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

Keith cache at dowebscentral.com
Thu May 2 18:30:01 CDT 2002

[ Picked text/plain from multipart/alternative ]

>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.

That is a disingenuous misrepresentation of Nielsen's message. Testing a
design for usability by the intended audience is certainly not a law of
commerce discovered by Jakob Nielsen. It's been a mainstay of mass
manufacturing since Colt Industries pioneered it in the 1870s.
Furthermore,  it is not at all what Nielsen is saying. His message is,
"Simplier is better". Is it?

Jake Nielsen's mindset and career were defined (by his own recollection)
during the sun.com rebuild. So let's go to the source and see if Jake is
really on to something.- http://www.sun.com/980113/sunonnet/concepts.html

Guess what happens when you build the site that you think you'll end up
using for Sun, then build 5 other "far-out" concepts to compare it with.
You get confirmation that your original design was correct. This kind of
intellectual dishonesty is why I quit reading Jake Nielsen years ago (I've
been designing focus group tested computer UIs since 1982).

On that page Nielsen comes to the unusable conclusion "The usability study
showed that users were not interested in far-out designs". He then later
has a paragraph that contains positive comments from some of those users
about those very "far-out" designs. His conclusion is obviously at odds
with his own study results, SOME participants were indeed interested in
those "far-out" designs.

Jake conveniently doesn't provide percentages so let's suppose some. The
10th GUV Survey, done in the same year, suggests that 20% probably found
the "far-out" designs usable and appealing. If the WebNation is composed of
100 million users, Jake is willing to discount the preferences of 20
million users. Jake was working at the time on a rebuild for a site that
has "product monopoly". If I want to use Star Office products I have no
choice but to use Sun's site, whether I like it or find it easy to use, or
not. All Jake had to do in a "product monopoly" setting is come up with a
design that "could" be used by that 20% to be able to claim that he had
achieved 100% "usability". But, if Star Office was available on other sites
and Sun had to compete for eyeballs, sun.com would get only 80% of the
market, according to Jake's own testing!!

There are designers on this list (20%?) that look at 20 million pairs of
eyeballs and see "market share", a share that is being insulted and poorly
served by sites blindly following Nielsen's "usablility" mantra that
"Simpler is better".  If you're selling original, independent MP3s and you
don't use a Flash shopping cart you could be losing eyeballs to the site
that does. Personally I don't get into "far-out" designs but I occasionally
do backend work for designers who do. I admire their moxie and their
talent. And I sympathize with their frustration when less daring members on
this list dismiss them as morons for going after their market niche.

Time and again disciples of Nielsen will back pedal to the position of
"We're only saying 'Test the damned thing'". No, that's the **method**.
That's NOT what Nielsen **concludes** from his "testing". Method and
conclusion are two different things. The Nielsen message (including the
ever-present disclaimer) is "Simpler is better, unless it's not". Well
guess what, "Complex is better, unless it's not"!

Me thinks the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Which is alright if you're at
Sun, but it gets damned chilly out in the rest of the world.


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