Friday, June 24, 2005

Is the Web Broken? (Part One)

is the web broken?

A web design guy complains of a "broken web". I think I agree, so far as designers often violate user expectations, deviate from established web norms, and force users to learn new skills at their sites, for no good reason.

It seems to smack of "I can design anything I want, and users will just have to adapt to me."

Desktop Applications vs. Web Services

Dirk Knemyer's article "Completely Rethinking the Web" (May 18, 2005) in Digital Web online magazine has a few interesting things to say, but he calls for more desktop applications to be installed on user computers, rather than more web services.

Let's just examine his opening arguments: the "four things".

I really don't understand his concept of the four things people want to do with the web: learn, feel, connect, trade.


This reminds me of the MTV influence, the web as a video arcade or a set of virtual experiential thrills. Boring concept.

Or could he be refering to pornography? I'm not sure, although porn is a big "thing" people use the web for, which he ignores. I don't approve, but it's a fact.

I never use the web to "Feel" anything, not even to "feel connected".

Have you ever turned on your computer to surf the web, or visit specific sites, in order to "feel" something?

Maybe I'm too mentally oriented, too much of conceptual person, too writerly.

But I don't feel anything at web sites, except neck or back pain from sitting too long. I've got a painful frozen shoulder from excessive computer usage. Is that "feeling"?

It Gets Weirder

In Dirk's even more mystifying article "There Are Only Four Things That People Do On The Web" (December 4, 2003) in Thread, he explains his theory a bit.

Only Four Things
People Do on the Web
(according to Dirk K.)

(1.) learn: obtain facts or news

(2.) feel: be "moved" (?) via entertainment, or being impressed by a new, beautiful, or surprising object.

(3.) connect: have a relationship with others online

(4.) trade: buy, sell, or exchange goods

I have been in conflict with Dirk and his buddy Andrei's weird web design ideas for over a year now. There seems to be a strong anti-usability orientation here that needs to be examined.

How can a person claim that the web is "broken" when they don't even know all the real reasons why people use the web?

When you do not test users, but just assume you know what they want and what they do on the web, you can fall deeper and deeper into error.

What People Really Use the Web For

Ask any random web users what they do on the web.

They'll tell you:

* send and receive email

* send and receive photo, art, or music files (file sharing)

* search for and read news items not found in the MSM

* visit porn sites

* play games, visit online casinos, etc.

* read web sites and blogs devoted to their specific interests

* conduct business at work

* visit chat rooms to express opinions or lurk and read opinions of others

* read user critiques of products, and shop for and order products

It seems that Dirk is focused on static corporate web sites.

He seems to not really understand the new web usage behaviors centered around blogs and wikis.

If we add blog and wiki behaviors into the mix, we get something like the following...

Web and Blog Usage Behaviors

(1.) self-expression

(2.) ideology propaganda

(3.) interaction with information/opinions presented by others

(4.) online community sense of devotion to a cause or interest

(5.) inspire or be inspired for social activism

(6.) project colloboration with other users

(7.) information accumulation (e.g., wikis, or The Red Couch blog soliciting comments and information from other bloggers, for a book on blogs)

(8.) experiment with art, photos, music, multi-media

(9.) download and share music and movie files

(10.) play games

My list is not as elegant as four simple words, but web usage is somewhat messy and is evolving rapidly.

Let's stop here.

In part 2, I'll quote some of Dirk's article on the "broken" web and give you my analysis of the situation.

My concern is that web and blog designers need to really KNOW what users want, and what users do, before they design anything.

Dirk does have some good points, which I'll discuss in Part Two.

vaspersthegrate [at] yahoo [dot] com Posted by Hello

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate



carrie said...

i use the internet to gain information

steven edward streight said...

Information is what makes the web spin round.