This week I found inspiration while reading chapter four of The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman. In the book, he discusses applying affordances, signifiers, and constraints to everyday objects and the example he used is a door. The gist of his logic is that when an architect worries more about the design than function, you can have a building where people get trapped between doors or don’t know if they need to push or pull. Some people found the solution by labeling the door, but (and this is the crucial message for me) that is where the door fails. You should not have to label a door to allow a user to be successful.
This example hits home for me when thinking about designing for the web. Nothing bothers me more when people feel they have to use the terminology “click here” while indicating a link. If you need to use the words “click here” or “click on the button in the top right” to allow the user to select the link, the link is not effective. To me, this is for the same reasoning as the door example Don Norman provided. If you are thinking about the user, we should provide a clear set up where they know exactly where to go at all times.
In addition to making sure the user visually understands where to click, the functional language of the button is also vital. But that is a topic for another day.