There’s clever things web developers can can do website design these days to enable hard pressed marketeers to pack a lot of content on to one homepage whilst making it appear (initially) uncluttered. I’ve seen it done well but I’ve also seen it done badly. Take Tesco’s website which has what looks like 4 main horizontal tabs across the top of the page advertising areas of their site – Tesco Direct, Fresh Food & Groceries, Club Card and Tesco Bank. So far so good. It then appears that they have more detail on the main homepage content area (let’s call it the “Hero slot”) about Tesco Direct. There’s also direct links to some of the main parts of Tesco. Even cleverer. Then when you hover on the next tab you get more content and navigation about Fresh food and groceries – now this is quite clever and a good use of the space. However, then it all get’s a bit too much and you wonder where the UX designer was when the site was being developed. He/ she should have been shouting “NO!!, it’s all too much” quite loudly. You the discover, accidentally in my case that the tabs underneath the main “hero slot” also change the main content on the page. And rather than the original four tabs which my little head could cope with there’s an additional 6 tabs and hero slots to take in “arggh!!!!!”. It’s too much suddenly and as I’m moving across the screen everything is changing and I realise I’m not taking in anything and it’s a feeling of claustrophbia I never thought Id feel on a modern website. I know Tescos are massive, but surely they don’t have to make every area on their homepage real estate sing and do cartwheels. My advice would be to stick to the interactive four tabs at the top, but calm down on the rest of the site and think about structuring the site and page in a more ordered manner.
Another site which adopts a similar approach is More Th>n. They have a lot of tabs or widgets advertising various insurance products and whilst the “Hero slot” stays focused on their lead product, the second hero slot further down the page changes if you click the arrow. Now at first I hadn’t realised the arrow triggered this change, so it appeared haphazard when the page changed and when it didn’t – more often than not, clicking on the tabs linked me directly to the relevant product homepage. Again, where was the UX designer when this site was developed. It’s not quite “hidden meat” but it’s pretty close.
Probably worth another post about sites who does this well in a subtle yet understanabable way – Apple strikes to mind so look out a further update on Apple and some other good examples. Views and comments as always welcomed.