Defensive Design for the Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points
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So, 37signals took a field trip to see Edward Tufte’s Presenting Data and Information workshop. I think I speak for the other guys when I say we’re really glad we attended. Here are someone else’s detailed notes.
At his worst, Tufte is a passionate presenter with a clear cause (although slightly out of touch when it comes to talking web design). At his very best, Tufte has some real knowledge and insight to share about data density, the resolution of paper, clarity, simplicity, sparklines, and a near religious fanaticism targeted at the reduction of ornament in favor of making the content shine. He clearly believes that content is king. And, oh yeah, he likes to show off his original, first print/edition copies of Euclid’s The Elements of Geometry and Galileo’s The Starry Messenger.
He mentioned one thing that I never really thought about in this way before: When most of us think about bad design metaphors, we think of horrible screen interfaces that look like books, or look like desks, or look like television sets. But, the most common metaphor that leads to bad design is mimicking org charts or corporate structure. A design that follows corporate structure “just because” is just as bad as an interface that mimicks a book or a work desk or a television set. But, since the org chart or corporate structure is hidden in the design (unlike a book-like UI where you can see the physical representation of a book), we often don’t think of this type of design as design based on a metaphor.
Some other key takeaways: