6. Designing for Web Genres

Designers draw on well-established paradigms to guide them, in designing their sites. The author suggests that they are established on meatspace conventions and brick-and-mortar experience so that users would find it easier to make the transition from real-world experiences to online experiences.

EN: that's a dated statement. I think it's more accurate to say that sites evolve toward patterns that are based on users' experiences with other Web sites rather than meatspace experience.

Back to the author, he suggests that users are accustomed to specific genres (which can be divided into sub-genres, and maybe even further subdivided), and have certain expectations of a Web site, based on its genre, from their experience with other sites. A site that breaks with conventions does so at the risk of being unfamiliar to users, hence more difficult to use.

EN: I'm disgruntled that the author seems to be advocating blind imitation without consideration of the reasons a site is designed in a certain way, or consideration of whether the design choices made by others are actually effective. Simply stated, if the best you can do is imitate others, you should probably just redirect your site visitors to the other site.

6.1 Genre Content

By viewing a wide array of sites in a genre, it's possible to put together an outline of the standard content on such sites. For example, a newspaper site has stories (current and archived), advertisements, editorials, photo galleries, etc. whereas a shopping site has an inventory of items, a shopping cart, customer service, gift card sales, etc.

Users' experience with Web sites leads them to expect certain content to be included in any other site of that genre, and a site that lacks content common to the rest will be seen as lacking.

6.2 Genre Expression

The author uses "expression" to indicate media used to communicate to the user: text, graphics, sound, video, etc. It is more often on the sub-genre level that these differences are expressed: A "newspaper" site may use print; a television news site (still in the 'news" genre) may use film; a news radio site (ditto) may use audio clips.

The author also uses "expression" to construe the design choices. Sites built for teenagers are garish and junked up with lots of images and animation, whereas sites built for attorneys are very plain and conservative.

6.3 Genre Form

Genre form means the way the elements of the genre's site are arranged. This applies to both page layout (on a news site, the main story is centered at the top) and the arrangement of elements (a product page has the photo on the left, then item name, description, part number, and price on the right). These tend to be standardized across sites in a specific genre.

6.4 Genre Evolution

The author indicates that genres evolve over time, starting with a real-world model, then adapting due to technology. New technology provides better ways of doing things, and sites feed off one another (imitating sites in their own genre as well as sites outside their genre).

6.5 Genre Mixing

It's not clear what the author is getting at: the title seems to suggest sites that combine genres (a site tries to be both a news outlet and a shopping site), but the text focuses on a study (Laskowski, 2001) that took content from a news site and put it into the genre format of a shopping site, and found 2/3 of users preferred it that way. I think that this is more in line with what he describes as "genre evolution" in the previous section: borrowing elements (such as format) from other genres.