Don’t mistake common UI patterns for best practices

A hard look at how the browse experience translates in the digital space

Callie de Roussan
Aug 4, 2017 · 5 min read
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Appeal to the senses, yes, but never at the expense of legibility.

Why do we browse?

Before we do the deep dive on browsing in the digital space, maybe we should ask why we browse in the first place. After all, in the fast-paced, instantly gratifying world that we live in, who has time to spend scanning page after page of content looking for the je ne sais quoi special thing that has been missing from their lives?

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Where do browsing experiences break down?

Ok, so now that we have a better understanding of why users are still finding time to browse, let’s take a closer look at where browsing experiences are falling flat. Browse starts to break down when:

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Unless this is supposed to be funny (in which case, ha…ha…) no Hulu, just no.
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Xbox has been iterating on their masonry grid layout for what feels like forever.
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Browsing for thrifty finds on Craigslist? Sure! Drilling three categories deep for cream cheese? Woof.

The secret sauce

So what’s the secret to creating a good browse experience? The truth is, there’s no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to browsing. That’s because browsing is an incredibly individualized experience. No two people have the exact same relationship with any piece of content, and therefore they don’t necessarily think about organizing content in the same way. With this in mind, here are a few tips to consider when tackling your next product launch or redesign:

Be explicit sparingly.

I’m not talking about this:

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GrubHub uses explicit navigational elements sparingly, and it works.

Think outside the box…err device.

Don’t limit your designs to two dimensions. Think about how your users’ environment plays a role in their experience, and how aspects of that environment can be leveraged to create more meaningful interactions. And if all else fails, appeal to the senses.

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Hankr appeals to the senses with their visual restaurant app.

Evoke the spirit of the hunt.

A browse experience, when implemented correctly, should evoke the spirit of the hunt. Your product should give off a strong enough information scent that users shouldn’t need to rely on explicit navigation to know where to go. As the user navigates through the experience, contextual pathways should open up and direct the user down alternate, but possibly more meaningful routes until the unknown—but sensed—piece of information has been discovered.


Feedback

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts about browsing; now it’s time to share your thoughts. When do you prefer to browse vs. search? Are there certain browsing experiences that work in the real world, but fall flat in a digital space? Add your comments below or reach out on LinkedIn.

RUXERS

Real User Experience Leaders: Sharing and discussing the…

Callie de Roussan

Written by

Remote product designer @hubspot, systems thinker and Freehand enthusiast.

RUXERS

RUXERS

Real User Experience Leaders: Sharing and discussing the latest in user experience design, research, and philosophy.

Callie de Roussan

Written by

Remote product designer @hubspot, systems thinker and Freehand enthusiast.

RUXERS

RUXERS

Real User Experience Leaders: Sharing and discussing the latest in user experience design, research, and philosophy.

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