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useit.com

I just sent this message to the author of useit.com.  I am wondering if anyone here shares the same sentiment.

John


To: nielsen@nngroup.com
Subject: The point of your web site, use what dot com???

I saw a link to your web page and thought the name, useit.com, was interesting enough to visit your site.  But what is your web site about?  The first things I see are Alertbox, Automated Email from Web Sites, Six Sigma and on the other side News, Usability Conference, BtoB Getting visitor feedback.

At this point, I am still wondering what the overall purpose (the mission statement) is.  When I page down to the bottom, I see "About This Site".  I think to myself  "Great, I can find out what the site is about".  I was disappointed to only find mundane topics like no graphics, portal traffic, and the copyright statement.

You could probably improve the usability of your web site by putting a brief  message toward the top of the page which states what your site is about.  If you wanted to go into more detail you could do something like site, http://joelonsoftware.com/, which has a link toward the top of the page, "What's going on here?"

On a final note, I am surprised to see that you have written books about home pages.  In any of your books, do you recommend things like mission statements (and also that they be put on the home page)?

Thanks for your time.
John Taylor

John Taylor
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Yes, to many the site strikes one as utterly unusable.  To the author/owner it is possibly the most usable site.  He has some rather interesting views on topics ranging from navigation to graphics (don't use them). 

There was a contest held (independent of the site) to see what a (more commonly perceived as) usable version would look like, it was nice.

His career is making large statements, good for him.  And I read some of his articles, but like Tufte, you can't take everything he says to heart.  And certainly his own website stinks pretty badly.

Lou
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Umm, actually it is pretty clear what the site is about. At least it is if you know who Jakob Nielsen /is/ and if you don't then you probably wouldn't be interested anyway.

You seem to have not understand what the "it" is (your mail says something like "use what?"). "it" isn't a thing in this case, it is IT. This is kind of given away by the first words on the page - "useit.com: usable information technology".

Having said that, he certainly has some odd ideas - http://www.bbspot.com/News/2003/07/letter_c.html

At least according to Uncle Sharky he does...


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Good one John.  A bit of light humour to brighten up the day.

Say "Hi" to your other marketing buddies for me.

AJS
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I have nothing against Jakob Nielsen as a person.

However, I find that his "usability" studies, book and site 99% useless.

He teaches things that are very, very basic about usability and user interfaces. These are things that the Windows developers I work with have mastered a long time ago.

Well, maybe his books are useful to someone who has zero intuition about how to build user interfaces.

Jack
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

While I'm just a luddite and Mr. Nielsen is an expert in usability, I find his web site to be atrocious.

When I first hit the site, I'm a bit overwhelmed at all the links staring at me. Perhaps I've just been trained to like crappy designs, but I instinctively look for a menu along the top or left of the page.

Here, I'm forced to read (and scroll) down the page to figure out how his site is organized.

To each his own I suppose.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Here is the winner:
http://www.mikepick.com/neilsen/

of the ReUSEIT competition
http://www.builtforthefuture.com/reuseit/index.php

Chris McEvoy
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I'm actually a huge fan of Jakob Nielsen. 

"He teaches things that are very, very basic about usability and user interfaces. These are things that the Windows developers I work with have mastered a long time ago."

It's true; a lot of what he says is true and also blindingly obvious.  Yet, the vast majority of interface designers ignore those basic concepts.  I also am a fan of his despite disagreeing with a quite a few of his statements.  That might seem contradictory, but there are quite a few times where his statements are thought-provoking even if I disagree.

I'd classify his output as 30% incorrect, 60% duh-obvious, and 10% insightful.  Which puts him 10% ahead of most people.  :-)

John Rose
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Wow. Not only do you slam Jakob Neilsen, but you air your grievences in public.

I had some issues with Donald Norman's website, and to my surprise, he responded very politely to my e-mail and made some changes based on my comments. (Donald Norman is the second N in NNG, the Neilsen Norman Group)

I've never been a fan of Jakob Neilsen's website, but there are clear reasons it is the way it is based on Jakob's research.

I don't find Joel's site particularly usable anyway... One giant page with all of the articles rather than tabs, and article titles and descriptions that are clever rather than descriptive? I can never find an article on his site the second time because I can never figure out what word to search for when I hit CTRL + F (and his page is so long that I have to do that or else I'll go cross eyed by the time I hit the bottom of the page).

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I am fond of Nielson's site and yet I find John's criticism to be brilliant and true. Just last month, Jakob's article was on how sites don't have a good "About Us" and he made many good points in his article, but he simply does not eat his own dog food.

I do like the spartan web design a *lot* and I think the navigation is much better than most. So to see such obvious points about flaws in the site's design is an eye opener.

I did not know that the it in useit was IT, I thought it was "use it" and have for the 5 or 6 years I've been reading his column. Is that explained somewhere? You would think the logo would make that clear.

There is a general principle here - usability "experts" are TERRIBLE at design. All of them. By expert, I mean someone who is a usability guru as his primary role in life. Joel is a developer/entrepreneur. He is able to combine insights with GOOD design because he lives the design every day.

The other guys live the criticism. They are critics. Do you know many people who are primarily critics who are also good directors or authors? There are none. what about Mark Twain? Well, he was primarily an author and sometimes did criticism. He was not primarily a critic.

I keep forgetting that Norman is associated with Nielson. I guess those guys are phase locked. Listen to their criticisms but for gosh sake don't listen to a word of their recommended solutions, which are crackpot. Design your own solutions and eat your own dogfood. That's the key. Would love for Joel to write about this again - well he did in this month's PP catalog it looks like. Yeah, good points there Joel.

Anyway I had read all of Norman's books and was a devoted follower. Then I heard he was converting all his books to a multimedia CD rom that would be the last word in e-books! Highly interactive demonstrations of good design! This was like a dream come true. I preordered the CD and anxiously awaited using it on my brand-now top performance computer.

The CD was totally unusable. there was no way to browse pages, search was impossible, the index was not linked, and it took FIFTEEN SECONDS TO TURN EACH PAGE. Yes, I counted it out - 1 potato, 2 potato... 15 potato. There was -no- way to make notes (?) but it did have FOUR colors of color highlighter that always highlighted a different spot from where you dragged it and 1/10 the time corrupted the user-highlighting database.

It still stands as the worst piece of software I ever had the misfortune to see. 100% envisioned and designed by the Greatest Usability Expert of the World - Don Norman. Yes, the guy who is responsible for Macs to STILL have 1-button mouses because 30 yrs ago there was a 2% less confusion rate for brand new users with a 1-button mouse han with a 2-button mouse.

Whaever you do, listen to these folks if you must and learn from them, but critically evaluate and test each of their claims. And under no circumstances give them money for anything.

The only usability experts who are worth hiring are those who primarily do development for a living. Only they know the true reality of usability.

Or better yet, actually read the letters your customers are sending you with complaints about how your program works and how it should work better. Few companies look at these letters and yet they will tell you the answers even if you can't come up with answers on your own.

usabilitist
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"Here is the winner:
http://www.mikepick.com/neilsen/ "

He got a 5/5 for cross browser compatibility.

I would REALLY like to upload a screen shot of what his page looks like in my 2003 era browser. Then they can tell me about this 5/5 browser compatibility.

usabilitist
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Jacob Nielsen's site should be named 'Don't Use It'.

It is the only advice he gives about everything.

Colors?.. Don't use them!
Fonts? .. Don't use them!
Frames? .. Don't use them!
DHTML? .. Don't use it!
<any post-80's technology> ? .. Don't use it!

It would be really :useful: if he wrote about how to take advantage of all those technologies from a usability point of view.

Just my point of view..

.NET Developer
Thursday, December 11, 2003

I haven't checked out useit.com in quite some time. amazing that nielsen/norman are still in business.

The "about us" article on useit is a gem. He chose a focus group of people too stupid to know that the "secretary of state" means something different than being an office secretary, and believes that this is a problem with the website, not with the stupid people.

_
Thursday, December 11, 2003

I'd hire Don Norman in a minute based on his great books.

You know, Jakon Neilsen looks a lot like... http://www.dack.com/web/ (This site was hilarious 3 years ago.)

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, December 11, 2003

> dack.com

Beautiful web site and no css. Renders great in me browser.

me
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"When I first hit the site, I'm a bit overwhelmed at all the links staring at me"

Hmm. Sounds familiar. Ah yes, I know: http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/

:-P


Thursday, December 11, 2003

*... You could probably improve the usability of your web site by putting a brief  message toward the top of the page which states what your site is about. ... *

ever tried to read, Designing web usability?
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/156205810X/102-9914023-2158548?v=glance


I remember reading that JN had little input/control into the actual product. actually the alertbox part of the site is what is probably the most *usable*.

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/

peter renshaw
Monday, December 15, 2003

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