You’ve produced a site with scores of awesome web pages, have carefully selected images that were cropped, placed and optimized. All your content is in order & your design is pure perfection. Hours of effort has gone into your project and you’ve carefully nitpicked every tiny detail. Good to go, right? Absolutely not.

Anyone who does web design needs to have at least one proofreader go through the work to find flaws before a launch. It’s not an option; it’s required. Two or more set of eyes is even better, and that will only get you about 90% of flaws found. Even with careful scrutiny, there will be still be goofs that either you, your client or a casual viewer will find much later.

No, you’re not an idiot. You are careful and super detail oriented. The reason why you will always miss something is because you’re human. And there are scientific reasons why you’ll ALWAYS miss something.

Ever Heard of the Stroop Effect?

Guessing you’ve never heard of this very human reality. It’s named after John Ridley Stroop, who published the effect in 1935. Stroop administered experiments that used three different stimuli:

  • Names of colors printed in black ink
  • Names of colors in a different ink than the color named
  • Squares of a given color

You can read all about his experiments, but in the end, he found that no matter what, humans either make perception errors and/or the brain corrects obvious errors with ease. We’ve popped in one of his tests here. Take a look. What do you see?

The reason people can’t spot their own typos is because humans are actually too smart. Humans see printed words & quickly deciphers the meaning or message in text well before their brain processes colors.

The Human Brain is the Ultimate Autocorrector

The brain takes in all information at the same time then processes at different speeds, with a healthy dose of sensory expectations. There’s many instances of pure gibbish online that shows that people can actually understand a message, despite grossly obvious spelling errors.

The Stroop effect explains the why of making errors, but it doesn’t cover everything involved with web design. Unfortunately, another human brain compensatory phenomenon kicks in to play havoc with design & imagery.

Web design takes time, and can easily propel designers into what is termed Directed Attention Fatigue or DAF. This is a neurological phenomenon that results from overuse of the brain’s inhibitory attention mechanisms. When maintaining focus on a specific task, a particular part of the brain’s inhibitory system can be easily overworked by trying to process too much over a long period of time.

In other words, whenever you’re trying to do too much, the brain effectively may seem to be working, but in reality, it can’t do it all. Think of the varied aspects of web design that is manipulated on any given project. Pressed by the desire to create while balancing the many technical aspects required, you may not even be aware that your brain is overloaded.

Your brain, however, knows exactly that it’s being overwhelmed, and what to do about it. It effectively goes to a compensatory mode that functions on one level, but not well on all the different levels you’re pushing for it to perform. The result? Significant trouble in web perfection land.

The bad news? You may not even be aware that your brain is working in overload mode & that it’s barely able to keep up. You may experience a loss of focus & task confusion, task forgetfulness, task elements skipped and difficulty with directed thinking. Ultimately, you think less creatively and productively.

You may think you got the job done, but cerebral compensation has occurred. It allows you to continue by making you significantly blind to the omissions you’re producing in an attempt to keep up with your demands. In other words, your brain turns a blind eye on what you’re doing while you continue to make it work on things it can’t handle.  The result? Goofs.

What’s the Solution?

To make your site builds as flawless as possible, develop humility and get a proofreading plan. Realize that your little brain is more complex than the machines you use to design & produce websites.

Of course, you should walk away from your desk for a few hours, or even a few days, then take a look at your work. You will find errors because you gave your brain a well deserved rest. However, your brain may still kick into auto correct mode, even after a mental vacation. In that case, you may never see all that just didn’t go quite right. Only fresh eyes by another human will be able to see flaws.

Even then, the Stoop effect & DAF will effect your proofreaders. Their brains will also try to compensate for errors. Realize the neurological effects will be much less, mainly because they were not active participants in the design process. Face it – even the best proofreader will miss things too.

Wisdom on your part is acknowledging that error creation is just one part of the design process. Don’t go it alone and never forget to get an extra set of eagle eyes on all you do. It’ll become your most valuable asset!

p.s. You will probably find goofs in this blog. If you don’t, weed be very suprised!