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Basically both are considered Gurus in web design but with two very different styles and different expectations of the web and their users. I looked at the two sites today because of this article - and they are both fantastic sites - for very different reasons; leading me to the question:
Where do people here see the web going? (3 - 10 years)
And which approach is going to make money?
An "average" Web user looks at what - 10 or so sites a week, perhaps in 2 to 3 sessions?
Their experience of the Web per se is VERY different from ours. The only way a customer and our own experience comes together is when a site succeeds in its goals for both - the holy grail... The customer buys something, signs up for an email list, registers, remembers the brand, bookmarks becuase they think the site is useful - the designer succeeds in their pitch to their niche.
The BBC thing is a bit of a beat-up really. It creates debate obviously. Yet it is a designers perspective and to a large extent narcissitic - remember the customer is King.
Having said that, when trying to convey left brained information the obvious choice is probably a more information friendly approach. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but overall I think it just takes a sensitivity to the situation. Personally I would be happy to have my designs appeal to both the left and right sides of the brain.
joined:June 27, 2000
I have never understood why Jakob Nielson is considered a usability 'expert'. Is it because he was the first to preach it and the label stuck?
Useit.com is one of the most frustrating sites I have ever used. Lists upon lists of links and no common navigation anywhere. It is so easy to get lost on that site it drives me crazy.
joined:Apr 13, 2001
3. Reboot happened the same as in step 1, so now I used my trusty WGET to fetch the index.html file. All it showed was that I'd have to WGET about four different frames of stuff to see what was going on. Not that interested.
End of story.
This is the future of the Web?
I think that's a big part of it... The web is such a new medium, it's hard for anyone to be more than a self proclaimed expert in their chosen field. Personally, I think Jakob's most apparent area of expertise is self-promotion. ;)
But really, I do read useit.com, because his advice, taken with a grain of salt, can be worthwhile. Or at the very least, it gives me a new perspective to consider. I also occasionally spend time browsing through self-important "art" sites, and ogling at Flash gizmos. SOmetimes they give me ideas I can tone down and use in my own work.
What I can't figure out (as quite a few have already noted above) is why a website can supposedly be either usable or artistic, but never both. Or why the web will go in one direction or the other, rather than expanding in all directions.
Look at music, television, or any other major area of human endeavor... since when did ANYTHING go "one way" or "the other?" That's not the way it works. You've got self-published books of poetry about people's childhood pets, and you've got War and Peace... and then you've got that awful technical manual for the VCR over in the corner. Classical music did not die when jazz was invented, nor did jazz die when rock and roll came along, [insert comparison relating to favorite topics here], etc., etc., ad infinitum.
There's at least as much room for both awfulness and greatness on the web as there is in the literary, artistic or broadcast media world. And what's awful to one person may well be great to another. And things can be great in more than one way... A site can be both beautiful and usable, or it can be hideous and confusing, or whatever.
joined:Feb 4, 2002
I think Nielsen takes useability way to far thuogh.
Serious money in apps that span devices. Which for now means simple and useable.
I am afriad it has Lawman and it is the main content providers of today .. TV Stations (esp digital TV stations) ..
They already work in multimedia, already have massive content plus creation and editing facilities and staff and they are merging with connectivity and other media players specifically to exploit the future high speed networks. Think about CNN and the BBC you can almost see the future ...
Everyone has their own preconceived idea of what is good - whether its a car, film, man, woman, house, job, hobby or even web site.
People go to a site with a mental image of what they think is good and judge the site on that criteria.
To create a good site is to straddle the middle ground and deliver a little of both extremes.
Listen, the beauty of the web is that it's in a constant state of flux. That's why, when diagrammed, it's depicted as a gaseous form. Is there a place for low-res, text oriented sites? Yes. Is there a place for high-end, avant-garde artsy design? Of course. Two different camps, but the same medium.
Browser manufacturers can't even agree on what the user experience should be, so how can we, as designers, agree or cast judgement? The bottom line is the user, and trying to balance what the customer wants with what the user needs. I have the utmost respect for Davis and his ilk, just as I have respect for Nielson and his push for greater web usability. Myself? I try to draw a line between the two: develop usable sites that look decent and appealing. I have yet to be completely satisfied with any site I've done, but, again, that's the beauty of the web. You always, in the immortal words of John Cleese, "adopt, adapt and improve".
most great art is actually extremely simple...there may be a massive amount of complexity involved, but it is all under the hood
joined:Apr 13, 2001
> In 3-10 years, internet connections way faster than DSL will be ubiquitous.
> The camp making money on website design hasn't yet been conceived.
I disagree. There's no way anyone can get rich off of hooking up fiber for the last mile. Most folks don't need 500 digital channels on demand; I cancelled my cable TeeVee after trying it for 30 days, because it took me 30 minutes to click through 60 channels just to find out what was on. The same movies over and over, lots of commercials on most of the other channels, lots and lots of crap. It's less stressful to watch a sitcom rerun on a network broadcast if you're trying to turn your mind off for 30 minutes.
In fact, you can't even get rich off of dark transoceanic fiber anymore; the junk-bonders have already raked off their hundreds of millions and flown the coop (former Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick was a salesman for Michael Milken in the 1980s). And not only is the last mile a huge bandwidth bottleneck, but broadband for wireless devices doesn't even have a theoretical solution in sight.
It's okay, though, because there isn't enough decent content available to even bother hooking up fiber to the home. We've hit a plateau; what you see now is just about the way it will remain for at least 10 years.
They started stringing coax cable to residences 30 years ago. Lots of residences don't have it even today. I've lived in perhaps 20 apartments over those 30 years, in various parts of the U.S., and the apartment I'm in now is the first time cable has even been available. In New York City you're stuck with copper in many older buildings; they break out the champagne when they can grab two test-okay copper pairs to the central office, because that means they can have a T1 to their server.
Nope, forget the hype. This is the morning after on the Web.
Nope, I agree completely. IMO, a web page should either present useful information or attempt to lead you to that information. The praystation site left me clueless.
The Nielson site presented me with a pile of text links of more or less equal weight. It wasn't clear where they wanted me to go. It's personal preference, perhaps, but I'd much rather present the user with 3 - 6 well-defined, highlighted choices that can be scanned in seconds. Ancillary links and navigation aids are fine, but they should be presented with less emphasis so as not to present the visitor with too many choices to sort through.
Of course, that's what makes the web great - diverse options for diverse users.
Agreed completely, users should have a very limited number of main options to select from. Give them over 10 main choices to select from and they are lost. Both sites look terrible to me, Nielsens site is Almost OK except it is kind of disorganized and ugly; praystation is just bad as in unusable and not too pretty either...
joined:Feb 4, 2002
Classic. That's exactly how I feel about that site. It's so damn useable that it's *useless*
I don't like to speak out against a fellow duck, but this looks like a classic case of bad workman blaming his tools.
Flash web sites are as usable as you design them - blaming Flash for bad Flash sites is like blaming HTML for bad HTML web sites.
I don't read there as much as I'd like because everything is hard to find. What I would give for some simple index/toc pages leading to all the stories.
Neilson is completely over-rated, I dont agree with a lot of what he says. I've seen and read much better usability books than his.
Everytime I go to useit.com, the first thing I cringe over is having to click "Search" and going to a new page to use the search.
I know he's not a designer and he explains this throughout his site - but come on!
If we were to debate between usability vs creative arts on the web I would say that Usability (not all Neilson's ideas/beliefs) is where all commercial web design should focus on. But saying that - the type of creativity we are talking about (not just Davis's) is an asset for all web designers and it will change the way that sites are designed.
His recent book, Homepage Usability, covers the Home page of many major sites -- and the deconstruction he shares in it is remarkably astute. The changes he suggests would not result in an overly stripped down look, but they would result in a more usable site. He addresses things like the size and visibility of a site search box, the writing of informative headlines, confusing labels and so on.
If you get around a copy in bookstore, it's worth a browse at least. You may be happily surprised. I know I took away a lot that I put into immediate use. And I still use Photoshop!
This means wireless devices to get online with; be it a desktop computer or a PDA-like devices. Maybe not in 10 years or 20 years, but I'm 90% sure that in the future we'll be carry around a tablet-like device that will contain a highspeed(faster than current cable modem/dsl technology) internet connection. If you've ever used a PDA you know how small he screen is. You just can't put a lot of artwork on them. It's almost all about usability. Sure the screens may get larger allowing us to add artwork and people will still use desktops keeping the need for graphically pleasing web sites, but I have a feeling the majority of what will come in the future will be quick access to information on the web via a PDA-like device.
(yes I have a Sony Clie that can connect to the internet via IrDA to my Nokia 8290 cell phone)
"The emperor really IS naked!"
When signing up a new customer, one of our first tasks is to rid them of the idea that all visitors arrive at the home page. If we design the site well, many, (perhaps most), of their visitors will enter the site through whatever page Google found.
For most sites, home page usability is only significant if you apply the lessons to ALL the pages on the site.
I know you already know that, but thought it was worth mentioning,
Home Pages have perhaps a bigger challenge than internal pages because they need to represent the entire site in some fashion, and this can lead to chaos very easily.
When you are on an internal page, there is a more precise focus - as long as you offer clear-cut navigation to higher levels, then you're doing well from a usability viewpoint.
If a web business is big enough to want a consultant just for usability, I can see why Nielsen-Norman might attract (obviously they do!) Such a business already has teams for design and content and marketing. They want someone highly focused on usability as a discipline. That dry style on Jakob's websites speaks of scientific measure and geekdom, not opinions and aesthetics which can be the downfall of usability.
At any rate, Jakob seems to be doing OK professionally, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over the look of his website. And I'm happy for what I've learned from him.
Jushua Davis: "The notion of appliances shaking hands and chatting, transparently, will be something will not only embrace but welcome in order to automate our lives into simplicity."
I just hope that whoever designs my in-car navigation, food preparation device or bathwater temperature control has more in common with Nielsen than Davis. The same goes for a news site, online shop, business portfolio, discussion forum, etc.
There are times (Friday afternoon usually) when it's quite nice to stare at the screen saver, and there are times when I just want to order a new book or two, log off and go do something else.