With the emergence of AJAX and similar web technologies we’ve been introduced to multiple new features that many users have never seen before except in Desktop Applications. Features line inline editing, drag and drop, and the ability to customize items without ever having to refresh. Up until now we’ve only ever seen these features in the desktop applications we know, love, and use on a daily basis.
While these technologies make using the web easier, and certainly more pleasing, the simplicity comes at a cost, a cost some may not be willing to pay. These technologies not only offer a new way of browsing, but also a new learning curve to explore. It is expected that the majority of internet users are not savvy enough to quickly adapt to inline editing and similar features, which makes building a website around these types of features extremely difficult, but there are a few ways to help break in new users.
Offer some sort of invitation. Style certain parts of the page, important parts, in a different color, or with a noticeable effect that will help attract users. Make sure they know exactly how the website works and how they can use it. Write an introduction post or a simple tutorial, perhaps a video for those who need extra help. Remember to write your guide in laymen’s terms as not to confuse the simpler browsers.
Tool tips or cursor changes are a great way to invite users into new features. When designing a website with these new, rich media technologies it’s important that they know how to use them right off the bat, or your concept and ideas will quickly fall through. While designing a page it’s easy to forget about the user and get lost in your own design fantasies, but you must remember that the user always comes first.