[thelist] USABILITY ---> DO not confound with traditionalism.

John Handelaar genghis at members.evolt.org
Tue Apr 30 17:46:00 CDT 2002

> -----Original Message-----
> From: thelist-admin at lists.evolt.org
> [mailto:thelist-admin at lists.evolt.org]On Behalf Of Keith
> Sent: 30 April 2002 22:57
> To: thelist at lists.evolt.org
> Subject: Re: [thelist] USABILITY ---> DO not confound with
> traditionalism.
> We can all be thankful that Tim Berners-Lee and Vince Serf

Vint Cerf.

> never
> read Jacob
> Nielson's

Jakob Nielsen.

> authoritarian views on innovation.  If they had we'd
> all still be
> on compuserv


> or minitel because the WWW, by Nielson's very definition,
> could never be "usable".

Wrong.  For the thousandth bloody time, what Nielsen says
is this:

1.  If you want to try something unlike all other UIs, you'd
    better test [*] it on people first to make sure they can
    understand it.

2.  If you can't afford to do 1, use stuff that people have
    used before and which we already know they know how to use.

[*]  For the benefit of the hard of thinking, I'm going to draw
attention to that specific word, 'test'.  'Test'.  Comfortable?
Good, we can move on.

> This whole usability thing gets more convoluted than Nielson's simplistic
> mantra.

Mantra?  He's telling you to test things.  Go look in a dictionary
and see if you can spot the difference between 'simplistic' and

> We're building a web application that will be used in high school
> classrooms. Two entirely separate UIs, one for NN/IE3+ on all platforms,
> and one for IE5+ on Win only. Why the second one? Better usability. Our
> focus group studies found that students are more familiar with
> the Window's
> application UI than they are with web UIs, especially considering that
> there really is no such thing as a standard web UI
> but there is indeed a
> standard Window's application UI.

And the alarming thing is that _this_ is _exactly_ what Nielsen
advocates:  Test, design accordingly, then provide a fallback
position in order to prevent losing audiences.

When you were busy slagging the man off, did you ever take
a moment to _read_ anything he's written?

> Sometimes better usability can be achieved through innovation.

Yeah.  But you wouldn't have the faintest idea whether it
was more usable or not for your audience if you hadn't tested

I apologise (but not much) for picking you up in particular
since you're probably at least the 10th person to spout off
about Nielsen from a position of ignorance.  However, in what
you actually did in this example one couldn't put so much
as a cigarette paper between his views and yours.  How ironic
is that?

John Handelaar

T +44 20 7209 4117       M +44 7930 681789
F +44 870 169 7657   E john at userfrenzy.com

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