Monday, December 17, 2007

On the Web, more is not always better

I've been a big fan of Jakob Nielsen's and his ideas on website design and useability for many years.

Anyone who is familiar with some of the websites I've worked on (like this one or this one) will know that I think content is more important than style. I like a good-looking site as much as anyone but only if the design adds to the users' ability to find the information they're looking for.

So I wasn't surprised to learn that Nielsen has some reservations about websites that serve up all the latest Web 2.0 goodies without paying enough attention to useability issues. His latest "Alertbox" article is called Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous...

Here's an excerpt:

Unlike some older technologies (notably, Flash and PDF), Web 2.0 ideas are not inherently bad for users. They can be highly effective; we sometimes see examples of usability-enhancing Web 2.0 designs in our studies. But it's more common to find Web 2.0 ideas that either hurt users or simply don't matter to users' core needs. While the latter case might seem innocent, irrelevant website "enhancements" diminish profits because they indicate a failure to focus on those simpler design issues that actually increase sales and leads.

While there's no single definition of the much-abused "Web 2.0" term, I'll look at four trends that are often considered its defining elements:

"Rich" Internet Applications (RIA)
Community features, social networks, and user-generated content
Mashups (using other sites' services as a development platform)
Advertising as the main or only business model
If you're interested in learning more about what works and doesn't work for website users, you'll enjoy this article. And if you're not signed up for Neilsen's Alertbox newsletter, I recommend you start getting it. It's always interesting.

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