the bookpage versus the webpage

April 30, 2010

Monday Note has added an interesting post about webdesign.

Specifically, how the web’s page-based information architecture is, quite simply, crap design.

This is kind of obvious every time you fumble with your mouse navigating a tricky scrollbar, or get frustrated trying to find a piece of information and resort to fruitless CTRL-Fing, or realise that you’ve managed to miss major news stories on the online Sydney Morning Herald (like me) because you get distracted by the latest JLo goss linked just below the masthead.

It’s worth asking: why is the governing metaphor for the internet the page? – something whose logic is so grounded in the material circumstances of the book or the magazine or the newspaper?

Obvious answer: when Tim Berners-Lee designed the internet, that was the conceptual template that seemed most logical. That was the template that was most valid, because it was right in front of his face.

But when  you think about it, the printed book had only governed the way we think about information architecture for five centuries or so, since the invention of the printing press.

Before that, it was manuscripts.

Before that, carving.

Before that, songs, chanted poems, orality.

So it’s even more illogical that we continue to build information online in ways still governed by thinking about folds, mastheads, pages.

The New York Times has recently developed a prototype ‘skimmer’ design that presents the site in visual grabs, rather than pages.

Seems logical to me.

And it’ll be interesting to see, as the iPad and Kindle pick up momentum, how this kind of thinking will continue to evolve…

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