Attention Economics and ASP.NET MVC View Templates

Today I was in a discussion that involved ASP.NET MVC and the use of View Templates. One of the arguments for the use of View Templates – specifically custom templates – was the need to enforce a corporate look and feel. Basically the developer would have access to display markup which presented a consistent interface to the end user – in this case a person using a web browser. A specific example highlighted the use of View Templates around validation to present a red asterisk on input fields which required further attention.

As developers this is usually where our justification stops.  Stepping outside the developer box allows a stronger argument to be made. I argue that using View Templates goes beyond merely presenting the user with a visual short cut, and into the world of attention economics.

Herb Simon first introduced this concept back in the early 70’s which simply states that an “abundance of information creates a scarcity [poverty] of attention”. Therefore, what a developer is really accomplishing by using a view template (i.e red asterisk) is to narrow the users attention to only the information that matters most at that moment.  As a result the developer allows the user to efficiently use their attention.

A red asterisk is merely one simple use of View Templates but it highlights the value of creating a “usable” interface rather than squandering a user’s attention and frustrating them with the experience.

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