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Nielsen: Web 2.0 slacking off on design principles

In interview with BBC News, usability expert Jakob Nielsen quips about Web design 2.0.

Danish usability consultant Jakob Nielsen earned his unofficial title of "Web usability guru" as an early promoter of standardized Web design. You can thank him, in part, for blue links. He prompted a lasting, vocal debate by distinguishing between print and online approaches to eye appeal, readability and writing style. (For example, see "History of print standards.")

Jakob Nielsen
Jakob Nielsen

Unafraid of controversy, he continues to tout astonishing concepts such as "Why you only need to test with five users" and is known for his strong--some would say "extreme"--opinions on minimalism and uniformity.

BBC News on Monday published an article detailing Nielsen's new call for a return to design guidelines in the Web 2.0 era. In it, not surprisingly, he urges designers to prioritize ease of use and effective search tools over glossy looks and pseudo-functional personalization gewgaws.

Typically, Nielsen says deeply intelligent things, but on that day he apparently stumbled--maybe a reporter was prodding him--and gave us this gem of insight on patterns of use in the teenage demographic: "It's because they are 20 years old that they act differently (from) 40-year-olds."

Blog community response:

"The low bar for entry onto the Internet has always encouraged bad, or non-existent, web design. But he's definitely right that the dynamic elements of Web 2.0 can be counterproductive if overused or misused."

"Today, the dynamic web pages are not made in any rush hour; plenty of man hours go into research and a lot of effort is being put in by the group of experts to make the NEXT web 2.0 product / web site totally user-friendly... Experts from various streams like research analyst, hardcore technical guys, business development managers, investors, Artificial Intelligence experts, SEO specialists and many others are today extremely involved in making a successful web 2.0 product."
--Hitesh Mehta

"Usability is important, but with web 2.0 community-oriented sites in particular, I think Nielsen is clinging to set of rigid standards that aren't taking into account the changes in how users interact with the web. Of course, in an ideal world, users would get both--new features that adhered to sound usability principles, but while web 2.0 is many things, ideal it is not."
--Wired Compiler