I was sent a link today to this site from the UK which is for the launch of the SEAT Exeo (it’s a car).
Yes it’s built in Silverlight but what I really want to concentrate on is the design.
That’s good for Silverlight because if you ask me there have been too many examples of the technical capabilities of Silverlight, at the expense of good visual design. If we want to continue to drive designer adoption of Silverlight we need to reassure designers that good design is just as possible in Silverlight as in other technologies (even more so with Silverlight 3 with bitmap effects, perspective 3D, better type rendering etc).
When your content is discretionary like this is (few people will feel they have to use this site) you simply must present yourself well.
More importantly I like this example for its information design (or information architecture), regardless of technology.
They start by using the magazine metaphor – something that we’ve seen used before of course, but which is very appropriate for a car launch. We’ve all flipped through those glossy printed car brochures before after all. Drawing on this experience sets up a ‘model’ for the user to follow. The challenge to the designers, then, is to not break that pact with their users but violating that model (too much).
By avoiding the traditional ‘menu’ of options for people to choose from, the designers make the entire site more approachable – I am invited to simply browse the brochure, rather than having to make a decision as soon as I arrive.
Instead of asking me to make a choice, the brochure format offers me a ‘path of least resistance’.
The designers then go on to add interesting interactive pieces on each page of the brochure. I like these for two reasons:
The faint blue light, the 3D affordance, and the likeness of a key-fob invite me to interact with this simple element.
Having said all of that, there were a few things that might have been done better? (Usual caveat that ‘it’s all very well for me to criticise, I wasn’t there’ etc applies.)
Overall this is a great example of how restraint (in navigation options, in amount of content and in visuals) can make for a very satisfying experience.
As I often say in presentations, functionality is the natural enemy of user experience. Have only as much as necessary to achieve your purpose.