“The headline for our last intranet portal study was “Enterprise Portals Are Popping.” Now, 3 years later, we revisited this space with new research and our findings would best be summarized as “Enterprise Portals Are Stabilizing.” Although we saw some new features, the main push was to make existing features more robust and better managed.”
“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.
“[The] last straw is his latest essay, where he claims ‘In one example, a state agency could get an ROI of 22,000% by fixing a basic usability problem.’ If he hadn’t jumped the shark before, he really has now. He backs this outrageous claim with a remarkably naive cost-benefit analysis, the kind of financial fiddling that no serious finance director within any organization would believe. [...]
“I wouldn’t write about it except that I fear that Jakob is turning into a pernicious force when it comes to advancing the field of design, because his reach means tens of thousands of people are reading this unsubstantiated crap. Such outrageous claims truly feel like the wild flailings of increasing irrelevance.
8 years ago, the web had two usability prophets – Jakob and Jared. Had you asked me to place bets on which one was worthier to follow, I would have said Jakob (UIE’s “Web Site Usability” book pissed me off). But in the last 4 or 5 years, Jakob has receded to the point of almost total irrelevance, whereas Jared and his gang are pursuing important and interesting questions, and never making specious claims about what they’ve found.”
Now Jakob Nielsen is looking at this phenomenon which he calls the “90-9-1 rule” and adds some interesting data (from Technorati, Wikipedia and Amazon). Reflecting on how the unrepresentativeness of contributions can cause problems, he suggests five ways to make participation a little less unequal:
- Make it easier to contribute;
- Make participation a side effect of something else they’re doing (e.g. buying);
- Have users modify something, rather than create it from scratch;
- Reward — but don’t over-reward — participants;
- Promote quality contributors and contributions.
It’s an older story, but nevertheless still relevant.
and that we need to come back to some basic HCI realities in the design of gestural user interfaces.
“In a recent column for Interactions Norman pointed out that the rush to develop gestural interfaces – “natural” they are sometimes called – well-tested and understood standards of interaction design were being overthrown, ignored, and violated.
Recently, Raluca Budui and Hoa Loranger from the Nielsen Norman group performed usability tests on Apple’s iPad, reaching much the same conclusion. The new applications for gestural control in smart cellphones (notably the iPhone and the Android) and the coming arrival of larger screen devices built upon gestural operating systems (starting with Apple’s iPad) promise even more opportunities for well-intended developers to screw things up. [...]
There are several important fundamental principles of interaction design that are completely independent of technology:
· Visibility (also called perceived affordances or signifiers)
· Consistency (also known as standards)
· Non-destructive operations (hence the importance of undo)
· Discoverability: All operations can be discovered by systematic exploration of menus
· Scalability. The operation should work on all screen sizes, small and large.
· Reliability. Operations should work. Period. And events should not happen randomly.
All these are rapidly disappearing from the toolkit of designers, aided, we must emphasize, by the weird design guidelines issued by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.”
Related to this is the report by Jakob Nielsen on the iPad usability in general, where he critiques iPad apps being inconsistent and having low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles, he says, cause further usability problems. See also this Guardian article.
“Device makers in a post-iPhone world are focused on fingertips, with touch at the core of the newest wave of computer design, known as natural user interface. Unlike past interfaces centered on the keyboard and mouse, natural user interface uses ingrained human movements that do not have to be learned. “
Really? It is thought provoking from a UX point of view to read this article after first reading the criticism on gestural interfaces by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen in the current issue of Interactions magazine (see also previous post).
Here are the articles that are currently available for free:
interactions: authenticity, complexity, and design
by Jon Kolko
Frequently, designers find themselves reflecting on the nuances of what makes us human, including matters of cognitive psychology, social interaction, and the desire for emotional resonance. This issue of interactions unpacks all of these ideas, exploring the gestalt of interaction design’s influence.
The meaning of affinity and the importance of identity in the designed world
by Matthew Jordan
When a designer is thinking about ways to create experiences that deliver meaningful and lasting connections to users, it is helpful to consider the notion of our personal affinities and how they affect perception, adoption, and use in the designed world. In our cover story, Matthew Jordan explores the term “affinity,” leading us to consider new and useful ways of informing design thinking and ultimately help us design with more success.
Why “the conversation” isn’t necessarily a conversation
by Ben McAllister
Architects have long understood that the structures we inhabit can influence not only the way we feel, but also the way we behave. This turns out to be true in digital environments like social networks, too. Subtle differences in the underlying structures of these networks give rise to distinct patterns of behavior.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst: interaction design and the tipping point
by Eli Blevis and Shunying Blevis
Typical interaction designers are not climate scientists, but interaction designers can make well-informed use of climate sciences and closely related sciences. Interaction design can make scientific information, interpretations, and perspectives available in an accessible and widely distributed form so that people’s consciousness is raised.
Gestural interfaces: a step backwards in usability
by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen
The new gestural and touch interfaces can be a pleasure to use and a pleasure to see. But the lack of consistency and inability to discover operations, coupled with the ease of accidentally triggering actions from which there is no recovery, threatens the viability of these systems. We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company-interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers.
All look same? A comparison of experience design and service design
by Jodi Forlizzi
The comparison of experience design (or UX, as it has been labeled) and service design seems to be a topic of interest in the interaction design community. Can we and should we articulate differences among these fields? Can the methods and knowledge of one successfully transfer to another?
Relying on failures in design research
by Nicolas Nova
The investigation of accidents within a larger process can be inspiring from a design viewpoint. Surfacing people’s problematic reactions when confronted with invisible pieces of technologies highlights their mental model and eventually has implications for design.
Solving complex problems through design
by Steve Baty
What is it about design that makes it so well suited to solving complex problems? Why is design thinking such a promising avenue for business and government tackling seemingly intractable problems?
On academic knowledge production
by Jon Kolko
Now, as design enjoys the corporate credibility of “design thinking” and with the social problems confronting the world growing increasingly intractable, the need for bridging the gap between practitioners and academics is more important than ever.
“Unlike my colleague Janaki Kumar, who also attended the conference (see her report), I felt that the CHI’s motto “Art. Science. Balance” – although well suited to the city of Florence – had been somewhat artificially imposed on the conference. All in all, I did not find that this motto reflected the central theme of the conference. The “Renaissance panel” (see below) appeared to be a somewhat weak justification for the motto, even though it was very interesting and deserved much more attention. Despite the fact that the CHI conference had such a universal motto and was held in Europe, I had the impression that it was more a U.S.-centric than ever, even though some well-known faces, such as Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman, and Ben Shneiderman, were missing from the conference.”
Designing ethical experiences: social media and the conflicted future
By Joe Lamantia
Questions of ethics and conflict can seem far removed from the daily work of user experience (UX) designers who are trying to develop insights into people’s needs, understand their outlooks, and design with empathy for their concerns . In fact, the converse is true: When conflicts between businesses and customers—or any groups of stakeholders—remain unresolved, UX practitioners frequently find themselves facing ethical dilemmas, searching for design compromises that satisfy competing camps. This dynamic is the essential pattern by which conflicts in goals and perspectives become ethical concerns for UX designers. Unchecked, it can lead to the creation of unethical experiences that are hostile to users—the very people most designers work hard to benefit—and damaging to the reputations and brand identities of the businesses responsible.
Turn usable content into winning content
By Colleen Jones
Findable. Scannable. Readable. Concise. Layered. We know much these days about how to make Web content usable—thanks to experts such as Robert Horn, Jakob Nielsen, Ginny Redish, and Gerry McGovern. What we don’t understand as well, however, is how to make content win users over to take the actions we want them to take or have the perceptions we want them to have. We don’t understand how to make Web content both usable and persuasive. I, by no means, intend to imply that we should sacrifice the usability of content to make it more persuasive. Truly winning content must be both.
Gerry McGovern’s work perhaps delves deepest into the realm of persuasive content, emphasizing a customer-centric approach and the removal of filler content. However, I think we can do even more to win users over through content. I also remain unconvinced that the extreme minimalism McGovern supports is always appropriate. For instance, the “brutal” concision McGovern espouses in his recent article, “Killer Web Content Examples,” while usually appropriate for headlines, titles, or labels, risks creating the wrong tone in other types of content. As a starting point in the journey toward turning usable content into winning content, this article offers key resources that illuminate the creation of usable content and some tips for creating persuasive content I’ve garnered from my own experience.
The study documents intranet IA processes and the resulting designs, both in terms of the visible user interfaces and the underlying structures. The report contains detailed profiles of 56 real-world intranets’ information architecture as well as generalised analyses and best-practice recommendations derived from these many case studies.
In alphabetical order:
Ajax — the software trick used on the page, Yahoo’s e-mail service and elsewhere — is enabling flashier, more convenient sites. It’s also contributing to Yahoo’s decline in page views, a yardstick long used for bragging rights and advertising sales.
“These technologies have outgrown the metrics,” said Peter Daboll, Yahoo’s chief of insights and the former chief executive of comScore Media Metrix, the measurement company that declared Yahoo second to the online hangout MySpace in page views. “It’s really important as an industry to come back down to earth and off this chest-thumping about who’s biggest.”
More important than “truckloads of page views,” Daboll said, are visitors’ loyalty and their willingness to respond to ads — qualities harder to measure. If a page updates on its own without reloading in its entirety, people may be sticking around longer than the measurements suggest.
Experts say the stubborn attachment to page views also may be keeping some sites from improving their usability.
Jakob Nielsen, a Web design expert with Nielsen Norman Group, notes that many news sites force visitors to click multiple times to read longer stories in sections, even though he would much prefer scrolling down a long story and avoiding interruptions. [...]
Jesse James Garrett, the Adaptive Path president who publicly coined the “Ajax” term two years ago, suggests scrapping page views entirely.
“Page views have been a broken metric for a long time, and the industry has tried to put a good face on that,” he said. “Now a new technology has come along to force the industry to deal with the fact that page views are … not a good way of measuring audience engagement.”
This year, rather than avoid the Internet fads, including social networking and wikis, intranet design teams applied them in restrained ways that emphasized useful information. The result was the addition of sophisticated intranet features that expressed each company’s culture and served the needs of individual employees better than ever before.
The world’s 10 best intranets named in this year’s contest provide numerous examples of the latest trends in intranet design and are each described in detail in Nielsen Norman Group’s “Intranet Design Annual 2007: The Year’s Ten Best Intranets,” co-authored by Nielsen and colleagues Kara Pernice Coyne, director of research and Mathew Schwartz, researcher.
“Websites often employ a trendy technology for its own sake rather than for any discernable benefit it affords the user. They shoot for glitz,” said Jakob Nielsen, principal, Nielsen Norman Group. “This year, our intranet contest winners used the same trendy technologies, but they aimed instead for utility and pragmatism, and achieved them without any sacrifice to the coolness factor associated, for example, with an Ajax map that helps an employee find another employee with whom to carpool.”
The 10 organizations with winning intranets are based in five different countries and have employee populations ranging in size from 1,500 to 383,000. In alphabetical order, they are: American Electric Power (US); Comcast (US); DaimlerChrysler AG (Germany); The Dow Chemical Company (US); Infosys Technologies Limited (India); JPMorgan Chase & Co. (US); Microsoft Corporation (US); National Geographic Society (US); The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK); Volvo Group (Sweden).
The result, according to new research by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, is that people using B2B sites accomplish what they set out to do only 58% of the time compared to a significantly higher 66% success rate on consumer e-commerce sites.
The findings from Nielsen Norman Group’s first-ever B2B website study are presented in a report released today entitled, “B2B Website Usability: Design Guidelines for Converting Business Users into Leads and Customers,” co-authored by Nielsen, Hoa Loranger and Chris Nodder.
A great positive is that the stories are available for free, unlike UPA’s User Experience magazine, which is only available as a members only hard copy. Howvever, you cannot read the journal articles in your browser – you have to download them as PDF’s. Some usability improvements are needed still to make the reading experience more immediate.
The first issue includes an invited thought-provoking essay by Jakob Nielsen on: “Usability for the Masses”. In addition, it includes four peer-reviewed articles on the ecological validity of lab vs. field studies of mobile applications, a systems control framework for iterative usability testing, a report on the development of formative tests report format, and on the heuristics of travel web sites.
Authors are invited to submit manuscripts addressing various aspects of quantitative and qualitative usability studies that have a strong generalisation value to other practitioners working with any human-interactive product.
- Norman Forster: Building a sustainable future
Two trends will affect global practice over the next two decades: the need to pursue sustainable patterns of development; and the opportunities presented by developing economies
- Bill Gates: Get ready for chip implants
Technological advances will one day allow computers to be implanted in the human body and could help the blind see and the deaf hear, according to Bill Gates. But the Microsoft chairman says he’s not ready to be hardwired.
- Will Hutton: a work-life balance for all?
Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important: 2020 will see a high premium placed on the ability to combine paid work with other activities and a workplace that runs on flexibility.
- Dean Kamen: Giving transport back to the people
CNN talks to Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, about an urban renaissance and the need for more efficient transport in our cities.
- Marc Newson: The shape of things to come
CNN talks to Australian designer Marc Newson about shaping the world around us.
- Jakob Nielsen: Tech will cause a real estate crash
Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen predicts that more people will live in rural settings, with technology enabling them to do almost anything they like, be it work or play, without leaving their homes.
- Peter Nolan: Greater diversity in the workplace
Making sense of the prospects for the future of work and employment in a fast changing global economy is a formidable task.
- Ian Pearson: Enter the ‘care’ economy
We will be seeing a transition from an information economy to something called a “care” economy — and that is quite different.
- Kevin Warwick: The fusion of man and machine
By 2020 exciting advances in bio-interfacing will make it possible for a wider range of diseases to be treated electronically.