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interface design
Interface Pieces
November 24, 1998: Whither "User Experience"?
November 16, 1998:
Some Odds and Ends
October 26, 1998: Interface Design Recommended Reading List
August 10, 1998:
Whose "My" Is It Anyway?
July 29, 1998:
User-Centered Information Design
June 29, 1998:
Best Practices for E-Commerce Functionality
May 21, 1998:
Transitions in Experience Design
May 17, 1998:
Interface Lessons from Video Game Design
May 2, 1998:
Lessons From CHI 98

Thoughts on Interface design
  Archive Piece   
  May 21, 1998

Using Transitions in Experience Design

So I just spent the last few days in Las Vegas. Next to the folks at Disney, no one knows how to better design an environment than the architects of The Strip. And we as Web designers (or, as some high-falutin' types like to be called, Experience Architects) could learn from their practices.

Because of the widely differing environments offered in Las Vegas, its designers have this problem: How do you ease people and orient them to your environment when there is so much competing stimuli?

The method is by providing an intermediary transitional space. At none of the new hotel/casinos can you simply walk into the bulding right off the sidewalk. More typical is the experience at Caesar's Palace, where a long moving walkway guides you from the street into the building, along the way informing you (either by PA system or poster) of the wonders awaiting you inside.

Let's break this notion down to a simpler experience we can all relate to. Imagine yourself in a movie theater. While chatting with your friends, the lights go out, and you all quiet down, face forward, sink a little into your seats, and ready yourself for the show.

Now, in that previous sentence, when reading "the lights go out" your mind's eye likely saw them slowly dim. Theater lights don't wink out--such an abrupt change is obviously disconcerting.

So why is it that most every Web site, each it's own experience and environment, offer up the equivalent of lights winking out, forcing these abrupt cognitive shifts instead of easing people into the new space?

There are those sites that do offer "splash screens," but they are often censured as being wastes of time and bandwidth. But that's probably because they are poorly done. A couple of good splash screens which immediately come to mind exist IBM's
Deep Blue site and John Halcyon Styn's Prehensile Tales. Both offer up a single screen (that doesn't take too long to download) which quickly orient the user for what is up ahead. It's simple, easy, and effective. Try it!

(My lame attempt at transition is the "it's not peter you, it's..." bit at the top, which is rendered immediately while the rest of page, living in a table, is being worked out by your browser).