Don’t Follow the other Guy



How many times have you heard this: “Well the site / design / label / content has been done like this on this site, so it must be right, we’ll just copy that!”

We have all encountered it right? The premise that because someone has done it before us that is must be the correct path to take. This assumes a number of predetermine aspects:

  • The site in question has the exact same budget, market and audience.
  • There has been an extensive use of industry best practice and the application of user centred design principles on the site.
  • Nothing has changed.

And just like night follows day, in most cases none of the above applies or has been done at all. It is this constant following of trends and sometimes poorly considered techniques that has lead to such labeling abomination’s as the “click here” link and the lesser “download now” and my personal hate “publications”. Now I’m not going to go down the path as to why this happens, that’s a completely different avenue (and another post).

So what is causing this blind faith in following the leader (or loser). Well in generally it’s going to be a lack of understanding of the web and the associated methodology. The same problem still existing in the software development arena I’m told.

With all that considered it may also be due to a lack of focus when we are allowing features to overtake problem solving as Tom Watson points out.

Now contrary to what Matthew Hodgson has found recently, maybe it’s just all a lack of application of good Information Architecture initially that has just propagated throughout the web industry. I still find that today I spend most of my time explaining to clients what Information Architecture is, what an IA does, and the benefits to their organisation. However this could just be a symptom of my local community, that doesn’t seem to have moved on from 2004, in some areas, as I note other Australian cities seem to be years ahead of the local scene.

Then again as Kay Smoljak considers maybe we are focusing a little too much on the development end of our web sites and not considering the important aspect of the interface. We all know the interface is important, that it is the area where one will win or loose a customer. So like we employee a specialist for the back end why not consider a specialist for the front end of your web site.

Needless to say too often it comes down to people being willing to bet an entire web project, big or small on mirroring someone else’s research and development or lack there of.

In an industry with no regulation, no standards, and guidelines that are only being applied by a small percentage of professional end of the industry. It does pay to stop and think, are the past example implementations on the web really the best, do you know all the internal decisions and effectiveness of the web site. Can you afford to get it wrong.

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