29.6.06

Using Feng Shui In Web Design

Fortunately Metro treated it with a whimsical air but a piece on page three of today’s paper irked me nevertheless.

The main thrust of the article by
Sarah Getty was that web developers are turning to the ‘ancient philosophies of vaastu shastra and feng shui’ to apply ‘balance’ to their sites. This practise it would have us believe is being utilised to harmonise the online experience with consideration to the elements of fire, water, earth, air, space (!), man and objects. So everything I suppose.

It goes on to quote
Dr. Smita Narang who I’m sure believes wholeheartedly in this nonsense (despite sho-horning interior design principles into Human Computer Interaction), sincerely asserting that these elements relate to web properties (colour, HTML, graphical elements, typeface, domain etc.) and they need to be deployed with balance and harmony. “Fair enough” I thought, makes sense: Choose harmonised colours, think about a delicate layout balance, delineation, page ordering, simple clear domain etc., is this not user-centred design under a different name?

It’s not that simple though. Helpfully
Metro boldy illustrated the piece with their own homepage, pointing out where they score on this Web Feng Shui. Luck (for example) is mentioned and apparently images of unicorns, fruit and dragons help here. And this is where the whole thing starts to unravel. On a more real-world note, they advise that header logos should be placed high and right or centrally, so definitely not in the established normal location of top-left then? Ignore the fact that that’s where people expect it to be and expect it to be a link back to the homepage…

Perhaps this mixed message of design clarity (particularly around the use of colour and simple shapes and nonsense about using coin cursors (wealth) and imaes of unicorns explains the mixed results seen by
Brijesh Agarwal of Indiamart (itself hardly compliant with the philosophies) who concedes that whilst 3 of the sites he’s developed with this method have returned 60% increases in traffic, 2 haven’t.

By this point I was ready to give up and return to doing real customer-centric work when
Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet (10m hits per month) cropped up in a well-sourced quote: “I’ve never heard of businesses using this and I think it’s complete nonsense”. I leave it there except to say that I hope Dr. Narang sells 0 books on this subject.

:: Additional
informed cynicism about Web Vastu

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