Friday, July 08, 2005

Lazy Stupid Evil: Jakob Nielsen on web design

Lazy, stupid, evil.

That's what Jakob Nielsen, the foremost web usability expert, has to say about a lot of web design.

Let me quote most of a recent interview with him (I deleted the last two paragraphs).

Lazy, stupid and evil design

Jack Schofield
Thursday June 23, 2005
The Guardian


Having a coffee and cake with Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert from Nielsen Norman Group, I asked him what was holding up progress on the web.

"Three things, really: I call them lazy, stupid and evil design," he replies.

"Evil design is where they stop you from doing what you are trying to do, like putting an advert over the top of the page. That's the wrong way to do it. Google has made billions by putting the ads where people do want them, rather than where they don't want them."

Evil design is perpetrated by people who are deliberately doing the wrong thing, and this harms everyone. Nielsen cites pop-up windows as an example. Users now expect pop-ups to be unwanted ads, and close them without looking at them. As a result, good designers can no longer use pop-up windows even when they would be a good solution.

"We now have to say: 'Don't put your help text in a pop-up window.' It's ruined it for everybody," he adds.

"Stupid design is where companies are doing things that are known not to work. We now have 12 years documented experience that certain things work and certain things do not work," says Nielsen, "and companies are still doing things that do not work."

One example is the Flash intro. "Almost everybody knows that doesn't work, but every so often, a new website comes along and makes that mistake. That's stupid."

The solution is education. "We have to make it even more well known," he grins.

"Lazy design is where people just don't bother," says Nielsen. "That's actually quite common."

One example is the search facilities found on websites: "it's amazing how often they barely work," he says. Search is complicated, and even if sites buy search software, it has to be installed and tweaked to work correctly. Many companies just can't be bothered.

Putting up PDF files is another example: "it's the lazy way out," says Nielsen.

The answer to lazy design is often to convince the people who control the budgets that it is worth producing material specifically for the web, just as they do for print media, radio and television.



And people think I'm "harsh, provocative".

I find myself using "stupid" as an adjective

a lot lately, and now I see I'm not the only one.

I have gotten nearly all my web usability ideas

from the writings of Jakob Nielsen.

I then attempt to adopt and apply them

to the realm of blogs: thus, blogology.

These terms were greeted with raised eyebrows,

snickers, and smirks until recently.

Nielsen is right again.

Lazy: most people are mediocre, average,

incompetent, uncommitted, comfort-enslaved.

Evil: I agree that it is evil to make users

do things they don't need to do, or will later

regret doing, deceiving users for ill-gotten gain.

Stupid: many web designers have not studied

user observation test results, nor do they

seem to care about user priorities and needs.

I hate popup window blog comments, like Haloscan.

When you seek to post a comment at a blog,

wishing to make a remark, and a popup window

appears in the upper left corner, you feel betrayed.

You have been shoved up and away

away from the blog, off to a cul-de-sac.

You have been marginalized,

de-priortized, ostracized.

You have left the vicinity

of the blog at which you wish

to post a comment, and have been

whisked away to a floating island,

quarantined, isolated from the blog text.

"You go up there, you commenter",

the blog seems to be saying.

"I don't want your contamination

to clutter my space, my residence,"

the blogs seems to be thinking.

Visit Jakob Nielsen

at his web site:

Use It

[signed] Vaspers the Grate aka Steven Streight

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