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Are Usable Web Sites Missing The Magic?  

:: Monday, August 30, 2004 ::

Innovative web sites get people excited. Simple web site presentations are often strictly business goal oriented and determinedly task driven. Google, for example, knew that people wanted to find stuff. They didn’t want a page with news, ads, categories and the weather. Alta Vista, Lycos and Yahoo! all did this. Internet users went to search engines to search. This is what Google offered and for a time, this was enough.

Google delivered what it promised.

The magic was in how people discovered they could use this search tool. They could look up people before that first date. They could type in search terms and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky” to see what one web site Google would find for them out of all the pages in its index. Google was fun to use.

It was memorable.

The Confusability blog describes what I’ve been feeling lately about the Internet in general. In the post called Google - The End Of The Affair, Chris McEvoy describes how unusable a Google pen is for left-handed writers. How sad that Google didn’t bother to test their pens. It’s a bad sign, you see, when marketing forgets the people.

For a time, we trusted that Google would be for us all.

Today Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox is about web design types. In Mastery, Mystery, and Misery: The Ideologies of Web Design he writes.

“The original ideology of hypertext and the World Wide Web, as expressed by Vannevar Bush (1945), Ted Nelson (1960), and Tim Berners-Lee (1991) makes individual users the masters of the content and lets them access and manipulate it in any way they please. User empowerment requires perfect usability and simplicity: only if users know what every design element means will they feel in control of the medium.”

Is this what we want?

Where is the mystery in knowing beforehand what I will get? Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” would have been boring. In fact, useless.

Conformity is Nielsen’s mantra. He is no Peter Pan. He writes,

“Surfing to check out cool sites is a thing of the past.”

This is dreadful news if you ask me.

He states, “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.”

I have nothing against user empowerment. But I love Never-Never Land, Captain Cook and Peter Pan. I love Jonathan Livingston Seagull too. I appreciate web sites that inspire me, make me feel part of something alive and vibrant and add color to my life.

Yes, link labels that I understand will make me confident about where I am going to go if I click on it. But what about those times when I want to fly? What if I want to learn how to do something new? It may require taking risks with status quo user centered design because instead of being predictable, the design will require user decision and choice.

I would add “Memorable” to Jakob Nielsen’s Mastery, Mystery and Misery list.

Memorable means the web site visitor will want to come back.

Discussion: Give me an "M" Web site design

It's Our Second Year Anniversary!

After partying all month long, today it's offical.

Official Press Release: Cre8asiteForums Breaks Out the Champagne for its Two-Year Anniversary

         "Tucked deep into the lush green countryside north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in an office with the appropriate wood stove and cluttered filing system, the founder of Cre8asiteForums, Kim Krause, waits for members of her team to wake up. There’s a problem. Okay a few of them. Ammon Johns, her co-Administrator lives in the UK. Bill Slawski, her night owl other co-Administrator, hails from the state of Delaware. Rarely does Kim make a decision without first discussing it with her team."

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 8/30/2004 10:24:20 AM

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