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Designing for Country Mice, and City Mice

Considering the edge case and solving little design problems.

NYPL Public Domain Collections

One design guideline we use at Blenderbox is to consider edge cases. How would this page look if it were five times longer? What does the calendar show when it’s empty? Here’s a real-life example I found unexpectedly.

I’m in the process of changing my investment strategy from “shoebox” to…anything. After entire minutes of research, I learned that the place to find a financial advisor is NAPFA, a professional organization whose advisors meet the fiduciary standard, which means they must act in your interest. There’s no Yelp for financial advisors, so this seemed like good place to start.

The NAPFA homepage lets you search advisors by ZIP code. Great!

And here’s where I wondered if this could be better.

Now, there’s a lot of good here, especially for an older site. The table is legible, and if you look carefully, there are filters at the top.

But a search for my neighborhood in Brooklyn turned up 49 firms—woah! I’m clueless about investing, and there are no ratings, so how do we narrow that down?

By default, it shows results within 20 miles. We can make it 10 miles, but that still includes all of NYC and a few towns nearby—35 firms total. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could drill down further?

This is a consideration for any large-scale site; you need to account for people who live in densely and sparsely populated areas alike. Right now, the filter’s only useful for rural parts of the country (although 640 miles is a long drive for financial advice, even if you live at Yellowstone). Major cities need a filter setting more granular than 10 miles—or even better, the ability to filter by map view, like Yelp, Google Maps, or Airbnb.

One last thing: NAPFA does have a map! And it’s wonderful for needy New Yorkers like me; I had no problem drilling down to find a few advisors on my commute, or near a Shake Shack.

But there’s one quirk: notice the pins on the map are lettered. There are 35 firms in the search results, so what happens after the first 26? What’s after Z?

Nothing. Which means that if you’re ADV Investment Management, or Blue Spark Capital Advisors, or any of the other nine firms at the bottom of the list, you’re not on the map. Sorry.

But even this can be fixed. We just need to consider the edge cases when we design, from users in rural areas to those in the country’s largest metropolis. With a little extra thought, we can easily solve these little design problems, and we can take a site that’s already useful and make it fantastic.



We are an interactive design agency based in Brooklyn, New York. We do Good Work for Good Causes.

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