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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What is it that you do for a living again?

Spent a large part of yesterday producing data for my colleagues in marketing regarding traffic, conversion and drop-off throughout specific areas of our site. This got me thinking about what service I, as a usability and analytics manager, provide to the rest of the company. I often use an illness analogy when describing this paradigm to people. By providing data I am presenting the symptoms of a problem, the current and historic state of health. With analysis on this data I begin to diagnose what the problem is and its etymology. However, and this is quite an important distinction, I am not in the position to provide the cure. The cure has to come from collaborative discussions between myself (with the knowledge of what customers do/want to do online), the marketing team (with the intention of what they want customers to do online) and the financiers and technical teams (to understand what we can afford and technically implement online).

When you put yourself (and are part of a team that puts itself out) within The Company as experts in Web Customer Experience it’s incredibly easy for people to turn to you with expectations that you’re the panacea for their perceived problems online … What’s even harder to demonstrate is quite what makes someone expert in this field. It’s a problem I had academically with Psychology. Often what psychology experiments prove is what people call ‘common sense’. I wish I had a pound for the number of times someone’s said to me “that’s obvious” in referring to the result of an experiment or some insight that’s been provided but then it was obvious centuries ago that the world was flat and the sun revolved around us. The best way to demonstrate expertise is by showing an ROI for the work you do. I’m building up, as usual, to another promise to write that piece: “how to convince your stakeholders that user-centred design is required from day 0 of the project“. It’s coming …



since going to Milan for my brothers' stag weekend a week or so ago I've been thinking about my own.

Given that I had been making attempts to learn the language (and I'm sure this would be helpful in certain situations) and given the shots of the crowd during their matches during the world cup, I'm even more inclined towards going to Sweden and specifically Stockholm.

If you're in any doubt as to why let me present:

Exhibit A:
Sweden United
Exhibit B:
Exhibit C:
Flickor.se [caution]

I've discovered that
HG2 also do a Stockholm guide ... time to pass all this material to the best man and get stuck into my Vera Croghan book ....

Wives and Girlfriends (WAGs) at FIFA World Cup 2006

There's me posting a simple piece on Abigail Clancy and a quick Technorati search brings up this guy's blog with these posts (one, two and three) regarding footballers' wives. Interesting from a 'how to drive traffic to your site' point of view. But not very relevant to this blog's customer experience focus...

For more considered readers, there are
Telegraph articles about the WAGs or for up-to-date snaps of the WAGS in the stadiums, try a GettyImages search...

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Abigail Clancy

"So, Abi, what attracted you to millionaire footballer Peter Crouch?" *

I don't think I'm alone in feeling a little cynical about this relationship ... what's odd too (and thanks to the Baddiel & Skinner Podcast for this) is that in Brazil the players are such superstars thay don't have to worry about their appearance and therefore despite being truly minted, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo have some of the worst dental frontages seen in modern times...

* - with acknowledgment to Caroline Aherne.