Monday, December 8, 2008

The "Birth of the User"

It seems that the “user” came about in the late 80’s-90’s with the introduction of the computer and the internet. The user is different from the reader in that they are not as patient, where they go is sometimes more important than what they read, and the text they read can be more important than what it means.

The impatience of the user could come from a desire to read from paper rather than a monitor, but rather comes from culture. While on the web, there is a need to feel productive, rather than leisurely. The internet is used for searching and finding answers, even though you know you’ll reach some obstacles along the way.

But even now as I write this, I think about myself searching at the library vs. online – I know that not every book I pick up is going to contain the information I need. So I expect obstacles (as Lupton says the user expects to be “disappointed, distracted, and delayed by false leads.”) How is this different from searching online?

In the first couple paragraphs of the article, Lupton mentions “Typography becomes a mode of interpretation, and the designer and reader (and the designer-as-reader) competed with the traditional author for control of the text.” This is true to the web now-a-days as well. Websites are becoming increasingly more “designed” vs. the standard black Times New Roman on a white screen with blue and purple links. Web page designers are finding more ways to control the text to design a page, whether it’s by using Cascading Style Sheets to alter the text or creating an image to use on the page in place of text that can be selected with the cursor.

“In typography as in urban life, density invites intimate exchange among people and ideas.” I like this idea. It’s an interesting way to think about lack of white space as being a good thing. If the information is laid out in a clean and orderly fashion, then it is easier to make connections and comparisons and find information quickly and without problems. So many times it seems that lack of white space equals poor design. Much like the “design” of the Victorian Era, when many varieties of type and images were all thrown together on a page, with no real meaning behind the layout. But no matter how organized an area of information is, we as people can only interpret one piece of information at a time. The internet leads us to information overload easily.

So as designers, we need to do our best to design for the user so that they can understand what they are viewing, or reading, and make the best possible choices.


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