When laying out forms and other screen elements, read the layout like a conversation, working from the page origin.
Arrange the elements to ensure the dialogue makes sense, and it will be a better user experience.
The browser’s mental monologue
When we use a web page, like any software or media, we all have a subtle mental commentary running inside our heads.
It makes decisions, gives instructions, asks questions, passes comment and argues with the page.
Example of mental monologue
- “What’s this?”
- “No, I do not want to receive more information!”
- “That looks like the one.”
- “Where did I see that link?”
- “Yes, I want to send a message! Where am I supposed to click?”
I imagine that when the features I design on a web page interact with a user’s mental monologue, it produces a dialogue.
In this two-way conversation, each party takes their turn to speak and listen.
Sometimes, the dialogue is extremely efficient and quick, like the exchange between a highly skilled hotel concierge and an honoured guest.
Sometimes, the dialogue becomes confusing, or breaks down completely.
This is either because the relevant information is not presented, or it’s presented the wrong way.
A common problem I find on web pages is that the information is presented in the wrong order.
Sometimes it just feels like someone isn’t listening to you, or that life somehow isn’t as simple as it should be.
Very often, it’s simply a case of layout.