Honda : Applying a brake

A speed barrier to accessibility is removed

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The feature

Honda, Japan-based vehicle maker, provides the means to bypass the constant motion of a home page feature panel. Honda Worldwide, the company’s global corporate site, has a full-width featured-content image panel as the lead item on its home page. The panel displays a sequence of 10 headlined pictures that reflect initiatives or products around the world. The image changes every 3-4 seconds. A tiny set of navigation tools is overlaid permanently at the bottom right of the panel. It consists of double-chevron forward/back buttons either side of a green forward-pointing triangle. The chevrons allow the sequence to be advanced or wound back, while the triangle functions as a video-style stop/play switch – on click it halts the sequence and itself changes to two vertical green bars. The chevrons may be used while the sequence is in stop mode without reactivating the animation.

The takeaway

Honda has come up with a neat way to control a type of feature that can easily frustrate site visitors, if not make them turn round and leave. The problem is that animated content with a heavy foot in the accelerator pedal – and a 3-4 second change cycle is pretty rapid – can quickly become a speed barrier to most site visitors. Simply absorbing the content and hitting the follow-up link if interested requires Playstation-level reflexes, while the accessibility of the site is also impaired: many users find the continuous movement disturbing in itself, while the contrast between different pictures can also make the page flash. The result is the opposite of that intended – far from engaging with the site, users take avoiding action. The problem is the same even when, as here, there is some information benefit in the movement. Honda’s way round it is to provide a simple brake and stop/start mechanism, allowing it to continue to offer the range of information but users to control how they browse it. One aspect needs further development to make it truly roadworthy, however. The current size and positioning of the controls is too easily overlooked and their function not sufficiently intuitive for visitors to latch onto them before being driven to distraction.
First published 29 November, 2012
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