A Lesson in Approach

Recently, as I’ve been doing Adobe InDesign and InCopy integration training, I’ve noticed that some people interact with the web in a way that I find, well, different. I’m guessing it’s a generational thing or some other large factor. You see, when I tell them, “Okay, now go to Google.” or “Go to Adobe’s website.”, they’ll actually type that name in to a search engine, search for it and click on the first result. They don’t understand that you can always type in the website address in the location bar at the top of the browser. Definitely different, but it warrants attention. You can’t just blow these people off as being clueless and not ever have to worry about their twisty methods of web navigation.
This was something of an eye opener for me that in the SF Bay Area, where we’re so wired and webified, there would be people that don’t understand such a simple navigation. I’ve always used my mom as a test case for any site I build. Not that she’s a web novice or a lowest common denominator, but she is far enough removed from the web process that if it doesn’t make sense to her, it’s not going to make sense to a lot of people. Apparently, I’ve not dug deep enough. There are folks out there who do need the big buttons with simple instructions. An elegant design for them is one you can easily navigate. They could care less what it looks like so long as they can get around it.
So, how do you take these folks in to account, while at the same time not alienating the more advanced users out there; the kids who have grown up with the web and have no problems navigating a complex design? I think it all comes down to the approach of Apple towards the iPod and Adobe towards Photoshop. The iPod is pretty simple to use once all your music is on it, but if you dig through enough menus you can find many additional things to change and play with. Photoshop is great because you can just hop in to it and start messing with photos, but then there are so many levels to it that I don’t think I’ve even found them yet.
I think that somehow in some fashion, this needs to be applied to the websites one builds and I am trying to apply it as much as I can to anything I do these days. Will this help those who don’t ever figure out how to use the location bar to type in a URL? Who knows, but at the very least, you can try to design a site they can use once and however they get there.