Thursday, August 09, 2007

The web design guru that web designers love to hate

Nielsen on UI and his website ...

"Google for Jakob Nielsen and you'll often find him described as a "web design guru". He's also the man that some web designers love to hate. In particular, they love to heap abuse on his website - UseIt.com.

It's a decade-old design and it wouldn't take much effort to make it look nicer, would it? More importantly, surely he ought to be following all his own guidelines on usability.

Nielsen is not a graphic designer, and he reckons that smartening it up would put him in the middle range of site designs: "I'd be just one out of 10m. Redesigning it would take away the real value, which is that it stands out. But I'm probably the only one who could get away with it. I wouldn't recommend it to somebody starting out now!"

Although Use It annoys the people who think web design is graphic design, Nielsen doesn't mind. "There is something good about upsetting people, because it's making an impact," he says. But, he adds: "It's not good if you only annoy people," and you have to offer something of value.

'My site stands out'

Nielsen evaluates sites using principles described by Don Norman, his partner in the Nielsen Norman Group, in his book, Emotional Design (see arts.guardian.co.uk). The idea is that all designs work in three main ways: visceral, behavioural and reflective. Use It might upset people at the visceral level - if they immediately dislike the look of it - but Nielsen reckons it works well on the behavioural and reflective levels. "On the behavioural level - in actual use - it scores pretty well," Nielsen says. It's fast, has readable text, is fairly easy to use, and so on. "On the reflective level - what does it say about you -my site stands out like a protest against the overly glamorous, flashy sites. So it scores really high."

Nielsen is careful to point out that he's not making recommendations for all websites. There's no reason why people can't go mad on their MySpace pages, or create sites that are complex and challenging for, say, geeks or gamers. But his main focus is on sites where people go to get something done, such as look up a timetable, buy a car or take out a loan."    (Continued via The Guardian)    [Usability Resources]

Jakob Nielsen - Usability, User Interface Design

Jakob Nielsen

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