Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jakob Nielsen On Web 2.0: "Glossy, But Useless"

A rebuttle to Jacob Nielsen's recent article about Web 2.0 (also, several good comments) ...

"Usability guru Jakob Nielsen believes that web 2.0 is in danger of becoming “glossy but useless.” Nielsen, whose usability guidelines have, for many designers, long been the bible of web interface development, believes that in the rush to embrace new technologies like Ajax, designers have abandoned the well worn principles of usable websites.

Nielsen tells the BBC that, “most people just want to get in, get it and get out… for them the web is not a goal in itself. It is a tool.”

... But isn’t web 2.0 about community sites that receive repeat traffic from users who are active members?

Even taking into account the 80/20 rule (80% of the community are typically lurkers, 20% contribute) that’s still a significant portion of the audience that are going to value features over usability.

Take, for instance, Digg. The vast majority of Digg users are like myself, headline scanners that interact mainly through an RSS reader and rarely even visit the site.

But if Digg were to optimize for usability and stop rolling out new features (like the recent API for instance) the site would inevitably alienate the hard core users who contribute the content.

If those users move on, then there’s little reason for the lurkers to remain and pretty soon what Kevin Rose would be left with is a really well designed, highly usable site that no cares about.

I don’t disagree with Nielsen that usability is important, but with web 2.0 community-oriented sites in particular, I think Nielsen is clinging to set of rigid standards that aren’t taking into account the changes in how users interact with the web."    (Continued via Wired)    [Usability Resources]

Jakob Nielsen - Usability, User Interface Design

Jakob Nielsen


Blogger michael said...

I know there are lots of Nielsen haters out there, but it's important to realize that everything he says is coming from the perspective of "is this good for e-business?"

There are lots of niche sites (Digg is a good example) that aren't selling anything, and so can use just about any damn design they please. Nielsen himself often says this.

MySpace is probably the ultimate example -- unusable AND horrifically ugly, but since there's no commerce going on other than ad-clicking -- and because their market (like Digg's) isn't the average web shopper -- it just doesn't matter.

Nielsen's focus is on business and getting the largest number of sales, which generally means simplifying for the retarded everyuser. If he would make this more clear in his criticisms (perhaps with examples of where he believes Web2.0 has gone wrong), there'd be a lot less backlash.

9:04 AM  

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