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Jakob Nielsen on Design, RSS, Email, and Blogs 161

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the where-do-we-go-from-here dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Jakob Nielsen took some time to chat with the Wall Street Journal's Lee Gomes about RSS, email newsletters, web design and blogs. When asked whether blogs must maintain a 'conversation' with readers, Nielsen says, 'That will work only for the people who are most fanatic, who are engaged so much that they will go and check out these blogs all the time. There are definitely some people who do that -- they are a small fraction. A much larger part of the population is not into that so much. The Internet is not that important to them. It's a support tool for them. Bloggers tend to be all one extreme edge. It's really dangerous to design for a technical elite. We have to design for a broad majority of users.'"
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Jakob Nielsen on Design, RSS, Email, and Blogs

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  • That wouldn't be Lee... "Underpants" Gnomes, would it?

  • Nielsen says in this article that he prefers email newsletters to news feeds because "the email newsletter comes to you; it arrives in your in box, and becomes part of the one place you go to get information. That's the great strength." This is an interesting idea, but I don't think he realizes that it doesn't scale. Sure, a couple newsletters would work fine, but a few years back, I was subscribed to so many newsletters that I started filtering them into folders and essentially treating them just like feeds.

    What I prefer to newsletters is user-requested content, where you can say "Send me an email when you write a new blog post/article/whatever about $SUBJECT". I'm not usually interested in everything a site has to offer, but if they're willing to pick out the things I would be interested in, I'm much more likely to want to see it.

    • What I prefer to newsletters is user-requested content, where you can say "Send me an email when you write a new blog post/article/whatever about $SUBJECT". I'm not usually interested in everything a site has to offer, but if they're willing to pick out the things I would be interested in, I'm much more likely to want to see it

      I agree. I'm not a big fan of blogs, but there are occasionally ones that contain useful information and come across with some thought-provoking ideas. I like this idea of the customizeable email alert; I get these already from my bank and credit card company, and from CNN, why not a blog? When you think about it, it's similar to doing a search on a topic and following the links, except that instead of getting a lot of irrelevant crap, you get a more focused set of data. THe only caveat would be to make sure that if it's keyword based, there's some kind of threshhold that says, "alert me is $SUBJECT comes up, but only if it's talked about at length." Someone might mention a keyword once in a blog, but that shouldn't be good enough to trigger an alert -- it should only get sent out if there's enough about that subject to make it worth reading.

      • Well, you're probably looking for "tags" rather than keywords....
      • I'm not a big fan of blogs, but there are occasionally ones that contain useful information and come across with some thought-provoking ideas. I like this idea of the customizeable email alert; I get these already from my bank and credit card company, and from CNN, why not a blog?

        You can approximate this today with feedrinse.com [feedrinse.com] (which allows you to filter a feed based on search criteria) and rssfwd.com [rssfwd.com] which sends you feeds by email. I think if you combine these creatively you can get an emails for blog u

    • Nielsen says in this article that he prefers email newsletters to news feeds because "the email newsletter comes to you; it arrives in your in box, and becomes part of the one place you go to get information. That's the great strength." This is an interesting idea, but I don't think he realizes that it doesn't scale. Sure, a couple newsletters would work fine, but a few years back, I was subscribed to so many newsletters that I started filtering them into folders and essentially treating them just like fe

      • I believe people interact with periodical articles in a fundamentally different way to normal email, and that email newsletters lead people into trying to handle both of them in the same way, resulting in chaos

        I agree. I did a similar input reduction on my inbox a year or two ago. Nielsen received a special exception ticket, but not without some ironic reflection on the lack of usability options he provides to his readers. I understand the argument against too many options, but in this case they are n

      • I completely agree. When I got to college, I became hopelessly overrun by e-mail alerts and newsletters and annoucements. I began unsubscribing to them. Now I use the little ticker in GMail for some of my news, and I just visit the websites of these organizations for other information.
    • "...the email newsletter comes to you; it arrives in your in box, and becomes part of the one place you go to get information."

      And the one place you go to to get spam.
    • Some RSS readers let you filter individual feeds by tags or keywords, so you only see the posts that interest you. Personally I use Blogbridge, which claims this as a feature. I've never used the feature, since I've kept my subscriptions down to the level where scanning the post titles works for me, but it does look useful if you want to subscribe to absolutely everything that might ever post something of interest.
    • The problem isn't with the technology (newsletters vs. blogs) but with the way the technology's being used. Newsletter creators learned long ago that it made much more sense to send out tightly-focused newsletters, something that many bloggers have yet to learn. Those bloggers cast too wide a net and turn off some of their readers.

      One way to just get the things that interest you from a less-focused blog is to use category feeds [bloggingpro.com] if the blogging software supports it. This relies, of course, on the blogger p

    • by MacJedi (173) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @04:59PM (#15578572) Homepage
      As the old saying goes, email newsletters are just a (poor) reimplementation of USENET.
    • I don't think he realizes that it doesn't scale

      I don't think Nielsen has been really relevant since the bubble burst. He's on the way to becoming as much of a nuisance as he was a help Back In The Day. Even most of his comments back then weren't really well-reasoned, but more like "this is what *I* want". He just happened to get out there first.
  • What a joke! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:00PM (#15576792) Journal
    I can't believe this guy is a design/usability guru. His web site [useit.com] is easily one of the most garish and unfriendly pages I've ever seen.
    • His web site is easily one of the most garish and unfriendly pages I've ever seen.

      In his defense: while the page is butt-ugly, one of his major points about usability is that usability needs to have priority over design.

      But I do agree with you. It's got that Stallman-esque "I am so pushy about my principles that it's annoying" feel. He's overapplied his own advice, to the point where his web site looks so generic that it has no unifying brand. I don't think he realizes that if every website stuck with

      • First off, I also agree that his website looks like ass.

        I don't think he realizes that if every website stuck with a white or light background, dark or black text, blue/purple/red links, and relatively tame fonts, it would be almost impossible for web site owners to create a memorable brand.

        I don't konw about you, but for me, "memorable" comes from content. I don't care about flashy (or flash). I want content.

        The "brand" is the information and insight.

        As he has pointed out, people don't read most of what

        • Again, look at his website. What do you get from that? 90% of the material there is crap. It's all about interviews that he has done. It's him posting about sites that are "interesting" because they've posted about him because he was "interesting" when he commented on sites that he thought were "interesting". That's just derivative.

          I seem to recall someone analysing useit.com using Nielsen's own techniques a couple of years back, and demonstrating (as conclusively as anything Nielsen himself ever publis

          • I seem to recall someone analysing useit.com using Nielsen's own techniques a couple of years back, and demonstrating (as conclusively as anything Nielsen himself ever published) that the quality of the site (using Nielsen's own metrics) had dropped a great deal since it was first created. :-)

            I would not be surprised at that.

            You know when TV shows "jump the shark". They've run their storylines. They've developed their characters to the maximum extent of the writer's skills. Then they ... decline.

      • Re:What a joke! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrVomact (726065) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @02:37PM (#15577573) Journal

        I couldn't disagree more with the original poster--I think it's an absolutely great web site. The layout is clean, simple and instantly comprehensible. The purpose of this page is to direct you to information about web design...so it gives links to articles and conferences. What else could you want? A bunch of animated screenshots of web pages that dance in circles around the text? --In fact, that's what popped into my head when the original poster mentioned "garish"!

        As for your (parent) comment, I think that following conventions such as using dark type on a light background, blue underlined links and legible type is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing for web pages to follow conventions. A good user interface is always a consistent interface. This principle is what made the Macintosh such a success--nearly every program that ran on the Mac had a similar menu structure, the buttons looked alike and did what you expected, and so on. (I speak in the past tense because I haven't used a Mac in years.) I hate programs that use a glitzy unique interface just to be different; you would say they are establishing "brand" identity or something--I say that they are annoying the crap out of me by having to learn a new interface just for their stupid program. (This happens a lot in games.) In this case, doing things differently doesn't make the software cool--it makes the program look amateurish.

        Now, I understand that the web isn't an operating system, or a set of related application programs. Web pages serve many different purposes, and what works for one page doesn't necessarily work for another. But I have seen many more examples of web pages that defeat themselves with their unique graphics or typographical layout than I've seen examples of successful web pages that depart radically from convention. The same general rules do apply to most web pages as apply to any user interface--make me feel at home, make it clear where I'm supposed to click to do what, let me recognize a link when I see one. The first rule about breaking rules is, "Have a good reason". Break the rules only when it makes your page more effective--don't break them just to be "different".

        • Re:What a joke! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DarkSarin (651985)
          That would be fine, except that try using his sight with a screen reader: it would suck!

          He has far too many links of the main page.

          In addition, I see the following as problems:
          Easy to get lost below the fold (no indicators of what each column means;
          lack of organization of links (no indicators of organization);
          lack of information explaining page;
          lack of actual content.

          Not all of these may be agreed on by those who visit, but I think you get the point: it's not a very usable site.
        • The purpose of this page is to direct you to information about web design...so it gives links to articles and conferences. What else could you want? A bunch of animated screenshots of web pages that dance in circles around the text? --In fact, that's what popped into my head when the original poster mentioned "garish"!

          There's a common misconception that it's not possible to have good visual design and usability, or that "visual design" has to mean flashing dancing animations. It's a misconception that

      • Re:What a joke! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sparr0 (451780)
        I can't be the only one who does the majority of my surfing with stylesheets turned off. On well designed sites it works amazingly well. I get the content and just the content in a nice linear format that is easy to read. Lite mode used to be nice here, but since the redesign it has gotten a lot worse, so I am doing my /.ing with no stylesheets now too.
      • He's overapplied his own advice, to the point where his web site looks so generic that it has no unifying brand.

        Really? I can recognize Nielsen everywhere - his website and books look all the same - ugly. That's his brand [ok-cancel.com].

      • I tend to consider Nielsen on the draconian edge of the usability debate. He's very "usability over any sort of aesthetics" and he advocates that as loudly as he can. It's pretty annoying in a vacuum... ...of course, he's not really in a vacuum. You've still got folks on the other side who advocate these incredibly complicated, sometimes pretty but usually entirely baffling overdesigned websites. Curt Cloninger used to be the posterboy for that sort of thing, although I don't know if he still is.

        (And le
    • His web site is easily one of the most garish and unfriendly pages I've ever seen.

      I don't know if I'd say his website is garish. Still needs a few banner ads. But his use of 'Dr.' and 'Ph.D' certainly is. Probably got those online -- hence his qualifications as a web expert.

      The page certainly is an eyesore.
    • You've been modded as a troll, but I completely agree with you. Also, from his "Why This Site Has Almost No Graphics" page:

      My original design used a simple colon to separate the levels, but some users thought that the colons indicated alternative choices on the same level (and not a progressively deeper nesting of options, as intended).

      It seems that he should have considered that different people might view the separator in ways other than he intended. This is a pretty basic tenet--consider all possible w

    • Re:What a joke! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pink Tinkletini (978889) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:10PM (#15576857) Homepage
      Indeed. He sneers at graphic design and pretty much anything beyond plaintext, claiming that "gimmicks" like animation impair usability. What he fails to understand is that when properly applied, these very same techniques can aid usability substantially (e.g. Genie effect to tell you where your windows are going).

      An oversimplification of his position, I'm sure, but that's the impression he gives. As you say, it doesn't help that his homepage is an oil spill of inscrutable links, an assault on the senses.
      • Re:What a joke! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by great throwdini (118430) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:49PM (#15577183)

        Indeed. He sneers at graphic design and pretty much anything beyond plaintext, claiming that "gimmicks" like animation impair usability. What he fails to understand is that when properly applied, these very same techniques can aid usability substantially ...

        An oversimplification of his position, I'm sure ...

        Your second thought is the correct one: your opening statements are a gross oversimplification of Nielsen's position.

        I've read more than my fair share of his writings -- and disagree with Nielsen on any number of points -- but he isn't opposed to paratextual content in the least. He is, as you sense, quite opposed unthinking graphic and interactive design, though.

        • Re:What a joke! (Score:2, Interesting)

          Thanks for the correction. I should know better than that. :-P

          What annoys me about Nielsen is that he preaches usability, yet his homepage is practically unusable unless you think the same way he thinks. If you're a more visually oriented person than Nielsen seems to be, or you're less of a linear learner--basically, if you approach his homepage in any way he wouldn't--then it's going to be a total nightmare to navigate. His vision of "usability" works well for him, it seems, but Nielsen isn't the world.
        • Upon further reflection, I guess what I meant to say was "thanks for the correction, but I won't let that stop me from being serially annoyed by Jakob Nielsen."
      • He sneers at graphic design and pretty much anything beyond plaintext

        Do you have a cite for anything even approaching this? I find Nielsen to be one of those people who is widely vilified for things he hasn't said and doesn't agree with. Having read plenty of Nielsen in the past, I strongly suspect you are completely misrepresenting him.

      • Pink Tinkletini (978889) wrote:

        Indeed. He sneers at graphic design and pretty much anything beyond plaintext, claiming that "gimmicks" like animation impair usability.

        You're behind the times. He moderated his stance once he was "put on the board" of Macromedia.

        What he fails to understand is that when properly applied, these very same techniques can aid usability substantially Hm... another out of work "web designer", eh?(e.g. Genie effect to tell you where your windows are going)

        I have no idea w

    • Re:What a joke! (Score:4, Informative)

      by nv5 (697631) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:11PM (#15576869) Homepage Journal
      you may still not be impressed, but but he does explain his reasoning for the absence of graphics [useit.com].
      • Of course one still want pages to load quickly. That said, we have much higher market penetrations of DSL and cable modems than we did just a few years ago, and as such the 28K dialup-modem bit isn't really relevant here. Especially when you consider the audience of the site will be primarily web professionals, the vast majority of whom will NOT be accessing his site at 28K.

        IIRC, failing to consider your site's audience is also a big usability no-no.

        As to graphics, there's a ton of free and inexpensive $29.

        • So what he's really saying is that he just doesn't want to be bothered with it and that's fine, but he should SAY that, and eschew the dated rationalizations.

          He DOES. Right on the same page. Directly below the text you quoted, in fact. Unless you're running at 640x480 (thus validating his point that a lot of people still use old equipment --- but I digress), it should have been plain in front of you.


          # I am not a visual designer, so my graphics would look crummy anyway. Since this website is created

          • And to quote myself, "As to graphics, there's a ton of FREE and inexpensive $29.95 web templates out there that are CSS-based, highly usable, accessible, and graphically pleasing."

            So there're plenty of options beyond creating your own crummy graphics and hiring an expensive graphic artist, which, along with bandwidth, are the only reasons given. As such, his "explanations" fail to explain, and lead me to suspect he's whitewashed over the real reason: he simply doesn't care enough to do any better.
    • by ribuck (943217) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:37PM (#15577079) Homepage
      Yeah. He didn't even bother to select a font size for the body text; he just left it at the browser default.

      There are no animated graphics, and he missed the opportunity to provide an interactive Flash marketing experience.

      And black text is just, like, so readable.

    • Re:What a joke! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by miller60 (554835)
      Jakob Nielsen was once an important voice on usability issues, but that's only true today if you use Lynx or some other text browser. He recently tried to apply his expertise to the topic of "banner blindness" (the tendency of Web users to ignore ad banners) and how it was also undermining contextual ads like Google's AdWords. A lot of bloggers and site owners were concerned about this, given Nielsen's reputation and his use of EyeTracker (a really cool tool) for the research. It turns out his work on "text
    • I can't believe this guy is a design/usability guru.

      You need to understand that he is a usability guru primarily for software engineers. Graphic designers and artists and architects have been directing people's attention this way or that for a long time (e.g. centuries) before HTML. However, with the advent of web and software design, individuals with no experience in designing composition or spatial flow were suddenly making stuff that desperately needed these things. And people like Nielsen have done

  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aftk2 (556992) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:00PM (#15576796) Homepage Journal
    The blurb didn't make much sense to me, so I thought I'd actually *gasp* RTFA...

    His idea about calling RSS feeds "News Feeds" makes sense to me (c'mon Apple, do you really need the blue RSS badge in Safari's bar? I predict this is gone in Safari 2.5/3 - replaced with an aquafied version of the universal newsfeed icon)

    Beyond that and what appeared in the summary, there isn't much to the article. How does one "design" for a blogging audience? I can understand his point that bloggers, while influential on the web, are a vast, technical, vocal minority - but what does that mean in terms of design? What does it also mean that, with regards to MySpace, one of the most popular destinations on the web is also one of its most amazingly poorly designed? I mean, it's slapdash - but it's agile, meaning that they've succeeded by throwing a whole bunch of stuff to the wall, and seeing what sticks.
    • His idea about calling RSS feeds "News Feeds" makes sense to me

      They're called "RSS feeds" because a "news feed" (or more correctly, "newsfeed") is when someone provides you with USENET news. We already have too much overloading of names in technology, let's not do it to ourselves all over again.

  • Blogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dubmun (891874) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:03PM (#15576819) Homepage Journal
    Blogs will penetrate the masses much more than Mr. Gomes thinks. They are the journals of our age and may not be read on a regular basis by the masses now... but think about future generation being able to go back and read the blogs of the past.

    Journals and diaries have fallen into disuse. Our old blogs and emails are what OUR children will be reading when we die.
    • Re:Blogs (Score:2, Insightful)

      by moracity (925736)
      You are completely wrong. Most blogs are just the current incarnation of personal websites run by ego-centric, know-it-all, wannabe journalists and cry-babies. Most of them just track back to some other equally lame blog. If you're lucky, you might be able to find the original source...which was probably a major news site.

      Now, there are some legitimate news sites that have moved to a blog format, but that has nothing to do with blogging.

      I consider a majority of blogs to be little more than shameless self-pr
    • There's a point, I want to say it was identified to me as the 1890's or so, where so many people started writing and keeping their writings that making sense of history became more difficult instead of easier. There's so much modern historical data that it's difficult to pick out signal from noise.

      So, I think you're right that people in the future will like reading old blogs, but it won't be the masses per se. For the great majority of blogs the only people who will find our blogs interesting will literally
    • Re:Blogs (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrVomact (726065)
      Suppose that literacy was universal in all of Europe ever since...oh...the year 500 AD. Suppose further that everyone was compelled by a law or religious tenet to keep a scrupulous and voluminous diary, and that these diaries have been preserved in vast libraries to the present day. How many people do you suppose would wander through those libraries, reading the diaries of people who were not famous or related to them? Darn few, I'd say.

      Now why do you suppose that the massive amounts of prose that's bein

      • Now why do you suppose that the massive amounts of prose that's being churned out by today's bloggers will be any more interesting to future generations than our hypothetical diaries?

        The sentient machines may want to figure out a bit more about that funny race of squishy things they just nuked into oblivion.
    • but think about future generation being able to go back and read the blogs of the past.

      Future generations will soon learn that our generation was composed mostly of airheads, wankers, OMGPonies, and timecubists.

      Our old blogs and emails are what OUR children will be reading when we die.

      No, they'll be reading MySpace entries and bleaching their eyes when they discover that the hot chick flashing her hooters at Mardi Gras was their mom.
  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famousNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:04PM (#15576820) Homepage Journal
    It may be Nielsen talking on a subject that's newer than his seminal book (which is now over 5 years old, an eternity in Web time), but he's just hitting the same old points... broad usability, design for the broadest audience, etc.

    Why should I design for or even think about my grandmother's tastes if I'm doing a coding blog, or a baseball blog (that's assuming Grandma isn't a rabid Ichiro fan)?

    I view Nielsen as someone who has taken a good idea and turned it into ideology. And when you do that, the goodness begins to evaporate.

    Design for two audiences... your users and Googlebot. That's my motto.

    - G
    • Design for two audiences... your users and Googlebot. That's my motto.

      Given that this article was published in the Wall Street Journal, I think Nielsen was (rightfully) assuming that his audience would be people who work on websites used by the general public, not the so-called "technocratic elite". Sure, if it's a coding blog, do what you want. Most of your users will figure it out, and the ones who can't don't matter. But if you're creating a web site for the general public, with wide appeal, you'll w

    • I always tend to find Nielsen to a be a sort of second-rate Tufte. He's usually got a few good points that would seem to be conventional wisdom, but he's actually done or read up on the research, so that's kinda cool. But the Ponderous Voice is incredibly annoying. As is his uncanny ability to fit every design and marketing problem online back into his design philosophy, when it is obvious that the problem domain is significantly different than the one his book addressed. The approach -- always trying t
      • I'm not sure its fair to compare Nielson to Tufte. Tufte's book are beautiful and his thoughts are deep, but I suspect more people have Tuftes books then have actually read them. IMHO, Tufte is the academic, while Nielson is the practitioner. Nielson (who just published a follow up to his first book) writes for the masses, and bases his comments on actually watching people use websites. Over the years I've watched him change his recommendations based upon on his research, despite his preferences. HTML e-ma
  • Acronymns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neonprimetime (528653) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:06PM (#15576831)
    one of the real strong recommendations is to stop calling it 'RSS' and start calling it 'news feeds,' because that explains what it does

    I've been trying to convince my work that for years now! But instead we have systems named ... LTD, MARDAT, APRP, CLSPMT, CSR, etc. It's insanely hard to work with! Call it what it is ... not by some stupid acronym.
    • Re:Acronymns (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SteveHeadroom (13143)

      My previous employer went the other way and chose cutesy marketting names for their internal systems. They were a little more memorable, but still not descriptive:

      • Insight
      • XSell
      • Success Management
      • BullsEye (when management announced the name, my first response was "Well, they got the first 5 letters right!"

      What happenned to simple names like "Billing" or "Proposals" or "Sales"?

      • People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, ok? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.
  • by TheViewFromTheGround (607422) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:08PM (#15576846) Homepage

    Nielsen has an interesting riff in this very slight interview (couldn't WSJ have expanded the online version of it?) on what to call RSS. It's an excellent point -- lay people don't know "RSS" the way they know "web" or even "Myspace". It is useful technology that could help a good number of people. But between the utter proliferation of newsreaders and naming conventions, it far too fragmented to cement widespread public understanding.

    For a guy who loves to throw around numbers, I find Nielsen's comment about blogs incoherent and worthless. Is there evidence that blogs are being designed for the technical elite? What is this "one extreme edge" that bloggers are on? Is there evidence that blogs are corporate marketing tools even are trying to find a broad audience? These are incredibly dubious assertions. Any thoughtful strategy for reaching out to customers is going to combine blogging, email, RSS and other technologies in an audience-specific way. Duh.

    • by Pike (52876)
      He's right though. Blog-readers (who are often unusually voracious readers anyway) tend to think that everyone else uses the internet the same way they do, but it ain't so. For most companies (yknow, except flickr and textdrive etc), setting up and maintaining a blog is going to have the smallest ROI of any of the approaches you mention, because it will reach only the voracious readers and news junkies of the Internet.
      • For most companies (yknow, except flickr and textdrive etc), setting up and maintaining a blog is going to have the smallest ROI of any of the approaches you mention, because it will reach only the voracious readers and news junkies of the Internet.

        Well, yeah, but ain't the point so obvious that it shouldn't even have been mentioned in a WSJ article. I mean, blogs were designed from the ground up to be a vehicle for personal interaction. Why would anyone think they were useful in marketing?

        There are other
  • Ahhhh (Score:3, Informative)

    by drpimp (900837) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:16PM (#15576906) Journal
    "For Web-Design Expert, Ease of Use And Clarity Are Essential for Firms"

    I'm definately not an English major, but I believe it should either read

    For Web-Design Experts, Ease of Use And Clarity Are Essential for Firms

    OR

    For a Web-Design Expert, Ease of Use And Clarity Are Essential for Firms

    Almost sounds like a post from engrish.com
    • Re:Ahhhh (Score:4, Informative)

      by matantisi (803144) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:37PM (#15577085)
      It's actually "headline-ese": "Web Expert" here, refers to Nielsen. Newspapers use this kind of locution all the time in headlines.
    • Re:Ahhhh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JayDot (920899)
      Actually, it's a typical newspaper method of trying to pack the headline with as much information as possible. Most folks who read the WSJ may not know who Jakob Nielsen is, but they can understand the concept of a Web-Design Expert. The second half of the title refers to the content of the interview, with the main point highlighted. So, to summarize, this newspaper headline could be translated as "Web-design expert Jakob Nielsen believes that ease of use and clarity are essential for firms," thus satisfyin
  • This guy is clueless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MarkusQ (450076)

    Certainly you can have blogs that function as newsletters, updated on a regular basis. But they don't tend to do that. They don't tend to have that same sort of publishing discipline: having a publication schedule and surveying this week's or this day's events. They could, of course, but they don't tend to.

    What planet is he browsing? Here on Earth, we have blogs that get updated in response to the day's events, often as fast or faster than the MSM. Want to know the latest on the SCO vs. IBM case? Wh

    • Don't be so quick to write him off as clueless when you haven't actually read what he's saying. He's not talking about the speed at which information is published, he's talking about having it published on a regular schedule.

      I don't really seen the point in publishing something at a set time or on a particular day, but some people think it's incredibly important. For these people, the fact that weblogs might publish it first isn't important, the fact that they are just publishing on the whim of the au

      • by MarkusQ (450076)

        I don't really seen the point in publishing something at a set time or on a particular day, but some people think it's incredibly important.

        Who?

        Do you know any? Why would they care?

        Apart from sources like the guy quoted in the article, do we even have any reason to suppose that such people exist? From the push/supply side (e.g., a newspaper, or TV show with a schedule to keep) it makes a great deal of sense. But from the pull/consumer side? Do you really think there are people who would rather bre

        • Do you know any? Why would they care?

          Yes. I'm not sure why, I suspect a combination of some form of snobbery and the idea that a particular news segment can be thought of as covering the time period between the last article and the current one. When you publish news articles on a schedule, there's a reasonable expectation that you are covering a particular time period, but there's no similar expectation when you just read what people publish when they feel like it - you don't know whether they are c

          • Oh now come on, that's just a silly argument. Just because you keep to a schedule it doesn't mean that you can't have feedback or searchable archives. You are creating a false dichotomy.

            No, I'm not the one that's creating the false dichotomy; Nielson is the one that set it up (albeit with "tend to"/"don't tent to" weasel words). I'm just pointing out how silly it is--and that's the part you seem to agree with. I would be quote happy to see news outlets provide richly linked stories with searchable arc

  • by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:16PM (#15576908) Homepage Journal
    The nice thing about email newsletters is that they look just like your other communcations; you use one tool to manage them.

    But email is a two-way communication; RSS is really primarily one-way. That makes for a technological difference: with RSS, because it's fetch, you know you're not getting spam. Email is push, and so it's hard to distinguish newsletters from spam. And it's one more site to give your email address to, meaning one more opportunity for spammers to steal/buy it.

    Getting newsletters out of the email loop will make it easier to support some anti-spam technologies. Newsletters are one of the downfalls of pay-to-send schemes, because a free newsletter emailed to a million people at $.00001 turns into real money.

    I like integrating RSS into the email stream. Some email apps already support RSS, and I would like to see them show up in just a single queue of "stuff to read".
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:18PM (#15576925) Homepage

    It's worth nothing that the political blogosphere has already started to consolidate along "MSM lines." I predict [blindmindseye.com] that within five or six years that "blogging" will be just another way of maintaining an information-rich website. Now, no snickering about how valuable that information might be from the anti-bloggers. The point is that "blog software" represented a commoditization of CMS software in a way that your average user could handle and is thus a step forward. It is now much easier thanks to WordPress and Movable Type for people to maintain small websites, and WordPress can handle very big ones as well.

    The problem with the blogosphere is that it is "democratic" by nature, but the future evolutions like vlogging and podcasting will not be democratic. They can't be. If you aren't making serious advertising money, the bandwidth fees from your amateur video hour would actually run into bankrupting-levels if a blogger got hit with several "instalanches" in one month on top of say, 10,000 regular viewers a month.

    The interesting part is the software. WordPress has proven to be particularly powerful in terms of forming the framework for websites, as ZDNet has proved with their TechBlogs.

    • If you aren't making serious advertising money, the bandwidth fees from your amateur video hour would actually run into bankrupting-levels if a blogger got hit with several "instalanches" in one month on top of say, 10,000 regular viewers a month.

      If you're getting 10,000 regular viewers per month, you ought to be getting at least 50,000 page hits per month. You can get $2 per 1,000 impressions from advertising almost without lifting a finger. $100 per month ought to pay for some hefty bandwidth. I don't
  • The fanatics are just as likely to subscribe to a newsletter as they are to go and visit a blog frequently. Unless you force users to sign up to a newsletter, fanatics will be the only informed ones, anyway.
  • What? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Odin_Tiger (585113) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:29PM (#15577021) Journal
    It's really dangerous to design for a technical elite.

    Yeah, just look at what a colossal failure Slashdot is... ... ...Wait a sec...
  • by faust2097 (137829) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:29PM (#15577022)
    Jakob is a great pundit but I think he's becoming aware of the fact that most of the sage advice he compiled almost a decade ago has becoming common sense. Aside from getting interviews he hasn't really contributed anything new or exciting to web usability. First the design community figured this out and stopped buying his books, and I think now those designers' bosses are starting to realize that the $5k they spent sending their people to Nielsen conferences would be better spent on talking to their customers and doing more testing [and doing it themselves cheaply instead of hiring NN Group to do it].

    It's nice to have a face for your industry but I'd really rather see someone like Steve Krug [sensible.com], Luke Wroblewski [lukew.com] or Jennifer Tidwell [jtidwell.net] who have done more than design a pre-Cambrian version of Sun's website and a bunch of pie-in-the-sky concept projects. The fact of the matter is that "real artists ship".
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:30PM (#15577025) Homepage Journal
    I maintain about 12 blogs on various topics, originally because I would repeat myself so often in e-mail every day to various people. The blogs were initially a time-saving tool for my friends, family and customers. Over time the blogs started gaining an audience, and using RSS much of that audience returns daily. By hyperlinking the various blogs with one another, the audience grows even more-so. Sure, they're fringe topics, but the fact that outsiders can now look into my e-mails and start commenting on them is a very big step to me gaining more information to make my businesses more profitable.

    In the past 6 months I even started to help some of my corporate customers create their own blogs. By next week my company will maintain 6 corporate blogs which seem to be making big strides in keeping my customers' customers happy and informed. Again, fringe topics, but who cares if the production creates a profit (financial or informational).

    I think a lot of old-media promoters will find many ways to downplay the strength of the lone blogger, but it is more than just fringe opinions and a dozen return readers -- it is about creating that "social networking" structure within your social group, and then finding ways to involve your group with others. I believe it is working very well, and I think the future is huge for bloggers, wikis and all sorts of odd social-networking web interfaces.
  • by PW2 (410411)
    My biggest complaint is when sites that publish RSS will put HTML within their title or description fields. Many times its just a link or icon that is already listed via other RSS tags. It makes it a pain when they assume that everyone is using a graphical RSS viewer. I wrote an RSS viewer that works with LED signs. Please keep it simple when publishing RSS and let the software choose what data to display.
    • The solution to this is the same as the solution to browsing from a text-only user agent like Lynx: make sure the HTML you supply degrades gracefully.

  • by bitspotter (455598) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @02:19PM (#15577431) Journal
    "It's really dangerous to design for a technical elite. We have to design for a broad majority of users."

    By "dangerous", he means just to the corporate bottom line. by "we", he just means businesses.

    The rest of us "elite" are being designed for just fine, thanks.

    He does have a point about the difference between email and rss. That's why I swear by rss2email [aaronsw.com]. it scans feeds, and wraps up items into my email inbox. best of both worlds.
    • Reading Nielsen's quotes used to make me curse, but I really see him as a pundit whose era passed him by.

      Most of his pronouncements in this article show a shocking resistance to the current directions of the web. His 82% of user are unaware of RSS almost directly correlates with a MSFT browser share - and it being unable to handle it. You've got a massive population frustrated by the lack of tools to monitor fresh web content, including blogs, that will suddenly tune into the infinite channel network of the
      • Atom/RSS became popular long before browser support came about. I don't see why you are tying news feed ignorance to Internet Explorer's lack of support - any Internet Explorer user can sign up for a web-based aggregator today, without any special support. Users aren't hampered by Internet Explorer in this respect, it's their own ignorance, and probably at least partially because it doesn't do much for a lot of people. Not everyone's a geek.

    • This is why I use Opera as my RSS reader.

      It's just like e-mail. Searchable like gmail and fast like any desktop client.

      And with tooltip notification of new rss feeds.
  • More information (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @02:45PM (#15577658)

    He's gone into more detail in his latest Alertbox column [useit.com]. One thing that caught my eye:

    Finally, some of our users resented the fact that news feeds are divorced from the context of the publisher's website. They preferred the serendipity that came from visiting a full-fledged website that offered additional content beyond the current headlines.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. If you are reading a feed, the website is a click away. If you are reading an email newsletter, the website is a click away. In both cases you aren't reading the information on the website.

    It only make sense once you substitute "some of our users" for "some publishers". Email newsletters don't really have a strong tradition of including the entire article in the notification email, but plenty of people complain if you only provide partial feeds as opposed to full-text feeds.

    I've seen a lot of resentment from some publishers because they think that because the person is reading their article, that they should be able to dictate that they read it on the website. But I've never seen any users complain that Atom/RSS feeds aren't "serendipitous enough". That makes no sense.

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @03:11PM (#15577859) Journal
    What we need is a tool that gets us the info we want, in a timely and convenient manner, right?

    So here's what is needed: A web-based service or client-side program (either one would be fine, I think) that lets me set up finely-tuned RSS "smart folders".

    Let's say I am shopping for a 120 gb hard drive.

    * First, I tell the folder what feeds I want it to check: DealNews, Fatwallet, etc.

    * Then, I tell the folder what criteria or terms I want it to look for. Ex.: Show me all items that, in the title or text, include the word "120" AND "drive" AND ("hitachi" OR "seagate" OR "toshiba" OR "samsung").

    * From then on out, I can see the results with just a single click on the folder, like a smart playlist on iTunes or a search folder in Thunderbird.

    I've tried doing this so far with Vienna (mac) and Thunderbird (pc). Both support smart folders, but are crippled because they don't allow finely grained searches, (I can't believe no one has written an extension that improves on T-Bird's rudimentary filtering criteria!) like regular expressions.

    To me, this sounds like the perfect solution. Does anyone know if it exists?

    - AJ

    • I think FeedDemon - http://www.feeddemon.com/ [feeddemon.com] - has a feature called "Watches" which will do what you desire. I use the program, but don't use that feature.
      • Damn, I can't get this to work at work -- must be a firewall or proxy server issue. I'll give it a whirl on my wife's laptop at home.

        I wish it was free (big shocker there, huh?). There are a lot of free tools (like the aforementioned Vienna and Thunderbird) that are just SO close in terms of functionality. I mean, for shopping alone, this is such a great idea! You tell it what you're looking for, and boom, there you go.

        Another thought -- If implemented via a web interface, this would be a total no-brainer f
    • Shameless plug: the newspaper I work for offers something like this. For any terms and parameters you enter into our search system, you can set up a persistent alert for new items matching those terms and parameters; we'll notify you via your choice of email, RSS or text message when something new comes up. Want to hear about it every time we publish a story containing the word "alpaca"? Go for it. Want to be notified whenever somebody lists a Ford Mustang in our classifieds? You've got it.

      It's a really h

      • Yes, it seems like a no-brainer.

        Using thunderbird, for example, I can choose the RSS feed, and retrieve from that feed any item that contain the word, say, "jayhawk". What I can't get it to do is, from a user-defined set of feeds, get items that do include the term ("jayhawk") but don't contain the terms ("music" OR "band").

        You'd think Google would be all over this, but nope: http://www.google.com/reader/view/ [google.com]

        - AJ
  • Surfing through the response here shows a lot of "this guy is behind the times" or "he just doesn't get it" comments. A few things:
    • Jakob and the people at the Nielson Norman Group are *giants* in the useability field. While he has his opinions, he tends to base his work off what *they actually see users do*, not what they say they do or like. He's also fairly clear about his preferences vs. what average people tend to prefer (HTML email is an example)
    • Jakob has a new book that follows on this last book, i
  • OK, not "all", a few of you seem to have your heads on straight. But most of you seem to be deeply in denial. I don't blame you; most of your blogs are likely BAD [myspace.com] (Sorry, Joe, but your page is entirely unreadable).

    Nielson's views have changed as his research (real research using scientifically sound principles). For example, in the last century he advocated, based on studies of users, that long pages were bad design. Folks didn't know how to scroll, and long pages ate some of the primitive browsers (and

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