Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rule #2 - You're a guest in your reader's environment

When you visit the home of someone you've never met, do you immediately tell them to replace their carpet or rearrange their furniture? Do you carry a portable stereo into their homes and turn it up with your favorite music?

Each of the following is just as rude:

• telling the reader to get a new browser
• expecting the reader to resize their page to fit your design
• playing background sounds that the user can't control
• setting type size or font in ways that the reader cannot override

It isn't simply that you don't know what your reader's environment might be, but you don't and can't know what things might be important to them, or why. Anything you do which forces conditions on your reader might violate some basic need that determines how they configure their system. Telling a reader to reconfigure their system just to accommodate your page is rude; if it does so in a way that breaks their work routine, they will probably leave your page immediately.

And you'll never know.