Brainstorms and Raves

Notes on Web Design, Development, Standards, Typography, Music, and More

Mon

30

AUG

2004

New Web Design Usability Article

Mastery, Mystery, and Misery: The Ideologies of Web Design is the latest website usability article by Jakob Nielsen. Whether or not you agree with everything he’s written in the past, in this new article Nielsen covers some terrific points about what works and what doesn’t work with sites. I think we’ve all visited far too many sites that don’t seem to consider users or perhaps they don’t understand much about how to create a user-friendly website. Below are some snippets from Nielsen’s new article.

Not coincidentally, ever since the WebCrawler debut in 1994, users have proclaimed search as one of their main activities on the Web. Being in control feels good.

Complying with design standards and conventions is one of the main strategies for strengthening users' feelings of mastery. Understanding what they’re being shown and knowing what they must do to achieve a desired effect—that’s the stuff of mastery.

In the mastery ideology, the designer’s job is to provide the features users need in a transparent interface that gets out of the way and lets users focus on the task at hand. Leading e-commerce sites typically understand this; they sell more when users focus on products rather than on puzzling out the design’s surface manifestation...

Users ... just want to access content and have the interface get out of the way.

... The mastery ideology provides the best match with the Web’s fundamental nature: it lets users go where they want. Web users want instant gratification and have little patience for the mystery approach’s detours and puzzles. Users are getting ever-more goal-driven in their approach to the Web, which they see more as a tool than an environment. Surfing to check out cool sites is a thing of the past.

... in the long term, users discover which sites treat them well and those are the sites they return to. Most of a website’s true value comes from loyal users, and mastery sites stand much the best chance of fostering loyalty.

Designs that support user empowerment are the best way to make money on the Internet. It’s an easier sell when you give people what they want than when you try to cheat them.

Nielsen also covers several things that confuse users and make many of us cringe, such as disabled browser BACK buttons, embedded ad links, non-standard scrollbars, and confusing navigation terms.

Overall I found his new article far less inflammatory than usual. See what you think.

10:24 am, pdt30 August, 2004 Comments, Trackbacks (1) ·

Categories: Design, Development, Information Architecture, Usability

Comments

Comments, Trackbacks: 1 so far. Add yours!

  1. Jakob provides insighful observations. However, the web design of his site continues to make me cringe. A little style will go a long way Jakob!

    12:16 am, pdt 7 October, 2004Comment by Newark1 Web Design

    comment #1 permalink ·

This discussion has been closed. Thanks to all who participated.

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