Usability and Right-side Blindness

Christian Crumlish  

June 19, 2006

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A week or so back I was reading another one of those “Top 10 mistakes of website design” articles. All the usual stuff was in there like skip intro, splash pages, popup windows, and intrusive animation but what really got me was the mention of “right-side blindness”.

Most of these top 10 lists just regurgitate the same obvious design mistakes that really don’t bear mentioning further. If it’s not obvious that you shouldn’t have a flashing animation or intrusive popup windows then you’re in the wrong business.

But let’s get back to this issue of right-side blindness. Right-side blindness is the notion that people have become so accustomed to seeing advertisement on the right side of their screen they tend to ignore everything else in that region as well. Since reading this article I’ve really thought hard about the issue and started to monitor my eye movements as I navigate through the various websites I peruse.

Where do I expect common elements to be – search, login, home, logout?

How quickly do I hit a website and then leave – what was I looking for, how long did it take me to find it, what frustrated me in the process?

I’ve found the most usable websites either make things very obvious through a “web 2.0″ style layout – SIMPLE HUGE BRIGHT BOLD everything, tons of spacing and a general adherence to treating users like silly putty – making things very simple and very obvious.

This style of design is hardly applicable to the corporate B2B world however. For designers in that realm I recommend perusing the business sites you use most. Give usability a thought and ask yourself the following question:

Which came first – the form or the function?