Lost in space and enjoying it
July 18, 2001
Information architects and usability people have delighted in pointing out the navigation and user interface problems with Flash sites and pieces. And there are definitely all too many problems with many of them. But I think they go off-base in slamming Flash pieces that are intended to be "exploratory" immersive experiences. These can be quite satisfying, witness the success of "Myst" years ago with people who weren't traditional computer gamers. Or the popularity of cornfield mazes. Literally losing yourself in the experience can be part of the fun. So in these sorts of experiences things don't have to be obvious the way they need to be if your focus is on finding information or completing a task, since figuring out things is part of the pleasure. On the other hand, that doesn't mean these sorts of sites/pieces can totally ignore issues of navigation and user interface. Jessica Helfand, writing in the Spring 2001 issue of the British design magazine, Eye, put it nicely:

...being lost in space is delirously engaging as long as you know at some point you can relocate yourself.

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