Principles of Design #9 – Entry Point

Dec 31 2010

The tradition of New Year resolutions can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians, who believed that your actions on the first day of the new year, defined the course of the whole year.  Entry Point is also an important design principle, as people do judge books by their covers, internet sites by their first page and buildings by their lobbies (as well as potential partners by their looks).  

The initial impression of any system or environment (at entry point) has a profound impact on our perceptions of and attitudes toward it, in turn influencing later interactions.  For example, when you you enter an internet site for the first time and the front page is slow to download, your impressions are set whatever happens deeper in the site (if you get that far).  Such errors in designing entry points annoy those who can be bothered to work their way through, and deter those who don’t.

Good entry design is typically broken down into three elements by designers: minimal barriers, points of prospect and progressive lures.

Don’t create barriers

The most important design rule is to never impede entry by blocking entry points, with difficult access, noisy displays, sales people blocking access or any other form of physical or perceptual barrier which discourages entry.  This can be aesthetic as well as functional, as a badly maintained facade or landscape will discourage entry as much as a solid door.

Help orientation

Entry points should always allow people to orient themselves and have a clear view of the options available to them, as when store entrances give a clear view of layout and design, or internet pages give clear and easy to understand navigation cues and options.  I’m always more likely to enter a restaurant where I can see inside, and Apple have mastered entry point design in their store layouts.

Gradual pull

Lures should be used to attract people, pulling them through the entry point and progressively bringing them into the environment.  Wall Street Journal do this well with their front page highlighting of key stories of the day, restaurants use greeters and shops display their most popular products in clear and easy view of those outside.

Easy access

To summarise, you can maximise the effectiveness of an entry point in any design by reducing barriers, helping orientation and using progressive encouragements, and by giving users time and space to consider how they can interact.

Whatever your entry point to 2011, I hope it brings you health and happiness and you continue to enjoy reading Doctor Disruption and Inspector Insight over the coming year.

REFERENCES

Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler (2010)

Why We Buy by Paco Underhill (2000)

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