Everybody loves cats. Okay, maybe not everybody. But everyone loves cat videos on YouTube – no argument there, right? But other than being cute and making us laugh, what can we learn from them? In particular, what can we learn from them in terms of website design?
My wife and I happen to be the
owners servants of a pair of Siberian half-brothers, Abe and Ike. While the two fluff balls can be a handful, they’re undeniably cute and make us laugh. Although every few days they try to kill each other (seriously, it gets so loud, we think we’ll only have one cat when it’s over), for the most part, they’re best buds and snuggle up and keep each other clean.
Lessons to be Learned
1. Focus on one thing at a time.
When cats are hungry, they let you know they want to be fed. When they want to cuddle, they climb up onto your lap. When they see a bird outside, they stare intently out the window.
One thing at a time.
Too often I see web pages where there are several elements competing for your attention – buttons, ads, headlines, images, etc. Do the best you can to limit attention-grabbing items so that your site visitor knows what to focus on and can do so easily.
2. Keep things familiar.
Cats get very stressed when their home environment changes. A move to a new home is a major trauma, going to the unknown. Even the introduction of a new piece of furniture, while exciting, can confuse them.
On the Web, people get used to things being certain ways – clickable logo at the top left to take them back to the home page, menu at the top right or on the left side, contact information easily accessible, etc. Even though it’s tempting to not be like everyone else, there’s a big price to pay in terms of visitor frustration.
When you do introduce new elements to your site, although you’ll want them to be noticeable, make sure they fit the rest of the site in terms of design and style.
3. Don’t waste time.
If you’ve ever witnessed a cat chasing a laser pointer or toy mouse, you’ll notice that, after a while they wise up and wait for the antagonist to come to them (at least the older ones do). Their attention also starts to wane.
On the Web, people have very short attention spans. If a page doesn’t load or they can’t find what they’re looking for within seconds, they’ll lose interest and move on to something else. Keep this in mind when laying out your page and designing large graphics.
4. Some of us aren’t that bright.
Although quite often it feels like cats are smarter than us (and I swear they think so), there are times when they just can’t figure something out. When we installed a cat door, there was no training our boys how to go through it, no matter how obvious it seemed to us.
Try to put yourself in your potential client’s shoes – and keep in mind that potential client may know absolutely nothing about the services or products you offer. What is common knowledge to you may draw a total blank from them.
Don’t worry about offending those who do have a decent grasp of what it is you do or sell. Those people don’t have to read every single word of your website. But for those that don’t, spell it out.
Also, make sure basic actions are clearly defined. Have large, obvious call-to-action buttons, easy-to-locate contact information, etc. Make your site as dummy-proof as possible.
I think a lot of us (especially cat owners, who understand) wish we could be cats and enjoy the life of luxury that they do. There’s no doubt that our feline friends have a lot to teach us in many areas of life. It should be no surprise that web design is one of them.
Keep the above simple lessons in mind when creating or updating your website and you’ll be better off for it.
And don’t forget, sometimes you just need to take a break.