Making Websites More Humane

Making Websites More Humane

A lot is expected from 2018. That’s in reference to websites and design patterns, that is. Designers have daringly brought back gradients and bold colours, have played with unconventional typography, have introduced brutalism, have put in more efforts on illustrations to touch human emotions, and what not have they done! Wow!

While grazing on the topic of human emotions, it’s worth questioning how much thought has been put into making user experience more humane. I’m not talking about the AI being user-friendly or intuitive. What planning has been done to save humanity from breathing digital fumes day in and day out? How can UX make people from all groups feel equal? What options do we have to make web interactions feel more like human interactions?

Worth a thought?

Perhaps. Probably this is why many designers and developers have actually chalked out website designs that intend to resolve each one of the above issues.

Sustainable Designs

We’ve heard a lot about eco-friendly this and that, but eco-friendly websites? Sounds weird, right? Well, it’s not like the webpage is biodegradable or contributes to Amazon rainforests. Not directly, though.

Statistics say that our beloved internet consumes 10% of the planet’s energy. Top that with the power used up by our smartphones and computers, and the total environmental impact surpasses that of the airline industry by over 50%.

With the impending death of the planet in mind, some smart people realized that it’s better to quickly bring users to what they want rather than keep them lingering and, in turn, spending more energy. Thus came up the concept of sustainable website designs:

  • to-the-point content
  • fast and efficient pages
  • inclusive experiences for all
  • using renewable energy for hosting digital services

Time to act Captain Planet!

Ethical Designs

Case 1:

4 out of 10 blogs have GIF animations instead of static images (as if that makes the words on the page more sensible).

Most business and news pages have a video on a corner of the page that runs on autoplay, whether you want to watch it or not.

Case 2:

We are all familiar with at least these two messages, aren’t we?

“Be the first among your friends to like this.”
“Order this within x hours and y minutes, and avail z% discount!”

A common psychological tap on the minds of users: put them on a racing track.

Case 3:

Ah the age-old ads! Save very few websites, most are bound to irritate you with large ads popping up right on your face, blocking whatever you were reading or doing. As if that wasn’t enough, you get interrupted by ads peeping in between content. And why? Because you, yes you, gave them the access to track everything that you Google.

Basically, the trick is to keep people engaged on the pretext of entertainment or information. The larger view, however, shows something grim:

distraction, interruption and addiction.

Luckily for us, some nice tech people decided to check the negative impact this has been having on people, especially on teenagers who quickly get addicted to the internet of anxiety and depression. The idea is to reduce fast-moving content, change users back into humans from racing bots, and to harness the power of distraction to do good to the society. How? Say, if I’m using neon highlights to distract my viewer (I won’t use neon, just saying), let me hook them onto a piece that inspires them to extend a small help to victims of some natural calamity. Or, say, if I do send across an irritating piece of ad on their faces, let it talk about things that can actually help the reader.

The problem is that most people, and in this case our teenager group, come to the digital world to seek entertainment and a break from the real world. While creating the good stuff we just discussed, it is important to understand their psychology and realize what can engage and inspire them.

Inclusive Design

The usual UI/UX is designed for the common people, i.e., people who come under the general umbrella of being able to see, hear and tap content seamlessly. What about the rest? Or what about the people who are temporarily unable to do any of the above?

WHO defines disability as a complex phenomenon that reflects the interaction between a person’s physical features and the features of the society (s)he lives in. So, isn’t it up to us designers to make this interaction seamless for them, too?

According to Microsoft’s inclusive toolkit manual, an inclusive design is:

“A design methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.”

See, there you go. It’s time to update the interface so that people in any situation can access any website with ease – be it people with permanent disabilities, temporary injuries or those in an environment where they can’t see or hear well or interact with both hands.

Designs that Tell Stories

Imagine if people talked like machines – not the Siri and Alexa kind that have nice interactive voices; I’m talking about the stark I-have-no-emotion kind. It’d drive one crazy, I know. The point is, since people spend majority of their time engrossed in websites and apps, it would be appalling if they (and we, of course) were to read and hear content that sounded like those dry-toned machines.

It is important to build a connection with people, and the best way to do this is by telling a story. No matter how old we are, we all love to hear good stories, right? It sparks communication.

Brands, now, are way beyond logos and names. Accordingly, websites have evolved from being a screen of pixels to being the media for initiating dialogue, thereby triggering conversion. The ways adopted for this vary from casual language of content to custom illustration to animation, videos or interactive content.

The human mind always remembers good conversation. So, it’s time that the digital media puts it to good use.

Exploiting the digital world is easy but making good use of it, like really good use for the sake of people, takes some thinking.