Commentaries

Wendy Placko

Extinguishing Ambiguity

By Wendy Placko on April 4, 2013

Free Whales

Ambiguity continues to be a fascination to me. In college, I studied various media and art forms, and always appreciated how artists were able to convey thoughts or ideas that could be perceived differently by the viewer or listener. Two people listening to the same symphony could experience different emotions. Two people viewing an abstract painting could interpret different meanings from the shapes and colors. Two people watching the same play could come away with two different things to change about themselves in order to avoid situations the protagonist faced (think about how Oedipus Rex’s attitude paid off).

Now that I work with websites every day, ambiguity is something I can still appreciate, but must combat on a regular basis. Because users have so much information available to them online these days, they need information to be clear and concise, and we as designers and web specialists must be sure to give them content that they won’t misinterpret. If the user can’t understand what a navigation item, heading or paragraph means, chances are they will get frustrated and leave the site. They may choose to look elsewhere for a similar product or service, which is obviously not helpful to our clients.

The navigation for a website is a place where ambiguity often rears its ugly head. The names of the buttons or tabs must be carefully chosen to drive users into the correct content, and as soon as the title is read, the user develops expectations for what they will find when they click. For example, if one were making a website for a nonprofit that fought for animal rights, and the client wanted to have a section about their views on freeing whales, one might name a tab “Free Whales” without giving it too much thought. This seems to be clear and to the point, but users who don’t have familiarity with the organization might end up disappointed when they arrive at a page that doesn’t tell them where they can pick up their free whale.

At Neuger Communications Group, the type of information we put on our websites is clear, succinct and considers various interpretations the audiences looking at your site might make. So give us a chance, it might just save a whale.

About Wendy

Wendy brings a variety of talents to the table at Neuger Communications Group. She is a skilled coder, designer, planner and organizer – skills that she uses every day to help clients tell their stories on their websites. Her interests in strategy and data, paired with her eye for design, make her a valuable asset to our web team, and when she contributes to office brainstorming sessions her ideas are creative and boundary-pushing. Read More »

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