Monday, April 03, 2006

usability vs. Web 2.0

My mentor Jakob Nielsen has two recent Alertboxes that really put fancy schmancy web technology in its place...way down at the bottom of priorities.

Don't believe the foolish, retarded hype. Web 2.0 is largely a myth. All it really boils down to is static web sites imitating dynamic, interactive blogs. There's not much more to it.

While I champion all progress in web technology, we all know by now that RSS/Atom, podcasting, social media communities (from the MySpace toilet to Linkedin), and tags are ridiculously over-rated.

These highly exalted technologies are full of problems, and often just make things more cluttered and less useful.

"Growing a Business Website: Fix the Basics First"


Indeed, the biggest design flaws destroying business value typically involve:

Communicating clearly so that users understand you. Users allocate minimal time to initial website visits, so you must quickly convince them that the site's worthwhile.

Providing information users want. Users must be able to easily determine whether your services meet their needs and why they should do business with you.
Offering simple, consistent page design, clear navigation, and an information architecture that puts things where users expect to find them.

Get these three right, and you'll enhance your site's credibility, ease a user's way through the site, and thus do far more for the site's business value than any JavaScript trick.


"Hyped Web Stories are Irrelevant"


Summary: The fads and big deals that get the press coverage are not important for running a workhorse website. To serve your customers, it's far better to emphasize simplicity and quality than to chase buzzwords.

Because we're in the midst of Web Bubble 2.0, I decided to dust off some of my Bubble 1.0 columns and retool them for current conditions.

In 1997, I wrote an Alertbox called "The Fallacy of Atypical Web Examples."

In it, I complained about the excessive attention focused on a few highly prominent Web projects that didn't represent the vast majority of websites. I also warned against emulating these big and famous examples.

The sidebar, "Stories from 1997 Revisted," looks at some of those well-hyped stories in light of recent developments. Indeed, as it turns out, most websites have had to follow very different paths than those trod by the much-discussed sites.

Back then, designers would have been better served by focusing on their own unique circumstances, rather than listening to the Bubble 1.0 hype.

And now? History repeats itself.

There is endless coverage of a few atypical stories in the trade press, mainstream media, and even on specialized Internet-focused websites. Once again, it's worth remembering: your site is different from the ones in big stories.

Focus on fixing the basics to get a simple and communicative website. Simple steps don't get hyped, but they drive much more business value for the average site than the issues that everyone writes about.

[snip--text deleted]

The most important story of them all gets almost no hype: we're seeing more and more simple websites that meet customers' needs and thus generate substantial business value.

Often the sites that do nothing special are the best: it's more important to focus on doing things right than to chase the latest fad.


Go to his UseIt dot com web site and learn much more. Nielsen has some interesting things to say about Google, classified ads on the web, and Wikipedia.

It's so true that users need web-centric text, i.e., short paragraphs, bulleted/asterisked/numbered lists, bold type, heads and sub-heads, to guide them as they *quickly, impatiently, distractedly* skim and scan for meat.

Relevant data. Practical info. Useful facts. Clear pictures. That's what they need, and that's what they expect from your blog or web site.

Are you giving your readers what they want to receive...or are you narcissistically giving them what you want to pummel them with?

I need to re-evaluate this blog. I must once again strive to make Vaspers the Grate more relevant and useful.

How about your site? Do you hate it? You must hate it, so that you can see what needs improvement. As Deming declared, all things must continually improve...or degenerate into uselessness.

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