One of the first rules of Web usability is, “keep it simple.”
If you make users puzzle over how to find the information they want, you are more likely to frustrate them than impress them with your creative talent. Link labels should be simple and declarative. Don’t hide vital information behind obscure references or metaphors. First and foremost, allow your users to get quickly the information they want.
And for gosh sake — if you want to sell somebody something, don’t make them guess.
With that in mind, check out the online media kit for Boston.com.
Sure, it’s snazzy. I love good Flash as much as the next Web geek. But if all I’m after is banner rates, do I really want to sit through this? Once it downloads, it takes a second or two to figure out that you can’t just click anywhere to go some place (the obvious answer … like, “just take me to the next page where there is real information, please,”) you have to mouse over specific, subtly highlighted areas of the picture. At least, they labeled the boxes, but what’s the metaphor here? Why is a certain box in one spot of the picture and not another? How can I quickly recognize I want this box for rates and another for ad specs (not that those common advertiser questions are easy to get to)? And if I’m a neophyte advertiser, and many are, I’m not going to know what “behavioral” means, so why should I click on that box? OK, now I’m frustrated (I’m pretending to be an advertiser here). I just want to contact somebody to ask my questions. Cool, here’s a link to “e-mail.” I can e-mail somebody. Click. Oh, no. This isn’t an e-mail link. It’s some more Flash telling me about Sandy and how she likes to shop for clothes. Drat. Maybe I’ll go to Google AdWords after all …
How is any of this helping advertisers quickly get the information they need so they can make buying decisions? The tag line of Boston.com advertising is “Find Your Focus.” Ironic, isn’t it?
Lesson: Don’t let your Flash guru build your media kit.