Chaotic design on the web

Can users have fun exploring and uncovering, instead of just navigating?

A Japanese magazine cover

Just had a read through Learning from the Japanese City: Looking East in Urban Design which compares Western and Japanese architecture and planning. In examining the less ordered, ‘hectic’ architecture more commonly found in Japan, Shelton briefly contrasts the manic, frenzied design of Japanese children’s magazines with the (relative) order usually found in Western equivalents.

This got me thinking. In web design there’s a big emphasis on working toward order, ease of navigation, digestibility. And this definitely makes sense most of the time. But there are some projects which could benefit from less structure, and more emphasis on exploring and uncovering, rather than navigating and finding. Some examples that spring to mind could be a personal photo collection, a vintage clothing store, an online book shop.

To me, the real enjoyment of these experiences in the physical world comes from the journey – from trawling through chaos to uncover a gem – and it would be great to transfer this to the online world.

I’m sure this must have been done successfully in the past, but I’ve not come across an example and I can’t wait to start a project which lets me explore this idea. Do you have any examples to share? Tweet me at @gavin_platt.

Tagged design