Artemy Lebedev

§ 50. A matter of status

April 22, 2000

“I had status—you know what I mean?—and I used to travel in the best circles.”

J. Heller. Catch 22

Now imagine that

  • a car speedometer is covered with a front page article;
  • a mobile phone display has a piece of insulating tape stuck to it;
  • a TV set doesn’t let you know which channel you just zapped to;
  • the “best before” date on a medicine is blotted out with a black marker;
  • the contents of a book does not indicate pages.

What will you do? Rip off the article, undo the tape, have the TV fixed, buy a new medicine, throw out the book.

When you happen to come to a site whose careful webmaster tried his best to hide the status line from you, dirty language is ok. The status line shows where this or that link will bring you. It also shows the progress of page download.

Many site builders clutter the status line with all sorts of crap, stuffing it with a clock, a running line with the latest news, “welcome” greetings, or cause it to show the word “News” as you position the cursor at the “News” link. All this third-rate information robs the user of the most valuable opportunity of knowing where he is about to be transferred. People tend to figure out the importance of a link by what it looks like. For instance, if the link is called “Latest data” and leads to not_ready.html, a normal person will not click it, since it’s obvious that nothing good will come of it.

Another way of committing this hideous crime (“depriving the user of vision, part two”) is opening a small brand new window without any status line at all. Here the user doesn’t know where he will go next and has no idea about how long the download will take. A horror story frightening enough to make one’s hair stand straight on end: a small window with a flash clip opens on your screen. Video files are usually huge, while measuring the download speed is impossible.

Hence the rule: don’t mess up with the usual look and feel and don’t hide standard interface elements when the user expects to see them.

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