Usability Is Timeless

Jakob Nielsen's new book, Prioritizing Web Usability, is a worthy companion to the previous two. Now it's a trilogy:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Related interview with Jakob on “Prioritizing Web Usability”:

I will never understand why (vertical) scrolling is considered an usability issue. Nobody ever complained about scrolling in Word, Notepad or Windows Explorer. Seems like forcing physical limitations (pagesize) into the virtual space.

The scrolling issue is basically resolved; users have learned to scroll.

Plus computer mice somehow “grew” a scrollwheel between 1996 and 2003. That’s kinda significant. (When was the mouse scroll wheel introduced? When did it become mainstream? By 2001?)

The two skulls for scrolling, according to the text of the book, is because most users will visit your site and discard it immediately if nothing VISIBLE looks relevant to them. You have about 25-35 seconds and 100 words to convince them there’s something there worth scrolling to before they bother.

Also, in terms of writing for the web, it’s important to put the most relevant information at the top of the article or page:

Regarding scrolling, few annoyances are more irritating than horizontal scrolling. Vertical scrolling I don’t mind, but scrolling from left to right and back is enough to drive me away from the most informative web page.

:slight_smile: it seems to me that we have a usability problem with this article…it’s not so easy to discern which skulls relate to which item. a table with headings would make this much easier to read!

His statement that most of the progress can be attributed to designers’ restraint is very misleading. It does have the highest percentage of the available choices, but does NOT make up the majority. It makes up half.

With those same statistics, we could very well say, “You can ignore fully half of what Nielsen ever says because users will adapt and technology will improve.”

Which has always been my opinion of him, anyway. He has some great insights, but I tend to not worry about the minutiae of his writings.

Or else put the skulls on the left, so you could easily make the association between the skulls and the text.

The link to ESD-TR-86-278 is broken - s/hef/href/

With all this talk about vertical scrolling, check out horizontal web pages:

Sheesh, everyone’s a critic. :slight_smile: Corrected issues from Mike, Barry, and Morgan. Now can we discuss the topic of the article instead of the article itself?

I still disagree with a:visited colors. It was a valid point when the same colors were applied to every single link on every single page but, now that each website defines its own colors, either you’ll have a difference so subtle it won’t be evident, or you’ll make a confusing technicolor mess of your content.

(Re: vertical scrolling, and reading long text in general on the web, I think the popularity of blogs has done as much in this regard as scrollwheels.)

From the interview:

“I’ll give you an example from my own company: we sell a report with usability guidelines for email newsletters. The previous edition was 293 pages. The new edition is 544 pages because we’ve added findings of how people read email from a recent eyetracking study.”

I refuse to take any advice from a guy who touts usability but can’t manage to cut down a 544-page report to a, um, usable size.

About time somebody drops the colon and subtitle. The whole pattern of…

Catchy Title: But Here in the Subtitle Is What the Book Is Really About, Because You Can’t Tell From the Catchy Title

…is getting a bit old.

Here is irony - to buy the book, there is a link to Amazon, a web site that I have vowed never to use again because of its bloat, low signal-to -noise ratio, and LACK OF USABILITY.

But for your sake, Jeff, I’ll hope for a high click-though rate in defiance of my bad attitude.

Scrolling: Get rid of the ads, giant banners and mastheads, and sparse “intro” text.

Technicolor mess: Get rid of the gratuitous color.

Gewgaws in general: Get some content and you won’t need those flaming spinning logos, rounded boxes, Javascript funk-o-rama, etc. as your source of pride.

Cut the bloat: I don’t care how much bandwidth I have, my time is still valuable.

Sneaky popups, Flash, PDFs: We need a blacklist proxy we can all use and list these suckers with. These things are like deer, potholes, and speedbumps on the Information Superhighway.

Vertical scrolling is still my biggest complaint! Nobody does a decent job of it. I want one screen to start with, and when I hit the page down key, I want the next screen. I do not want the last line of the first screen and then the next screen. I want it to work like a book. Is that so hard? Yes, I know, everybody has a different screen size, and they all use different text sizes, and gee, it’s really hard to figure out how many lines will be on each screen. Well, geez, gumby, you’ve got a computer, let if count the friggin lines.

And I don’t want half a line a text (where the upper or lower half of the letters is cut off).

I don’t want to have to figure out where to pick up where I left off when I have scrolled down with a scroll wheel.

What is absolutely the worst is when you get to the end of an article, and there is only half a page left, and then you try to find your place, and you end up rereading the entire last page to find out that there was only one new line on the last page.

I don’t like scrolling text at all. It hurts my eyes to look at it. Computer screens have lousy resolution (compared to paper).

Wikipedia is the worst. Page down works a few times, and then it does not work anymore.

The problem is: Our client don’t like usability, they want the new thing they saw in the

I’m just tired to try to convince them.

“now that each website defines its own colors, either you’ll have a difference so subtle it won’t be evident, or you’ll make a confusing technicolor mess of your content.”

One extra color isn’t going to break the bank, especially when it’s actually useful, unlike most of the rest. (Technicolor is certainly preferable to taking monotone to the extreme, blending links into text, though a competent designer can differenciate visited links without breaking the theme at all.)

It’s Nielsen, N-I-E-lsen, like in the picture of the book cover.