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Jakob N vs. Joshua D

Where do you see the web going?



12:19 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The BBC today has an article [news.bbc.co.uk] on usability expert Jakob Nielson: [nngroup.com...] and web artist Joshua Davis [praystation.com...]

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?


12:34 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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The praystation site lost my attention when it took longer then 5 seconds to work out what the site was about.

But thats me all over - short attention span.

Q. As people get more accustomed to the net is their attention span going to increase or decrease?


12:49 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I could stare and play with pray station all day. Once you get into experimentation with that site you can really see where flash can go. I also believe that it is a beautiful site.

I don't think this is the future of the web, but there will be groups of designers that will continue to expand the frontier in this direction.

If new standards take hold XHTML will really help the designer who must design for efficiency, multiple browser display, usability, and accessibility - with data separation built in as well!

It will be a great day when the majority of browsers render an HTML page the same way. :-)


12:56 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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>web going

Both. The web will never be all one thing or another, no matter how much the pundits try to convince us otherwise. That is the beauty of the web. As for a number game, well, there are probably only so many high-end web designers, or so it seems, but I'd like to think every site could be made a bit more usable.

>make money

At least in the short-term, Nielson. Usability can be applied to the universal problem of getting people to part with their money on e-commerce sites, something that directly affects everyone from the Fortune 500 to Mom & Pop. In the long-term, anything can change with the popularization of 'new' revenue models for content.


12:57 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Nielsen is an 'guru' in web design usability. That's different from the cool designs like on praystation. Both approches are money-makers, but for different reasons;

Great web design usability is needed on all websites that are of an informative nature. If your usability sux, just say bye bye to traffic.

Praystation is great as 'web-art'. Those great experiments can lead to new usable forms of displaying information or a different type of navigation. Mr. Davis can make money when he offers his services as a creative person on the field of webdesign.

So, to answer your question "Where do people here see the web going (3 - 10 years)";

Website usability should becomes a top priority on the agenda's of website-designers. I think most existing websites need a urgent 'makeover' based on the guidelines of Mr. Nielsen. Website usability is the feng shui of webdesign ;-)


1:16 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

agree with the general view here. The Web is different strokes for different folks. Web content should differ as much as say an Encyclopedia and a phamplet do in the print world. I dont see the two examples as competing models at all.


1:42 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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JN<---------------->A Good Web Designer<---------------->JD

Good design is asthetically pleasing AND usable it is not one or the other.

Good design is also extremely rare.

In 3-10 years hopefully the veterans of web design will have merged the two extremes.


1:52 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Can someone clue me in what the praystation site is about? The fonts are completely undecipherable on my system.

Apart from that, I think sean got it right. Real life has room for esoteric avantgarde art as well as for thoughfully structured technical manuals, and everything in between, of course. Why should the web be any different?


2:36 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I don't get it either bird. Unreadable. You can click around on the calendar and it does something. Not sure what - everything is so washed out. That site is a perfect example of flash gone wrong and why Flash will have a short lifespan in the grand scheme.


3:09 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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> I don't get it

It's art, it's not meant to be got ;)

There are some really interesting and quiet beautiful exhibits - under the machines, weird ambient music that changes (I think) when various things are moved and some fantastic colours.

One of the things that I wish I bought up in the initial post is that Joshua Davis accuses Nielson of stifling inovation and creativity on the web, leading to the many examples of corporate blandness that we see everyday. Is this accusation fair?


3:17 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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> Is this accusation fair?

Oh yes!

Nielson is guilty of stifling inovation and creativity on the web by confusing usability with web pages resembling Notepad.

The guy does make some very valid points but a lot is also backward, dated and about as creative as a plank of wood.


4:17 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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> Is this accusation fair?

Absolutely not.

Nielson can no more stifle creativity on the web than Michael Medved can stifle violence in movies. Nielson is an advocate of usability (and a vocal one at that), but he can't change the way the world designs. No one has that much power.

Have I taken into consideration some of his suggestions? Sure...a lot of them are valid points. Do I design sites strictly from a Nielsonian viewpoint. No.

To say the web is evolving into a Joshua Davis form versus a Nielson form is impossible to forecast. If anything, it will stay the way it is now: the Joshua Davis's on one side, Jakob Nielsons on the other, and the majority of designers somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I am extremely envious of Davis' talent, but glad I don't have the somewhat limited view of Nielson.

And, FWIW, great topic gethan!


4:26 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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anyone who sees usability and flair as being mutually exclusive is not thinking deeply enough...both are perfectly compatible if you make the effort...both are totally incompatible with laziness

it's only a problem if you go to extremes...if the only factor is usability you have relative few options for changing the aesthetics of the site, but you still have some...if you go all out for excitement there may be some insoluble usability problems, but probably very few if you really put your mind to it

in reality we all strive for usability and for excitement and aesthetic appeal (at least I hope so)...we will continue to do so

what the future of the web holds is more diversity in content, more variation in browsing environments, and more of those interesting restraints that have made art exciting since the origin of man


4:36 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

If Web pages look like Note Pad AND they get their message across so be it! Nielsen's principles do not in any way stifle creativity - the most creative stuff is the simplest. Complexity is what stifles creativity..


4:49 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>>the most creative stuff is the simplest.

The word I always use to explain this concept to a client is


click watcher

4:53 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

gosh i must be missing something,

i didn't understand praystation at all, nor did i find it aesthetically pleasing
and it froze my browser.

i'm all for creativity but when someone compares THEMSELVES to a major 20th century artist i'm always a bit suspicious


4:57 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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One thing that Nielsen makes perfectly clear in almost any of his writings is that you have to design your site so that it appeals to your target audience, and that it reaches the goals you had in mind when designing it.

If your goal is to attract as many people as possible, and to offer them something that triggers them to give you money for it, then any high tech gizmos and graphic extravaganza will stand in the way of that goal.
If your goal is to "express yourself artistically", then you can use any gadget and violate any useability guideline you like, and you may have reached your goal anyway, even before the first visitor has ever seen your site. And by doing so, you still adhere to Nielsen's principles!

I'd actually turn the accusation around: Nielsen knows very well that the spectrum has two ends (at least) and that each has its place. Davis appears to deny the justification of any other aspect than creativity, and thus stifles useability. Of course this is a very speculative assumption from my side, as I can't make heads nor tails of his site... ;)

click watcher

5:01 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>> >>the most creative stuff is the simplest.


and also the simplest stuff can work when it's ordinary

whereas when you start to get complicated you need an awful lot more talent,

(not suggesting people here are not astonishingly talented, but for me who is only average then simple works better)


5:08 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Am I alone in thinking that both sites are actually quite bad? The plain one is too plain and boring and personally I find it difficult to read or be interested in because of this. The flashy one is just stupid. It probably took a lot of talent to produce, but sadly like most 'art' it is lost on me.

I think web sites like a lot of things are mainly down to personal opinion. Give me a site that's easy to use and a bit more colourful and exciting than a funeral and I'm a happy man..


5:20 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Do we have to sit in judgment? Does it have to be good and bad?

If you have your colors set to 16 bit or higher you should be able to see what praystation.com is about. It is about exploring a new medium. Josh sets up constraints in flash the users come along and interact with those constraints and the results are displayed on the screen.

Some people like the way it looks (they also stare at screensavers sometimes)
Other people don’t get it (why may shapes and colors swirl around)

In another universe Jakob is presenting information. That is all he is presenting, his opinion of what makes web sites easily navigateable.

I think they can both exist in harmony.

Praystation is not trying to sell anything or impart information to the user, hence clicking here and there to explore is a great navigation tool for it.

Jakob is trying to sell his books, future appetencies, and ideas – hence he preaches like a mad dog and eats his own dog food.

Like my mammy used to say -- there is a time and a place for everything.

jeremy goodrich

5:43 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jeremy_goodrich is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Very nice discussion, excellent ideas, everyone...

I too don't understand that greyed out site. I don't like arriving at a web page, and taking more than 30 seconds to understand the way to get the different pages, what the sites purpose is, etc.

Sure, I clicked a few things, hoping an explanation of some sort would show up when it didn't, I closed my browser window.

However, I also think that things are not 'progressing' to one side or the other...most stuff will fall somewhere between, striving to be comprehensible and yet cutting edge at least, that's what we do when we put a new site out there.

Expected models, or archtypes, can be stale and boring, so imho, a good designer constantly tries to recreate, or take a fresh perspective on usable, intelligent design. This doesn't mean they only use one or two graphics, with tons of text in two or three font sizes and bolded headings, nor does it mean that we should all strive for pages that urge the user 'don't understand me, just look' because looking is not what the web is about.

Again, nice topic. :)


5:58 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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We interviewed Jakob Nielsen on my site regarding his views.

What many of you miss, but some of you clearly see is the two web sites are not exclusive of each other. Indeed there can be a web site that is asthetically pleasing and maintains a high usability.

Both "experts" are in the far edges of their studies - which what makes them so interesting to the media.

Nielsen and his firm has advised several large commercial sites, still you won't see anything like useit.com in them.

Usability can be encompassed in art, and vica versa.


8:19 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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It breaks down to what each of us wants from the Web, and that certainly is decided our tastes, our moods and other factors.

For myself, I no longer find many of the avante garde art sites quite so avante garde...

The following example is tiresome at best... But! That is only MY opinion. Others may be enthralled.

Nielsen's approach as well as his pontificating is not exactly my preference either.

I like good, accessible information sites the don't reach out too far in either extreme.

Flash is passe.... Loved it once, hate it now. It still has its uses but frankly, I find too many sites where flash only makes for a difficult surfing experience.

No doubt about the comments: there is room for all. And as such, we will seek out what appeals to us and "dis" the rest - human nature!


8:23 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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That 'art' site could be made functional without spoiling the aesthetics IMHO

I guess for some people part of the 'art' of a site is the intrigue factor - "now how do I work this thing?" - "Oh, I see, thats cute!"

Except for me its "now why should I waste time working this out" - "back button!"

But thats fine, I am not their target audience.

I enjoyed the Tate Modern Art Gallery - but for all the wrong reasons - p**sed myself laughing:)


9:00 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I love modern art. The Tate Gallery is my favourite gallery anywhere. But I've yet to see any art on the web - using Flash and some cute cryptic ideas is no more artistic than Neilsen. The Flash site doesn't transcend its medium to expose an unspoken truth, which is my definition of art.

I think both sites are simultaneously very bad and very good. Both demonstrate the extremes of ideology very well but neither are particularly compelling because of it.


9:02 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)


SIMPLEXITY - definitely a better choice than COMPLICITY


10:48 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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don't forget that Josh's Praystation site is "experimentation". it's all about rethinking the creative process.

the first four (short) paragraphs sum up Josh's sites perfectly:

as for "usability with good design" - I'm personally very fond of:

anyway, back to the question:
It's going to get bigger :) and both approaches will make money because some people demand a more creative off-the-beaten-track approach, and others need a more usable, straight-forward, familiar experience.


11:09 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Each site can stand on its own merits in some way or another. The PS3 thing doesn't seem to be good for much but I guess if you have the time to sit around and ponder the meaning of it maybe its useful.


11:35 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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"http://www.praystation.com Its objective is to apply design and technology into a collection of small, sometimes daily, modules - is incubating a lifestyle, a mentality, living with anomalies (1 : deviation from the common rule : IRREGULARITY; 2 : something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified), producing work in a world that is under constant flux and change"

That's all very well but difference for difference sake is a pretty shallow objective if you ask me. Nice for an undergraduate arts course exercise, but not something anyone would want to spend anytime using.

alistapart is indeed cool - taking ideology and actually creating something great rather than simply indulging in an academic exercise.


11:45 pm on Feb 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lawman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

For now, I'm a whole lot closer to Nielson than I am to Davis. Actually I'm not anywhere near Davis. Loading praystation with DSL was like loading with a bad 28K dialup connection. The concept needs development.

In any event, I'd hate to think those two were my only choices currently.

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.


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