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Jakob Nielsen Interview on Web Site Redesigns

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the be-sure-to-add-lots-of-useless-flash dept.

The Internet 248

securitas writes "CIO Insight's executive editor Brad Wieners interviews Web site design usability evangelist Jakob Nielsen about design mistakes like poor search, discusses organizational resistance and common barriers to doing usability reviews, concluding with Nielsen's Adobe PDF and pop-up pet peeves, common redesign errors and budget advice when it's time for a redesign, either for your Web site or company intranet. And just to make it more usable and readable (so you don't have to click through multiple pages), you can read the entire Jakob Nielsen interview on one printer-friendly page with fewer graphics and a bandwidth-saving document size for people using dial-up Internet connections. You might also like to read a previous Ask Slashdot from March 2000 and Jakob Nielsen's answers to those questions."

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248 comments

Frist Prost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609593)

Happy 4th!

Re:Frist Prost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609622)

Happy Independence Day to you too. 228 is a long time until you start considering the Europeans, the Chinese, the Egyptians. Still, it's not bad.

Re:Frist Prost (-1, Offtopic)

croddy (659025) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609894)

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Re:Frist Prost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609907)

+5, Insightful

Thankfully (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609598)

His website, http://www.useit.com/ [useit.com], hasn't been redesigned and is still as useable and pretty as ever.

Re:Thankfully (5, Interesting)

c0ldfusi0n (736058) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609862)

Pretty? Please, his site is ugly. I'm a webdesigner and i can tell you that if i'd deliver such a product to pretty much any customer, they'd slap me back to my office. I think all those pro-WAI [contentquality.com] critics need a reality check. True, a website such as his will probably never have any compatiblity issues with any current, past or future browsers. But it's just plain ugly. They need to realize that you can make a pretty websites (even with a thing they call images!) AND still be compatible for all computer browsers and platforms, you don't need to lower the eye pleasure to raise respect. How often have you heard "Oh, that site is pretty damn nice" compared to "Oh, that site is sooo compatible with Lynx!"?

Re:Thankfully (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609955)

I think all those pro-WAI critics need a reality check.

The reason why the site is ugly is because he's a crap graphic designer. He says so all the time. It's perfectly possible to produce a website that is both accessible and pretty.

How often have you heard "Oh, that site is pretty damn nice" compared to "Oh, that site is sooo compatible with Lynx!"?

Every time I talk to somebody who uses Lynx? Every time a visitor finds a website through Google (the Googlebot is hardly a state-of-the-art browser, you know).

In any case, you are confusing four separate issues here:

  1. Aesthetic appeal
  2. Browser compatibility
  3. Accessibility
  4. Usability

These are all mostly separate issues. Jakob Neilsen talks about usability, not browser compatibility, accessibility or aesthetic appeal. If you don't understand the difference between the issues, perhaps you aren't in a position to criticise. If you think you can have a go at him without even being able to distinguish between these different issues, it is you who needs the reality check.

Re:Thankfully (1)

Visigothe (3176) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609972)

Actually, there has been much re-designing of the Useit website from the "ring o' web designers"

Nielson's beef isn't so much that the proposed designs suck, it's that he's not a designer and can't be bothered with keeping it from borking when he decides to add something...

...Of course, this is what CSS is supposed to alleviate.

Check it out here: Re-UseIt [builtforthefuture.com]

This was *funny* moderators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609990)

moderators!
where is your sense of humor?

Why should we listen to Jakob Nielsen? (5, Insightful)

veddermatic (143964) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609637)

Honestly?

WHY??

His site violates tons of usability ideas, and while I support his in general KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) ideas which have been in practice in Industrial Design for decades, he is very much a Luddite.

Grow up Jakob, you make a lot of money ranting against everything, but for the love of god, give it a rest and let the market decide what works and what doesn't.

K.I.S.S. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609670)

It actually stands for Keep It Short and Simple

Re:K.I.S.S. (3, Informative)

veddermatic (143964) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609697)

Well then all my ID professors, some of whom knew the theater guy who invented it were lying to me.

The version you present is the "PC" version, as back when it was invented, the word 'stupid' wasn't really something you taught.

Re:Why should we listen to Jakob Nielsen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610118)

I agree Jakob isa waste of time, there is KISS and then just "S" fix the problems with his own site before he rants about everyone else.

Re:Why should we listen to Jakob Nielsen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610156)

I agree his web site is among the ugliest around. And he doesn't employ every usability idea out there, but I see almost zero that he violates.

From a true usability standpoint (read: Finding the info you need, and knowing quickly when you're on the right track), his site is great.

I'm not there for eye candy. I'm there to find information.

I'm not looking for news, so I can immediately write-off the right half of his site.

When I click a link, the simple, function Summary box at the top immediately tells me whether to continue reading or look elsewhere.

There is a simple, natural outline to each of the documents, making them easy to scan.

I invite you to post a few of your own web sites that are more usable than his.

Re:Why should we listen to Jakob Nielsen? (4, Interesting)

occamboy (583175) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610185)

I know I'll get modded to Hades for this, but I can't help but asking: Am I the only person who finds Mr. Nielson's site [useit.com] to be painful to use?

Re:Why should we listen to Jakob Nielsen? (1)

dmh20002 (637819) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610276)

I agree. I don't get much useful content out of his website. Much of his newsletter and website are dedicated to promoting himself and his business of usability seminars. I have one of his books and it really doesn't have much useful information in it. As the parent says, much of it is just a rant.

Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities (5, Insightful)

MrBlue VT (245806) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609640)

Talk about relevant. CmdrTaco should take to heart the comment about poor search. The search capabilities of Slashdot are absolutely terrible. You can't specify any options, like searching just artitle titles, article content, or comments. Heaven forbid you want to search for two words together, you can't do it.

Now, when I need to search Slashdot now I just go to Google and do "site:slashdot.org (query)" and pray that something relevant comes up.

Come on Slashdot, upgrade that search function already!

Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities-Google. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609681)

"Now, when I need to search Slashdot now I just go to Google and do "site:slashdot.org (query)" and pray that something relevant comes up"

Actually for a short while, Slashdot was using Google as the backend. Why that disappeared? Who knows?

Re:Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities-Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609722)

Normally Slashdot uses the somewhat... lacking... MySQL search, but when they're under heavy load, they "fallback" to Google. Now that Google News indexes them often, and Google people being regular readers, you'd think they'd be able to work something out.

Re:Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609834)

Noshit they come up with dupes now and then. ;)

Re:Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities (2, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609870)

What, and work on boring old slashdot? You gotta be kidding...slashdot is crummy and old, and cmdrtaco likes it that way. Remember the attitude, this is his site, and if you don't like it start your own.

Re:Slashdot's (lack of) search capabilities (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610314)

MrBlue VT:Talk about relevant. CmdrTaco should take to heart the comment about poor search.

I couldn't agree more, but as someone who is trying to set up a LAMP site let me tell you searces are not easy to do. If others agree with this post -- as the +5 moderation seems to indicate they are -- would anyone like to make a suggestion as to how it might be done? At the moment Slash uses the very limited function of the MATCH() command in MySQL. Does anyone have a better way of searching close to 10 million comments and stories stores in an overburdened MySQL database efficiently and effectivly? I have yet to find a good pre-built solution, and I'm sure I have no idea how to role my own.

JFMILLER

Future usability? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609641)

Has anyone determined what effect things like SVG will have on web site design?

Re:Future usability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610197)

Yes. SVG will have no effect whatsoever.

Poor Search (2, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609646)

But the search on individual Web sites or inside intranets is, typically, still bad. And it's bad in all the different aspects of search.

I'm doing my part to help rectify this problem by steadfastly refusing to use or post messages on websites that have crappy search functions...

Christianity is for fags (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609667)

I'm converting to judaism, bitches!

Personal pet gripe... (2, Interesting)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609676)

Too much stuff on each page.

In a word, clutter.

I'm guessing that the people who design pages that look this way are the same people that, while still in school, simply COULD NOT take notes or work problems without attempting to crab EVERYTHING on to a single sheet of paper.

It's a weird tendency and I've yet to hear a sensible explanation from anybody who does this. THEY are fully aware that it's worse than useless to crab too much stuff into a limited amount of room (especially in light of the fact that additional room comes pretty cheap), and yet somehow they're simply COMPELLED to do so.

Good topic for a Psych Major to do a thesis on, but that's about it.

Knock off the clutter!

Re:Personal pet gripe... (5, Insightful)

thulsey (723471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609952)

I'm guessing you've never seen a Chinese Newspaper (or a Chinese portal site, for that matter... yikes!)

Seriously, turn on your Chinese Fonts and take a mozy over to check some of these out:

-- http://tw.yahoo.com
-- http://pchome.com.tw
-- http://www.appledaily.com.tw/template/twapple/inde x.cfm (Just to see what a typical newspaper looks like...)

This is TYPICAL of the type of design happening in Chinese-speaking contries -- FILL IN EVERY SPACE AVAILABLE WITH TEXT OR IMAGE TO THE POINT THAT NOTHING SEEMS TO HAVE ANY PRIORITY. Blink tags often save the day, believe it or not... A typical TV news channel is a CNN-scrolling-banner-induced NIGHTMARE... To say this happens in ALL Asian countries is a generalization and incorrect, but there is a definite preference and inclination toward simplicity and minimalism in Japan (and Korea to some extent...)

That isn't to say that sophisticated design is not happening in these places -- far from it. It's just that the cultural expectations placed upon design, especially one that is information-based (any media) is different in different cultures.

To me, clutter is confusing and makes the user experience difficult, at best. To others, it is expected and doesn't slow anything down.

So really, who's to say what's usable?

I've once attended a weekend seminar with Mr. Neilsen and other web-usability gurus (Tog comes to mind) and was impressed with what they had to say regarding testing and testing and testing again, so ultimately you could have a cluttered, to-my-own-eyes unorganized mess that could test positive for usability in the right market.

Go figure..

Redesign... useit.com! (4, Informative)

mikis (53466) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609682)

With all due respect to Mr. Nielsen, he could have started by redesigning his own site, useit.com. It may be "usable", but it is... less than beautiful, to say so. He could take clue from this guys:

Design Eye for the Usability Guy [designbyfire.com] and
Reuseit: useit.com redesign competition [builtforthefuture.com]

Redesign... useit.com!-Crash it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609709)

For people who are running the latest Gecko browsers. Does the second link consistently crash your browser?

WFM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609732)

Firefox .9.1.

Re:Redesign... useit.com!-Crash it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610195)

No, but it took almost a minute to load over FAST CABLE!! Talk about not getting it...

Re:Redesign... useit.com! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609840)

Like he always says, he isn't a graphic designer, he's a usability expert. He only comments on aesthetics when they get in the way of usability, so it's not like the weight of his opinions are lessened by his lack of graphic design skill. Too many people (not saying you, btw) write him off because his site is ugly. That's nothing more than an ad-hominem in my opinion. You don't have to be a good graphic designer to know your stuff when it comes to usability.

Re:Redesign... useit.com! (1)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609890)

You don't have to be a good graphic designer to know your stuff when it comes to usability. Listen, a document that focuses too much on form and thus takes away from its function is just as poorly designed as a document that focuses too much on function and ignores form. It's a balancing act. Either way you're left with a less than optimal document. What good is a usable page if no one wants to use it?

Ever google for an online store and reject the first couple of results because you didn't like the way they looked? They might be the most usable pages in the world with well designed shopping carts but if it doesn't have that look you expect from an online store you'll keep searching because you think it looks sketchy.

Re:Redesign... useit.com! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609983)

Listen, a document that focuses too much on form and thus takes away from its function is just as poorly designed as a document that focuses too much on function and ignores form.

That's utter rubbish. If something is pretty but doesn't work, then it doesn't work. If something is ugly but works, it works.

It's a balancing act.

Yes it is, and Jakob Neilsen says this quite a bit. He talks about when things actively work against the user, and backs it up with user studies and numbers showing reductions in online sales, amongst other things. He isn't qualified to talk about aesthetics, so he doesn't talk about them.

Ever google for an online store and reject the first couple of results because you didn't like the way they looked? They might be the most usable pages in the world with well designed shopping carts but if it doesn't have that look you expect from an online store you'll keep searching because you think it looks sketchy.

And at what point does Jakob Neilsen argue that things should be ugly or that aesthetics are unimportant? He says the exact opposite whenever he is asked. You are attacking a straw-man argument here. He doesn't say the things you appear to think he does.

Re:Redesign... useit.com! (2, Insightful)

durtbag (694991) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609917)

The "Design Eye.." site is great. Especially if you're on 56k. I just went to the store, bought a steak, cooked it, drank 3 beers, had sex with my gf, and the page is still loading. Thank god there isn't any flash or animated .gif's. What's he half-life of this page's load cycle.....

Re:Redesign... useit.com! (3, Insightful)

Trillan (597339) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610208)

I hope he never takes a "clue" from either of them. Design Eye took a minute to load over a fast calbe connection, and Reuseit fills almost half of my browser window with crap that I just need to scroll past.

is god (2, Interesting)

Nspace13 (654963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609688)

i am a web developer and nielsen is a god around my office. his book, Designing Web Usability [amazon.com] (amazon link with no developer token), is something i refer to so often to convince my boss of things.

link to Tattered Cover instead, please (4, Informative)

ClarkEvans (102211) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609786)

You can also buy this at the Tattered Cover [tatteredcover.com] -- the bookstore which did not turn over purchase records to the government when asked; and defended the right to privacy in
court.

(I'm not in any way associated with the cover, and this is not a referrer link)

how is this off-topic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610006)

the fella linked to one of Neilson's books

A remarkable 73 patents? (2, Interesting)

paynter (8696) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609694)

Anyone know what sort of things Dr Neilson has patented?

Re:A remarkable 73 patents? (3, Informative)

Mad Alchemist (706211) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609961)

Mostly what you'd expect. Lots of things like "Techniques for navigating layers of a user interface" and "Prospective view for web backtrack." A complete list [uspto.gov] can be found by searching the US Patent Office [uspto.gov].

Incidentally, that search function is pretty icky, and could use a little of Dr. Nielsen's help. Ugh.

Another 10 worst list? (1)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609698)

Whenever I read something like this, I get an image of an effete poff blathering on about art or literature that no one wants to view or read.

Web design can be an art form, and is a matter of personal taste and opinion. If you are selling it, the only opinion that matters your client's. Whatever one believes about his special blend of creativity and artistry, he can do only what someone else will pay for.

As the canibal explained to his son's questions,
"One mans meat is another mans poi, son."

Re:Another 10 worst list? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609886)

Hey, if I'm selling a spacecraft, all that matters is the client's opinion. The poor pilot who gets to fly the thing has no say in the issue, eh? "I'm an artist, I'll design it how I want"

Re:Another 10 worst list? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610044)

Web design can be an art form, and is a matter of personal taste and opinion.

Not if the purpose of the website is to do something other than look pretty. For example, if you are building a website to sell something, usability studies can tell you that [x] fancy widget would reduce your sales by 10%, or [y] fancy widget would increase your sales by 5%. Nielsen talks about this a lot, and backs up what he says with solid studies.

Re:Another 10 worst list? (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610228)

And that's the core problem. See, your client is only the person who puts the web page up. He's not the end user.

By all means, do exactly what he wants and get paid for it. But don't justify the lousy interface you just created because it is "good art." You did it for the money.

favorite usability resource (4, Informative)

Nspace13 (654963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609699)

the w3c tip index [w3.org] is my favorite usability resource. the word of mr nielsen is second. not quite everything nielsen says is right in every situation but everything the w3c suggests is a suggest worth the weight of my toshiba laptop (a hefty 7 pounds) in gold.

Re:favorite usability resource (3, Informative)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609915)

not quite everything nielsen says is right in every situation but everything the w3c suggests is a suggest worth the weight of my toshiba laptop (a hefty 7 pounds) in gold.

Nobody is right all the time, not Mr Neilsen, not the W3C, not anybody. For instance, one of the "perfect" suggestions from the W3C that you refer us to:

If using several choices in a font-family property (in order to let the system choose the best available font out of a list), you can use the font-size-adjust property to force a specific aspect value.

Firstly, you cannot force anything with CSS. CSS provides suggestions, nothing more. But more importantly, no browser has ever implemented font-size-adjust! The W3C have even taken it out of CSS 2.1 because no browser vendor bothered with it. That statement will never be correct.

Fras (1)

moberry (756963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609702)

I dont believe this was in the article, but a TOC frame, and then a main page frame used to be an extremely popular design, like This [qbasic.com] [qbasic.com] But you dont really see it anymore. It would be interesting to know why this is not popular anymore. it technically saves time in loading because the only the framw which has changing content is loaded. Any ideas?

Re:Fras (4, Interesting)

Violet Null (452694) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609770)

Basically, because it breaks how people navigate pages.

1) You can't bookmark an individual page. In that scenario, you can only bookmark the page that holds the frameset.

2) Similarly, you can't link to an individual page. If you do, they'll get that _just_ that page, no table of contents.

3) If you hit the refresh button, it refreshes the frameset page, which puts you back at the "default" page, not the one you were looking at.

4) Doesn't work with the "History" that browsers keep.

Re:Fras (1)

urmensch (314385) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609884)

Not that I think we should go back to that time, but there are ways around the url problems. It was a major inconvienence though, and there are lots of better ways to spend your time.

Re:Fras (1)

alphaseven (540122) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610136)

Yeah, it's too bad explorer doesn't support the CSS declaration position:fixed, (though you can get the same effect using a hack [jessey.net]).

I'd guess that 90% of the time when you see frames on a page, the designer just wants to put up a sidebar that stays in the same spot on screen while the page scrolls. I'm surprised explorer is up to version 6 and it's still so complictated to put up a fixed sidebar.

Re:Frames (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609780)

1: Ugly. Web designers tend to be arty types, this matters to them.

2: Frame Hell. Following a link in the main body of the website doesn't get rid of the frame, so it stays on the screen being annoying. Also, if set up wrong a site can suffer from Infinite Frame Hell, where the same frame gets repeated and you have lots of copies of that contents page.

3: Compatability. Doesn't support Lynx or NCSA Mosaic (...joking...). But seriously, Netscape and IE don't render frames identically. Or at least they didn't in the NS 4.7 days, now I don't know.

And, yes, it's more efficient. But nowadays no-one really cares about that... if you are serving 100k of adverts per page then going from 2k to 3k for the html is meaningless, plus sites nowadays tend to be aimed at broadband, with excessive graphics everywhere.

No, it is not more efficient (1)

Perianwyr Stormcrow (157913) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609837)

The efficiency gains gotten from proper CSS easily outweigh anything you get from frames.

The point regarding image size also doesn't go away with a frameset, especially if the images are advertisements. I would also, as a site owner, NOT want to have ads persistent, as the chances of a person finding an ad they like might be higher the more different ones they see.

PDFs (4, Insightful)

Bongo the Monkiii (793956) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609704)

Well, the problem is that PDF documents are just not very suitable for online access because they are optimized for print, and they're big linear documents, and, therefore, they're not very good for search.

Thank you! I've been saying this for YEARS!

Web development should be about developing relevance and usability, not about putting every document you have on an HTTP server. PDF files are fine for e-mail, FTP, etc. where you pull them down and view them locally, but they just shouldn't be on the web. HTML was invented for a reason! Use it!

Re:PDFs (3, Interesting)

FyreFiend (81607) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609724)

For the most part I agree with you. There are times when a "download this as a pdf" option would be nice though. The one example I ran into the other day was a netbook for the Rifts RPG. This guy had some great ideas spanning a bunch of pages. Saving each one to html, then removing the clutter (headers for the rest of his site, etc) was a pain.

Re:PDFs (1)

Mouse42 (765369) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609842)

I agree that "Download this as a PDF" is much more preferable than having the information solely available as a PDF.

I manage websites, and one of my clients wants me to just put up PDFs! I've told him it isn't the best for usability reasons, but he just doesn't want to pay me to create the pages.

Ah well.

Re:PDFs (1)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610000)

Saving each one to html, then removing the clutter (headers for the rest of his site, etc) was a pain.

You can hide stuff when it is printed out using print stylesheets. No need to resort to PDFs. Just use the media="print" attribute when linking to a stylesheet, and it will be applied when documents are printed out.

Better Way to Print HTML (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610247)

If you just select the part of the page you want to print, go to the Print dialog and choose Print Range > Selection you wouldn't need to do all of that saving, editing, printing.

Re:PDFs (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609888)

I'm not sure if web designers necessarily understand PDFs.

I think PDFs are essential for datasheets and manuals. For a datasheet which has hundreds of pages of text and images, having a reasonable expectation that it will look consistent no matter the display medium is important. HTML doesn't even seem to have a consistent page break, footnote or header mechanism for each page. Also, for fill-in forms, you get WYSIWYG text entry, which is especially nice for government forms.

Searching in a PDF is easy enough, Google does it by default. Acrobat reader's Find utility finds it reasonably quickly enough.

Which isn't to say that web sites should rely on PDFs.

Re:PDFs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610268)

Not to mention all the .PDFs I've seen that use really HIDEOUS (unhinted) type-1 fonts.

Microsoft.com (2, Informative)

aslate (675607) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609748)

Although i use Windows, i have to say that Microsoft.com is the worst [professional] website to navigate i have ever tried to use. The site structure sucks, the search sucks and the layout sucks. It is almost impossible to find what you want and there are loads of pages that link back to each other, getting you going round and round in circles. I can never find information i may need or certain applications or tools i want, it's just a mess.

Re:Microsoft.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609785)

Uhh, obviously you haven't visited the Intel website and actually tried to find something yet...

Re:Microsoft.com (1)

moexu (555075) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610164)

Agreed. I used to hate to have to try and find anything on microsoft.com or MSDN until I learned about using site:msdn.microsoft.com with Google.

It makes me laugh when Microsoft says that they're trying to win the search engine war. When their search technology can find things on their own site better than Google can, then maybe they'll have something.

Re:Microsoft.com (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610278)

I think some of it is intentional, at least with respect to bug fixes and old security updates.

From the b2b-tips (1)

azatht (740027) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609760)

Downloadable slide shows, preferably in PowerPoint format.
Ok, this might be defined as troll but...
I don't think PowerPoint and light and usable web-pages is synonym, I think he ment pdf here too, but it's a typo.

not the point (2, Funny)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609852)

The point of web design is not to make a clean, usable interface. The point is to exercise the web designer's skills, and incorporate all the latest technologies. Otherwise, how will the web designer feel? Designing clean, readable pages is hugely boring and totally unchallenging for an artist. Artists need to be on the cutting edge. HTML is such a limited medium...it's just not enough to allow the expression of the creativity that most web designers feel inside.

liquid? (4, Insightful)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609859)

Neglect to use a liquid layout that lets users adjust the home page size.

I'm not sure I've ever heard it called liquid, but I'd like to agree with this particular pet peeve.

There's absolutely no excuse (ever) for forcing the user to view your web page at $arbitrary_page_width. Designers that think they need to force the width to a certian number -- for roundness, right hand menus, or whatever dumbass excuse -- are WRONG. Dead wrong. There is never a good reason to use a fixed width.

It shows complete ignorance of the subject they claim to master by calling themselves site designers.

Re:liquid? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610179)

Screw that.

You go ahead and develop your perfectly resizable any width website. For your mostly text blog-wanking, or fringe discussion group, I am sure thats more than sufficient.

Much of the content I work with is graphics, company image, and look. It has a design, and a composition. We choose how to present the media, and the information to best reflect our purposes.

The web should be searchable and bookmarkable, and my site is. The web should also be presentable, and my site is also that.

I agree with all the complaining about flash, and pdf, but I won't put up with this crap.

Purists like you are always complaining that the information should be perfectly separated from the delivery, but proper presentation is half of what makes the information useful.

My website displays at two fixed sizes, and I make no apology for it. If you don't like the way my information is presented, don't visit my site.

Perfectly resizable pages IS not a mantra of proper webdesign, its just a nice addition if it fits your particular design. Grow up.

Re:liquid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610283)

er, no, originally there was liquid layouts, attributes were the addition which allowed you to set the sizes for presentation.

Liquid layout is good.

slashdot redisigned? (5, Interesting)

Divlje Jagode (710824) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609869)

Website a list apart [alistapart.com] did the exercise of redesigning slashdot using CSS. The article was called Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards [alistapart.com]. A more detailed version is available here: Slashdot Web Standards Example [uwplatt.edu].

This is the most interesting claim:

Most Slashdot visitors would have the CSS file cached, so we could ballpark the daily savings at ~10 GB bandwidth. A high volume of bandwidth from an ISP could be anywhere from $1 - $5 cost per GB of transfer, but let's calculate it at $1 per GB for an entire year. For this example, the total savings for Slashdot would be: $3650! All of that for just a couple of KB.
The article has even been discussed in slashcode [slashcode.com]. Gathered from the discussion, there appears to be at least one engine [gugod.org] (elixss) which uses CSS templates.

I'll never forgive him! (4, Interesting)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609871)

for comming up with the "split long documents into seperate pages, because users don't understand how the scrollbar works, and would much rather wait a minute or two while their slow-ass modem loads up the next page" advice. Which ungodly numbers of people followed.

Re:I'll never forgive him! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610016)

That was actually true at one point, and the issue was that newbies wouldn't understand that there was more to follow and that they needed to scroll down. This was around the time AOLers were let loose on the Internet.

When the average cluefulness rose, he rescinded the advice.

What *I* like about Jakob Nielson (1)

callipygian-showsyst (631222) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609881)

Is that [jnd.org] he's [jnd.org] not [sun.com] the [robotwisdom.com] least bit [seyboldreports.com] self conscious [useit.com] about his [useit.com] funny looks! [useit.com]

If *I* looked like that, I'm not sure I'd plaster my face all over the Internet!

Re:What *I* like about Jakob Nielson (1)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609925)

If I was as stupid as you, I'm not sure I'd plaster my irrelevant, insulting comments all over the internet.

Nielson bans the letter C ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9609920)

http://www.bbspot.com/News/2003/07/letter_c.html [bbspot.com]
(lol!)

But seriously I do think he has gottten a little carried away. If it was up to him we would all have sites that looked like the google front page and nothing else.

Re:Nielson bans the letter C ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610068)

If it was up to him we would all have sites that looked like the google front page and nothing else.

Bullshit. He's never said looks aren't important. But if you can't argue against any of his real points effectively, I guess all you are left with is ridiculing him for absurdities he didn't say, right?

overdesign (5, Insightful)

sdedeo (683762) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609954)

The greatest barrier to usability still seems to be site overdesign. Pages are far more complicated than they need to be (thankfully, much of the blog software is well designed in this regard, giving ample space to the actual content of each page.) Once you pack in a left and right column, and fill the rest of the space with ads, it takes a good deal of concentration to focus on the actual material you came for.

Why are sites overdesigned? Why don't site designers trust the user more? (Overdesigned sites tend to crowd all of their content on to every page via hyperlinks, as if the user can't be trusted to figure out the "back" button.)

To a point, it is about ego: a designer wants to brand every single page in a unique fashion, and that usually means marking up the content and squeezing it down. But there are plenty of ways a designer can satisfy her own ego, and present the content well, with minimalistic designs. The wikipedia is an excellent example of how a lot of features can be made unobtrusive and helpful, letting the content shine through.

In the end, it is really more about company psychology. For the same reason that a bank wants to have a gigantic storefront to assure customers that their money is safe, a company wants its web pages to look expensive and permanent, and the quickest route ends up being a cluttered visual experience as the company shows off the various clever "features" it is rich enough to pay for. A "bare" page bereft of logos and menus and news from other pages seems like an admission of poverty.

But this ends up making the user experience frenetic and disjointed. Oftentimes you can get around this problem by going to the "printer friendly" page where the article or information is presented in a traditional and human-readable fashion.

Pet Peeves (5, Interesting)

Tojosan (641739) | more than 9 years ago | (#9609962)

He mentioned a couple of my favorite pet peeves including PDFs. But I've got a few others:
1) Site inconsistency - having totally different designs between pages at the same site. This is often a navigation change, but could include color schemes, font choices, and text/graphic alignment.
2) Links off the page you are on - often missing are links to the main site page, as well as links to pages within the section of the site you are currently visiting.
3) Inconsistent content - one time a link is html, the next a text file, and the third a PDF. That is worse than every link being a PDF.
4) Lack of a link to send the site maintainer an email.
5) Lack of links to send anyone in the company an email. See this quite frequently.
6) Overall lack of anything but marketting buzz on a website, not a usability issue per se but makes the site worthless.
7) Inconsistent link behavoir - some links open a seperate browser, some don't.
8) Failure to warn about popups! Personal opinion here, but a site should warn you to expect a popup and what your expected action should be if it is at all going to be unclear.
9) Webforms for submitting a contact request that are just plain broken or don't point to a valid address.

Also I've got to put in my vote for getting rid of long long long pages, experience has shown, most users won't scroll or as he said, won't retain if they do scroll.

I'll second that motion on search being broken, heck, my company's internal and external websites are worthless in that respect.

I've ranted enough, be well.
Tojosan

PowerPoint? He's kidding, right? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610014)

I never look at PowerPoint slides on web sites. It suffers from all of the limitations that he points out regarding PDF, and is less portable.

I prefer slides in HTML, for all of the reasons that he lists in his PDF rant. And if you need tighter control over format and appearance, then use PDF. At least it's portable.

And for God's sake, provide a link, not a button, to all downloadable materials. I don't look at PDF documents in my browser, I use a separate viewer. The same goes for video clips. No demands for plugins, please. Not having a plugin is not the same as not having a viewer.

Some material I want to see now. A browser works well for that, and can use, but should not require, Javascript and similar frills. If I can't navigate a site without Javascript, then I look elsewhere.

Other material I want to save as reference material. Don't make me view it now. I'll save those PDFs for future reference. If it isn't reference material, then it shouldn't be in PDF format.

The immediate use material shouldn't use plugins. Neither should the reference material. Plugins should only be required for material that you don't want anyone to see.

Powerpoint? (3, Insightful)

Hungus (585181) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610025)

I read the article backwards until I got to this blurb in B2B suggestions
Downloadable slide shows, preferably in PowerPoint format.
I am sorry but I cannot take any advice seriously that recommends PP for anything.

IS there anything else than "common sense" (1)

krahd (106540) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610060)

(disclaimer, I didn't RTFA)

I've read Nielsen's book about usability & web design and I can assure you that it's only a common sense compilation.

He does not say anything that doesn't hit you in the eye... I do not mean that this book isn't useful for someone who has never, ever, worked professionaly in UI design, but is utter bs for anyone with some knowledge.

Take that, and take that JN's sites are kinda awful [like '95 SUN's intranet] (and not that usable - btw, I think that aestethics play a hughe role in usability) and then RTFA.

--krahd

Re:IS there anything else than "common sense" (3, Insightful)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610127)

I've read Nielsen's book about usability & web design and I can assure you that it's only a common sense compilation.

I own it too, and I agree. However, I still think that it's a worthwhile read.

The trouble is, when people learn how to design websites, they inevitably copy everyone else. Including everyone else's mistakes. Not only that, but they make a few of their own.

The ones that go on to be professionals inevitably get caught up in doing the actual work and don't think about how to improve their practices enough. So the mistakes get ingrained and replicated across hundreds of designs.

Nielsen's book is good because he has a knack for showing people their designs from a user's perspective. It challenges those ingrained bad habits and gives you ideas on how to approach the field from a better angle.

If you read the book expecting some revolutionary new techniques for web design, then you will be disappointed. But if you read the book expecting a refreshing new perspective and a starting point for improving your work, then it's a damn good read.

He's also a hiphop star! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610066)

Check it out [ok-cancel.com] [ok-cancel.com]

Favorite Search Problem (3, Funny)

Blackbird_Highway (756085) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610089)

My alltime favorite search problem was the company where a woman visited their website, typed in "confidential" and the search engine dutifully brought up every confidential document in the company! Now that's a really helpful search tool!

Glass houses (0, Troll)

Devil (16134) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610149)

I am so sick of Jakob Nielsen. He's a tosser with a bad haircut.

Maybe old Jakob should redesign his site, making it look a bit less like something that came out of 1994 and then start telling people how their sites should be designed.

Home Page Link (1)

billstr78 (535271) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610155)

Give an active link to the home page on the home page.

Oh, yeah that always pisses me off; when I can't go to the home page from the home page. Damn, that would definatly cost a company major bucks.

Take a look at -his- website (3, Interesting)

Max_Abernethy (750192) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610171)

Very usable, perhaps, but it's ugly. It's easy to -talk- about how aesthetics are unimportant, but some of us have clients to please. Certainly I don't think websites should be made in Flash or giant image tables are a good idea, but realistically we need to strike a balance between what looks good and what works well. If it were up to him, design would be all function and no form.

Drop-Down Boxes (3, Informative)

Baricom (763970) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610234)

I'm glad Nielsen brought up this problem, which has irritated me from time to time:

people who want to enter "California" will end up with "Alabama" because the menu kind of first goes to C, but then it goes back to A.

Obviously, he doesn't use Firefox. The ability to type multiple letters to skip through a list got added to some nightly and I was simply ecstatic, because it's much more usable from a keyboarder's standpoint.

Ad usability (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610235)

Why are long flash animations so stupid? THey hardly ever show the company logo or product upfront and think you want to see the entire boring ad.

I always close those down.

Annoying me prior to letting me see the content isn't a good way to make me choose your product.

Word to internet advertisers, if your advertisement takes up the whole window ..tell me the company name and product EARLY ON.

Re:Ad usability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9610245)

Word to internet advertisers, if your advertisement takes up the whole window ..tell me the company name and product EARLY ON.

Yah, that way you remember the company better too if you're the type who closes ads early.

Select box peeve (2, Insightful)

iabervon (1971) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610263)

He (and probably most people, unfortunately) doesn't know about a nice common browser feature. If you click on the drop down menu for a select box and start typing the option you want, it will actually select it. So there isn't really an advantage in a text box over a select box, since a select box acts like a text box except with tab complete and a list of options.

Of course, it is a common flaw in web browsers that they don't make this functionality obvious.

Interesting views, but terrible at prediction (2, Insightful)

mister_tim (653773) | more than 9 years ago | (#9610286)

The Ask Slashdot from March 2000, linked to in the article summary, contained this comment from Neilsen in response to a question on Linus/Unix usability and 'prettiness' of interface:
I know that Slashdot readers don't want to hear this, but the very first question is whether it is even possible to create a truly good user experience on top of Linux. Many other companies have tried to make Unix easy to use and many very talented designers have worked hard on these projects for several years without very good results.

The only data points we have say that it can't be done.


Well, Mac OS X has basically proved him wrong.
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