Put things where people expect to find them

12th April 2019 / by Richard Gray

Toy monkey

“Daddy!!! I can’t find Monk!” came the yell from upstairs.

‘Monk’ was a small stuffed monkey, much beloved by my youngest son and not being able to find him before school was a disaster of epic proportions.

“Have you looked for him?” I called back.

“Yes!”

“Where have you looked?” I asked, walking up the stairs.

“Everywhere,” was the reply.

Everywhere probably meant just on the floor of his bedroom, but in the interests of pre-school expediency I joined in with the simian search.

We looked in all the places where Monk was likely to be – his bed, his toy box, behind the door, but to no avail. Monk was nowhere to be found. The walk to school that morning was a very sad and sorry affair, but it made me think about user expectations and the organisation of web-based content.

Users are logical creatures of habit and by instinct look in the places where they expect to find what they’re looking for. They are also notoriously fickle and with no omnipresent web-based parent to ask for help if they can’t find something they will very quickly give up and go elsewhere – most likely to one of your competitors.

As such it is vital to make sure that things on your site are labelled in a way that users would expect and that content is placed where you think they’ll look for it. Don’t make your users waste time hunting for things in places where either (a) it’s not or (b) they wouldn’t expect to look.

In a similar way at home I wish I had boxes marked “lost animals”, “missing Lego pieces” and “books you want to read at bedtime” but sadly the real world doesn’t work that way.

We found Monk that evening though – in the saucepan drawer.

Rich's Rants

Why do the same thing twice?

Asking your users to do the same thing twice just makes them annoyed and adds risk to the process.

Put things where people expect to find them

Like small children and lost toys, your website should put things where people expect to find them.

Don't confuse with colour

Putting aside the colour blindness issues of using colour to illustrate state, for those of us who aren't colour blind, please use colour in a way that makes sense.

Why apostrophes matter

I was asked one morning whether I thought that using apostrophes correctly really mattered.

Show you care

Show your users that you care about the small things and it will show that you care about the big things too.

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