Gerry McGovern: Chatbots and the cult of technology

/ Commentary

In 1995, I helped launch a Web design agency called Nua. We were quite successful for a while but the biggest criticism that other agencies would make of us was that we were boring. We were trying to achieve standards in design, trying to understand such things as how wide a search box should be on a page based on average number of words per search. Most other agencies were pushing Flash Intros, which in essence were like TV ads on a website, but they were cool and for years a great many clients ruined the user experience with them.

I feel Gerry’s pain. The one thing that never changes in web design is the misconception that it’s about hard marketing in some form or other; whether that’s trying to “persuade” people to do something, making things look exciting or doing the latest animated thing in the name of interactivity and serving the needs of that mass of the general public who are apparently visual (first it was Flash, then sliders and most lately video, playing in the background).

I find it a source of comfort that more “traditional” communications skills, such as writing direct, clear copy, are far more important than all that stuff. And, truth be told, things are on the whole a lot better than they were when I started out back in 2008. UX literacy has improved.

It’s possible to establish a culture of good practice by being fairly stubborn over these things – by saying “no” from the outset, and being downright difficult when you get requests to implement a slider or similar. A streak of bloody-mindedness is no bad thing when you’re responsible for things working on the web.