Monday, April 18, 2005

A Case Against Standards: Take a Pill

Standard Ways of Design?

At work the other day, someone I work with complained about a web site where every external link created a new browser window. She wanted to know why.

My answer was that the site owner lacked confidence, and was afraid that once people clicked on a link to go to a new site, they wouldn't come back.

Someone else in the office stated that doing that was a design standard, and a lot of sites did it.

Am I wrong? Is that just the way things are done? Are am I right, and that's just the way things are done?

I remember putting together a couple of sites where I had all of the links on the site leading outside of the site launching new browser windows. My concern was that people would indeed leave and not be able to find their way back.

The more I thought about it, and the more I added content to the sites, to make them the types of places that people might come back to, the more it bothered me that those links might mean someone wouldn't return if I changed them so that they didn't open in new windows.

Taking a Risk

But I decided to go for it anyway. I also didn't like doing something that might get people upset - taking control of their browser.

There were a couple of links that opened to new pages where a refresh effectively broke the back button, so that people couldn't return. I wrote next to those links "opens in new window" and had those continue to open new browser windows.

The others, I changed. And then I started watching stats. I tried to get an idea of how many people stayed, and how many people left.

Seems I was worried over nothing. People did return to those pages. There was no drop off in visits, and people seemed to stick around.

Standards outside the Web

I do see a lot of discussions on standards around the web. Mostly those are aimed at getting web browsers and html editing programs using valid html and Cascading Style Sheets.

I mostly agree with the discussions I see there, though I do wonder that if browser manufacturers and the makers of those editing programs also don't try some new things out, that we might be stuck with some limited functionality in web design.

After all, the horse and buggy was once the standard for transportation. Automobiles have increased the distance people can travel, and have opened up opportunities that would never have come along if we were limited to only going so far as to not exhaust our horses. (Ok, I'm stretching things a little with that example.)

Take a Pill

All my ranting in this post is leading somewhere. There are other things in our everyday lives that have remained the same for years and years. And, on the surface, they seem to fill the purpose they hold very well.

Yet this article, from the New York Metro takes a close look at a redesign of the prescription pill bottle: The Perfect Prescription
How the pill bottle was remade: sensibly and beautifully.
It includes a lot of good ideas. And the great part is that pills will be rolling out in these new bottles.

I am all for standards. That is, until something better comes along.

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