In the early days of the web, it was common to find examples of really bad web design done by obviously talented designers. As folks were learning the medium, they tried all kinds of things, many of them which lead to terrible experiences for users — overwrought splash screens, clever interfaces too difficult to use, aesthetics and style placed above utility, etc.
Since 2002 or so, though, these kind of site experiences have pretty much disappeared. As we all figured out what it meant to put together a basically good site that didn’t screw things up, it’s become harder and harder to find examples where otherwise talented creative folks have totally screwed up. This has made teaching web and interaction design harder, because it’s these examples of design that serve as great tools for instruction.
Which is why the site for the 2007 PDMA conference is so interesting. The Product Development and Management Association is perhaps the leading professional association for folks in its field. It’s a world that Adaptive Path has been getting closer and closer to as we shifted our focus away from marketing and toward product development, particularly product development that makes sense for the people using those products.
The website of the conference is a disaster. Or rather, the home page is a disaster. It is a giant flash movie, done in an-eBoy-like isometric pixelated style. And it’s impossible to figure out what to do. Originally, I went to that page looking for the date of the event. It’s nowhere on that screen that I can find. And I couldn’t figure out just where I should click. Nor do I know what the following phrases mean, all used on the page: “tool story”, “gurus @ play”, “research forum”, “innovation on demand.” I also found out that if you click in the pool, you go to “workshops.” I don’t know why there’s a geodesic sphere, or kilns. I had no idea where to click to get a simple overview of the event, with, you know, IT’S DATE.
Anyway, I don’t mean to be a Scrooge and all, and really, I do like fun and play in my web experiences… where appropriate. I realized I had a hard time taking this conference seriously if this was the way they were going to showcase it… What does it say about the philosophy of product development on display?