I suppose you could rephrase this question as "When can design supersede User Experience?"

I've just designed a Nav bar that goes against everything I stand for as a UX Professional, yet I feel I can justify forgoing best practices here given the websites audience.

Here's a quick snapshot to give you an idea of what I mean:

enter image description here

As you can see, each nav item is bunched up against the next. Making it a tad difficult to read. The target audience of the site however, is the young professional male, typically well versed in the ways of the internet and technology. And this gives me the confidence that the user will quickly identify this function and use it appropriately.

So does this justify a design that ignores best practices of UX?

When can it ever?

  • Added typography as a tag as word spacing is a typographical topic. – Aadaam Nov 3 '12 at 1:04
  • 3
    Sport, cars, tech? Sportcars, tech? Sportcars tech? – sbichenko Nov 3 '12 at 9:37
  • I think this question could/should be a bit more focused around the typography example. It's more an issue of justifying the loss of readability than generally ignoring "best practices" – Ben Brocka Nov 3 '12 at 16:34
  • I think photographers (and other professionals) have this idea that you can break rules when you understand how to apply them, since rules and guidelines apply to ideal cases, and as we know this world is less than ideal at the best of times. – Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 3:31

A good designer knows the rules. A great designer knows when the rules can or should be broken. And if you can justify it, then go for it.

UX certainly allows for more mysterious paths and interfaces. It's the exception, rather than the norm, but if you can justify the exception, go for it.

A mini-critique of your sample: The ampersand should be removed. It sticks out way too much and ruins the 'mashup' flow. I suggest removing it altogether but, if you keep it, use the same typeface as the rest of the words.

The first line is also a bit problematic in that you can't quite tell if it's sport|cars|tech or if it is sportcars|tech (either way, I think sport needs to be 'sports'). But perhaps that can be resolved via the interaction design.

  • Thanks for your answer @DA01, and for the critique. The ampersand is something I wasn't so sure about myself. The only purpose it currently serves is to extend the bottom line of the nav to be longer than the top. It's a design approach. I'll review that and look at how I might improve it. I do like to push the boundaries when it comes to design, I just need to define where the line is. Hence this post! – Daniel Meade Nov 3 '12 at 1:54
  • Well, I think you could keep it, but maybe use the same typeface as the rest so it doesn't take all the focus. – DA01 Nov 3 '12 at 2:44
  • Yes, it is sports cars, not sport cars. – Marjan Venema Nov 3 '12 at 10:27

In general, UX is not about artistic self-expression, but about users.

You can try to use scriptio continua for an aesthetic effect, however, I'd recommend using it only for title text, as people will have a hard time each time they try to actually navigate the page.

It's simple: navigation will not only be read, but it is to be used as signposts as well. It can be, that there are people who are interested only in, let's say, cars on your site. Their plan is to come and each time, click on the "car" link immediately.

However, they'll have a hard time to find where does car begin, and again-and-again they have to read and interpret the text letter-by-letter.

Modern studies have shown that people who read frequently are reading word-by-word, that is, they recognize a whole word at once, not constructing it letter by letter.

Now imagine reading like a 6-year-old every time you want to actually navigate on the site.

Run user tests if you wish to see if it's acceptable for your target audience, but in general, a navigation item is not only an element of artistic expression, but an everyday tool to use.

I think, just like the more often we use a tool, the more it is driven by function rather than aesthetics ever since the bauhaus, the same goes to our virtual devices.

  • Thanks @Aadaam, I do agree with this argument, and as a UX designer myself this is my thought process entirely. That said, I have already run user tests, with participants being of both the audience demographic and outside of it. Perhaps surprisingly, the targeted demographic worked it out immediately, whilst those outside almost always did not. I'm just still a little hung up as to whether this is actually the best approach to take, aesthetics over immediate usability. – Daniel Meade Nov 3 '12 at 1:48

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