How much of your organization’s online world is made up of dead zones and how much is do zones? A dead zone is any space where there’s nothing to do. It’s a big pretty picture, or a huge graphic-heavy masthead, or a long-winded explanation of what you do or what the customer can do. The customer doesn’t want an explanation of what they can do. They just want to do.


The simplest example of a Do Zone is a link. But any sort of selector or calculator, or form is also a Do Zone, as is any area where someone can input something or move to a next step, rate something, make a comment, interact. Because doability is what makes the Web the Web.

If the only thing we wanted from the Web were pictures to look at and text to read then we wouldn’t need it. We already have technology in the form of print that allows us to present images and text in a far more beautiful and readable manner. For years we have accepted low resolution screens because we got something more from the Web than we got from print. Today, we squint at small screens on our smartphones when we could be looking at a big, glossy magazine. Why is that? What keeps us coming back to the Web? Doability.

I didn’t think I’d have to be making arguments about print versus Web in 2014 but print is so deeply embedded in our culture that the influence of visual / graphical design thinking is still clearly present in many webpage designs.

What lies behind a lot of this is a philosophy of control. Organizations want to control their image, their message. They want to present to the world a face (homepage) that is beautiful. They want to brand themselves with visual markers. They believe they have a passive audience that is waiting patiently to consume messages from them. They secretly think they are a hip gallery and that waiting outside are eager customers bursting to get in and gaze at the majesty of the organization.

So we have print culture and organization-centric culture mixing because print gives you so much more control than the Web does. Much Web design exhibits a yearning for past glories when brands were magnificent, customers were loyal and organizations were in control. An age where customers followed wherever brands lead. An age where politicians were trusted, religious leaders were revered and CEOs were superstars. That age is history.

I once asked a designer why his webpages had light grey text. “Because it fits in with the overall look ‘n’ feel,” was his reply. Wouldn’t black text be easier to read? His reply was almost contemptuous, like I had asked a really stupid question. “Black text is ugly,” he said. To him, text was not something you read but was rather a 'Lorem Ipsum’ design block on the page. The readability of the text had to take second place to the aesthetic of his overall design.

Real Web design is what Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook do. It’s about making the customer the hero, the center of attention. It’s about facilitating the customer to do what they want to do. Digital is not a technology. It’s a way of thinking that puts the customer first.