Out of the heaving mass of compelling content that is the web, some sites and articles take such an original approach to traditional problems or designs that they're like brain candy. Here's three pieces we've come across lately, for your entertainment and education.
The rise of the UX Torturer — an apt metaphor
Eshan Jahan laments (and sends up) the 'Rise of the UX Torturer' — the inevitable successor to the noble UX designer. A UX torturer 'specializes in degrading the user experience to maximize profit' and condemns you to suffer unless you pull out your credit card.
UX Torturers don't want to completely repel you. But nor do they want you to be entirely satisfied. And herein lies their intrigue and guile.
Eshan cites examples of UX torturers in action, which are representative of huge web trends, like paywalls and pay-to-advance games.
He mentions Slate's new paywall, which cleverly offers an 'enhanced on-site experience' to paying members (thereby banishing free users to mild frustration). And Dungeon Keepers as 'a game with such excruciating wait times that British authorities recently declared it was misleading to even call it 'free-to-play.''
But the best thing about the post is his Shuffleboard of Pain (pictured above). If you're interested in stepping up to a career as a UX torturer, read his blog to find out how it works in practice.
Ling Valentine — original, fearless, kitsch, hilarious
I know it's been around a few years already, but I only came across it last week. Ling, the UK entrepreneur and marketing genius (or lunatic, depending on your take), turns over approximately £40 million a year of leased cars. But that's not all she does. She also maintains a website that could rival the best worst websites you've ever seen.
To prepare you for the screenshot (if you haven't seen the site already) I present to you four beautiful examples of flat design. I don't know about you, but these websites make me feel like I'm meditating in a sun-lit forest, listening to birdsong, opening and closing my eyes slowly, slowly, and breathing in...breathing out...
...whereas Ling's website is like getting a bucket of water in the face:
And actually, it is. Web design has a tendency to mimic itself until new trends come along. And what we lose, when every website is polished and stripped back and preened right down to the bone, is the shock of the new. In this case, it's the shock of the old and the absolute disregard for everything web designers hold dear that provides the pleasure.
It cannot be denied — this woman has made an art out of 'bad' design. For an in-depth analysis of the persuasiveness of Ling's site, read Paul Roake's great piece, 'Ling's Cars and the Art of Persuading People to Buy.'
And just so you know — that chicken you can see in the Twitter feed? It moves. I tried to make a gif, but I failed, so you'll have to take my word for it. Or check it out yourself here. Turn your volume up as well.
Test your website on users when they're at their most human
You may have tested your website on a sufficient number of typical users to provide you with elegant data. But did you test your website on users at different levels of intoxication?
Ryan Closner has created Drunk User Testing, a tool you can add to your browser to give any website the authentic blur an alcoholic eye sees.
It may be slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it also raises an interesting point about testing websites and apps on 'real' users. Humans get themselves into all sorts of states, besides being drunk (thankfully). Stressed, distracted, bored, impatient, half-asleep, on painkillers, manic, depressed, arthritic, elated, busy as hell, delighted. And at different times in our lives we prefer things to be simple, exciting, easy, challenging, on-trend, off-trend, sleek and flat, dynamic and eye-catching, and so on.
So maybe there's a way for us to test websites on users who run the whole gamut of human experience. If a researcher was to induce certain states in people and then test sites or apps, it would be fascinating to see how mental state affects comprehension and ease of use.
But I wonder, in my idle way — would this require the supervision of a psychologist, ethics approval, and a committment to the scientific method? If anyone knows of user testing that's been approached in this way, let us know. We'd love to read about it.