(This is a continuation of one of my semester class posts.)
Earlier in the semester, I wrote a post for class about Yale Art School’s website1. Taking a look at the website, it becomes an interesting case study to analyze as far as UX design and the use of design principles. For some background, Yale Art School’s website functions as an ongoing collaborative project for Yale’s art students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Yale Art School’s website has been making the rounds on the internet, receiving enthusiastic (and often critical) feedback on platforms like Reddit and op-eds. One blogger describes the website as “…hurting the eyes of people all over the web.” Commentary from Reddit users varies from “It’s totally a commentary on the impermanence of artistic forms” to “that looks like a sh*tty myspace page.”2
In my class post, I shared that I struggled with this website from a user standpoint. I didn’t understand how a website that was purposefully collaborative could result in something so jarring, and I expressed concerns from an accessibility standpoint. However, I felt I needed to really dissect the website and see how it actually stands up again Don Norman’s design principles3. Below is my assessment:
- Visibility: referring to the visibility of certain functions, the functions and CTAs of Yale’s website are fairly obvious and easy to find. The site provides a quick links block that drops down into a clear menu of explorable content. The left side nav contains clear buttons allowing users to login, edit the page, or view the page history. It also has a typical site navigation menu in the top left corner. At least where visibility of the site’s functions are concerned, Yale’s site seems clear.
- Feedback: Aside from some small visual cues (like underlining of a hyperlink), It’s hard to find instances of feedback on the website; however, when I tried to sign in, a line of red text appeared telling me to sign in or sign up before continuing. This leads me to believe that there are various forms of feedback in place, even if I can’t see it as a user outside of the Yale community.
- Constraints: While there are physical constraints, like bounding boxes, that limit what you see and what you’re able to do, the overall interface doesn’t exactly “guide the user to the appropriate next action.”4 Overall, I find the interface confusing and the layout isn’t very.
- Mapping: There aren’t really many unique functions of the website other than clicking to reach new pages or scrolling the site to view more content. After reading about mapping from Sachin Rekhi4, I’m struggling to find examples of good or unique mapping being used on the Yale Art School website.
- Consistency: Despite the shocking design, I can’t deny that the overall look and feel of the site is consistent. Generally, all of the headings are formatted similarly, and even though I don’t personally like the layout of the content, it does appear to be consistent throughout the site.
- Affordance: There’s some nice use of affordance in terms of visual icons that communicate an action that can be taken. For example, there’s a button to pause animations on the left side, which contains a small pause icon that people are intuitively familiar with. Similarly, some of the page links include arrows or chevrons to indicate moving forward to a new page.
Based on this assessment, I can’t help but think that while I don’t particularly enjoy looking at or navigating the website, there has been some strategy to how the website actually functions. The website seems to tick most of the boxes of Don Norman’s design principles. Regardless, I still think if your users are turned off by visiting or navigating your website, there is some work to be done in improving the overall UX of the website.
- Yale Art School Website. https://www.art.yale.edu/
- Vartanian, Hrag. Hyperallergic.com. “Yale Art Dept Website Has ‘Officially Cemented Trolling as an Art Form’” https://hyperallergic.com/12252/reddit-yale-art-dept/
- “Summary of Don Norman’s Design Principles” https://www.csun.edu/science/courses/671/bibliography/preece.html
- Rekhi, Sachin. Medium.com. “Don Norman’s Principles of Interaction Design” https://medium.com/@sachinrekhi/don-normans-principles-of-interaction-design-51025a2c0f33