seeping through our mega-corp-controlled media outlets for the past decade.

05 Jun 2003 | Tim said...

I can liken a lot of product design to the "portal" idea that was big a few years know, the go.coms, the netscape.coms, etc etc...where a page would have utterly EVERYTHING crammed into it. A convergence of information. It baffles me when products are introduced that follow this "convergence is the way to go" (one glaring example being a mp3 playing digital cameras). As the article says, "What's cooler" indeed. I've never needed to take a picture while listening to Mp3s (or even better, i've never needed to listen to MP3s while taking pictures)...but since i've been told it's cool and useful, why not?

Of course, my opinion is just that...but I can see this "unsubstantiated convergence" moving into information display of media (tv channels, for instance).

05 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

A good example is the digital camera. I want to take photos. I want an interface designed for taking photos. I don't want to deal with the overhead/added complexity of playing & organizing music. Then I put my photo "device" next to my printing "device" and out pops a photo via networking. wireless of course :)

I mean, same thing with the computer. I want to write a paper. I want to create a drawing. Everything else gets in the way: folder, application, windows, etc. Has the computer simplified our lives? no. Think about a car. Lots of computin' going on in today's autos. I don't see it, I don't want to see it. I want to go forward I push something forward (pedal), I want to turn left, I turn the wheel left. That's simplicity. Granted the car as a product has been around a lot longer, but... That's what Norman talks about (I'm paraphrasing him badly). Make the computer invisible. We don't want it there. We want to draw, we want to calculate, we want to communicate.

to touch on the
'fluff over substance trend'
An appliance manufacturer tested several hundred house wives on what features they want in a washer/dryer. (I think I'm paraphrasing Raskin here? It all blurs together) They said:"keep it simple, just wash, I never use any of the other options." So, the manufacturer went and made thousands of washer/dryers with "no fluff". Well, they are still sitting in warehouses, cause eveyone went out and bought the models with tons of options. Human nature? I don't know. I want one button: "wash", let the "back-end" figure out the rest.

05 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...

blah blah blah it's beginning to matter less and less to me, personally. I'm ending my cable tv for the next four or five months. Kayaking, weightlifting, surfing, golfing, swimming, biking, smoking cigars, drinking wine ...

But enough about me. The invasiveness of advertising is obnoxious. I guess by it's very nature. As *any* medium finds a way to make advertising even *more* invasive, the other media will adapt the method, or some variation.

Annie Lennox has a new album. I want it.

05 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...

I realize, especially in this arena, that it depends. However, I think we need to look at the system of doing task X.

The system of writing a paper. Yes the task may be to write the paper, but the user probably does want to do more than that with the paper. They want to store it somewhere. They want to edit it. They want to get rid of it. They want to relate it to another paper.

If the frequency of use is high, people tend to aggregate tasks and a good example of this is people who have experience driving a car. You may not have to deal with the computations your car's computer is making (until something goes wrong), but you have to deal with the system of driving. Parking spaces/garages, traffic rules, people speeding in yellow Spyder's, all on top of the interactions it takes to move a vehicle from point A to point B.

I think that we should be looking for ways to make simple the interactions to complete the task, but also the workload on the user. How does this interaction load on the user in relation to completing the task, and completing other tasks (even tasks not related to your product).

Polaroid may not be pertinent now, but they made it so you didn't need two devices for making photos, and they were insanely popular.

05 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...


05 Jun 2003 | fajalar said...


05 Jun 2003 | Darrel said...

Well, they are still sitting in warehouses, cause eveyone went out and bought the models with tons of options. Human nature?

No. Marketing. ;o)

"Ya see ma'am, this one here has got yer 48 different options for only an extra $200!"

06 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

They said:"keep it simple, just wash, I never use any of the other options."....

I think Philips made some stereo's this way. They also didn't sell.

Another example is dutch car company Daf. Daf was not only the sole manufacturer that had a small car with automatic transmission but it was standard equipment too. The automatic transmission made it really easy to drive, so it was bought mostly by/for older people and women.
Because of this no one else wanted to buy the car because "only old people and women drive that car, not real men....".

I agree with Darrel. It has a lot to do with the marketing. Most people don't buy the cheapest product in a product range. So you have to price the simple version a lot higher. Maybe even make it 'cool' and exclusive.

06 Jun 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Yet, the original VW Beetle sold like hotcakes.

Have the times changed that much? Or, is it because there was *so* much you could do to personalize your Beetle?

06 Jun 2003 | LukeW said...

To get personal here, I have a Imac rip-off microwave. It has two buttons. One is minute. One is 10 seconds. I love the thing. (I got a white one). In my house, however, there is an over the range microwave with lots of options. It looks something like this. It took me a while to figure out (sad but true). I now use it (but only cause it does not take up counter space), but only 2 buttons on it. I'd say 10-15 buttons go untouched as I don't know what the hell they do. Must be my "CompuBroil, CompuRoast, CompuBake New 2-Line, 16-Digit Interactive Display. It makes programming communications faster and easier to read"

06 Jun 2003 | Paperhead said...

just to take a slightly opposing line, don't you think that psychologically, we require a certain amount of complexity from our products. Hitting our flow state is what makes us happy and drives us to continue using something, if that something is so simple that we never reach our flow state, then we actually derive less satisfaction from that thing. I mean everyone here probably has or has had a VCR so loaded with features that they never got the hang of all of it, but does that mean that a really simple model would have sold better, perhaps with some people, but on the whole, probably not.

Optimally, for something to engage us fully and put us into a flow state it has to be difficult, but just on the edge of our ability. For products concerned with use on a computer, some of the most ridiculously popular software on the market makes this apparent surely. Take any major, well thought out, popular piece of software, say photoshop or Quark. There are bits of both of these programs that many advanced users will never get to, but the point is that the software is designed in such a way that the lack of use of those features does not get in the way of us using them to OUR full extent. Thus, they enable us to reach a flow state, which is why people can get lost working an image in photoshop for hours without noticing the time go by. Good products need a level of complexity to allow for the range of users, the real issue is that the very intelligently designed product does not allow the complexity to get in the way for the lower end-user while allowing room for expansion for the upper end-user. Make sense?

Flow state is central to good design.

06 Jun 2003 | p8 said...

Paperhead I agree. Learning to play guitar can be very difficult but also very rewarding.
Same with computer games, you don't want games to be too easy. People who have used cheats know how this can ruin the whole gaming experience.

Caroline Hummels wrote a great thesis about this. This is from the chapter Evoke experiences through engagement (page16/17):

"When we place respect, engagement and humanism in a design context, it means that we should not focus only on the user or the product, but on the relationship between the user and the product. Therefore, I propose a design shift from creating products to creating contexts for experience. By this I mean that a designer creates possibilities for a user to do things, to gain knowledge and to be affected in some way, dependent on the intentions of the user and the situation in which the event occurs.

To evoke an experience, the designer addresses all capabilities of the user: knowing, doing and feeling. A context for experience shifts the focus from the product as an impersonal straitjacket to an open system with which users create their own experiences. Instead of having to instruct a ‚black box™, the user could be seduced and supported to enjoy listening to music, to enjoy cooking, ... with all his
senses. However, enjoyment and pleasure are certainly not the only objectives.Surprise, temptation, rewards, moodiness - they are all legitimate objectives(Overbeeke et al., 1999).

This means that the focus shifts from the result of interaction - e.g. the music, the weight - , towards the involvement during interaction, e.g. putting on a record and listening to music, weighing food. The relationship between the machinery and the commodities is restored and engagement is obtained. In this new context-dependent situation, the machine withdraws only when the user can be intimate
with it, and subsequently is absorbed in the activity. Fels and Mase postulate that an individual has a high degree of intimacy with a device when he can effectively communicate ideas and emotions through the device, as if it were an extension of himself (Fels and Mase, 1998).

This extension applies to all three levels: knowing, doing and feeling. For example, when Yo-Yo Ma is sensitively playing a prelude on his cello, the music, the instrument and the performer become one. Readiness-to-hand is easy to obtain with a cello and, if something goes wrong, for example if it is out of tune or a string has broken, it is clear how to restore the readiness-to-hand and fairly easy to do so. The cello is a kind of 'open system' with respect to experience. It invites you to play music, but it does not impose the kind of music you should play, or which intentions and interpretations you should convey. It enables you to play mezzo forte but also pianissimo. When playing the cello, you can evoke your own experience. Training and personal skills have, of course, an
influence: not everyone can play like Yo-Yo Ma. Training as such is a positive point, however, because it enriches the interaction, and strengthens the bond with the product.
This shift towards involvement during interaction means that the designer's emphasis should be placed on a beautiful, engaging interaction with a product. The focus shifts towards the aesthetics of interaction, or the aesthetics of use as Dunne(1999) calls it: with the object - a cooperation which, it is hoped, might enhance social contact and everyday experience. Such an aesthetics, clearly, attends less to how an object looks, the traditional concern of product aesthetics, than to how it behaves. In general one could say that the aesthetics of interaction is the sense of beauty which arises during the interplay between a user and a product in their

What creates this sense of beauty? Why do some products resonate with a user, while others do not? I believe that five aspects are essential to evoking this sense of beauty. Let me explain these five aspects and illustrate, with the example of my Sunbeam toaster...."

You'll have to read the chapter to find out. :)

08 Jun 2003 | Cam said...

At least we don't have Amazon tabs on top of our TV screesn yet. Here's a mockup of what that might look like.

29 Dec 2003 | said...

29 Dec 2003 | said...


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