FriendlySeptember 7, 2005
The fourth element of COFFEE Development is Friendly.
How do you build a friendly website? What does friendly look like when it's expressed in pixels?
I define a friendly website as one that makes you smile while you use it. A friendly site is like a friendly person - thoughtful, caring and kind. You know when you use a website and you look for something and it's right where you expect to be? Or when you select a date range for your hotel visit and the check-out day adjusts based on your check-in day? Or when the search results page gives you helpful suggestions even when no matches were found?
Friendly design is taking care of the people who are using your website. The goal is for your site to be a pleasure to use, and helpful and courteous when it's not.
My current favorite example of this is found in Backpack from 37Signals. Backpack is built around pages and different levels of accounts allow different numbers of pages. Normally, there is a large button on the right-hand side that says Make a new page.
I'll pause for a second to point out how cool that phrase is. On most sites, the button would be labeled New Page, which is a little less clear and a lot less friendly.
Anyway, what happens when you've reached your page limit? On most sites, the button would remain, but when you clicked it, you would be told that you have reached your page limit and cannot add additional pages until you upgrade. A few other sites would remove the button altogether (why show the button when you can't use it?). What does Backpack do?
They replace the button with helpful text that explains that you have reached your page limit and can quickly upgrade your account to add more pages. The message appears at all times in the exact same place as the new page button would normally be.
This design eliminates confusion, provides easy access to removing the roadblock, and treats you kindly in the process. You don't feel like you made a mistake when you clicked the button in the first place.
Another example of friendly design is just having fun. Feedburner recently redesigned their site and added a simple element. The title of your summary page includes randomly generated phrases.
My Blazing Hot Feeds
My Tres Bien Feeds
My Fab Feeds
My Wicked Cool Feeds
Why not make people smile?