I don’t know about everyone else, but this directive always fills me with dread. Just to let you know in advance, I consider this a problem without a solution. So, the purpose of this Pondering is to simply reassure all of you sharing the same dread that you are not alone. 

I can understand how easy it would be to personalize this anxiety, especially if you haven’t spent your whole life hovering over a computer screen. Or, God forbid, you are among that group of people in our society not very politely referred to as “Elderly.” I’m of the opinion that any misguided effort to make this dread your problem is utter bull crap. I have spent my whole life working with computers and I spend an unhealthy number of hours writing code, and I am way past elderly, and I still hate being forced to use websites for my daily life chores. 

What was supposed to make life easier for the customer has only made life easier for the companies we have to deal with. And even that assumption I question. I suppose one of the benefits envisioned by early corporate websites was that the company could reduce the customer support department with the telephone dead-end of, you guessed it, “Just go to our website.” How did that work out? Now they probably have an even larger customer service department dedicated to helping people use their not-so-helpful website. 

The biggest deterrent to an easy website experience is that they are all wildly different. Every time you try and use a new website, you are forced to learn something new. Now, I would be hopelessly elderly if I was opposed to learning new things, and God knows how many new computer programs I have learned. But, really! Do I have to learn something new just to take care of the minutia of life? 

The only thing remotely consistent I have seen is that the logout button is usually found in the upper-righthand corner. Big deal. Most users probably don’t log out anyway. 

I might have said that the overall feel of most websites is consistent—buttons across the top—or down one side—until I ran into the CenturyLink Business site. OMG! I’ve never seen anything like it. I was awestruck at the new world I had just entered. That’s not to say it’s a bad design. Maybe it is the wave of the future. But it is the best support of my “wildly different” observation.

Why is this a problem without a solution? Why can’t we declare websites a public utility and mandate a consistent design? Well, can you imagine the blowback? Every company is different and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to what they need on their website. Then there is enforcement… 

Our only hope is that gradually, over time, website designers will see the wisdom in some sort of universal look and feel. Good luck with that one, since the common judge of good design is new and different. 

Okay. I am done ranting.