“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Here’s another great example of how differently designers and users see the world. When we hear the word “clutter”, we think of visual noise. But Jared Spool explains what users mean when they say that word:

Over the years, w’ve learned that users have a different meaning of “clutter” than the designers do. It’s not the visual design the users are reacting to. It’s the actual content. Clutter is what happens when we fill a page with things the user doesn’t care about. Replace the useless stuff with links, copy, and content the users really want, and the page suddenly becomes uncluttered.

Here’s the kicker – their redesign was actually more cluttered, but users didn’t care:

We put the old and new pages side-by-side. The new page definitely had more text, less whitespace, and more dense information design. Yet, when we asked the users to tell us which one was more cluttered, they were unamimous: the old design was the cluttered design.

It’s another reminder (sorry, yawn) about the importance of Content First. I keep coming back to Jeffrey Zeldman’s classic essay Style vs. Design:

Most of all, I worry about web users. Because, after ten-plus years of commercial web development, they still have a tough time finding what they’re looking for, and they still wonder why it’s so damned unpleasant to read text on the web “” which is what most of them do when they’re online.