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June 23, 2005


Richard Leader

How does Nielsen do it? The moment someone posts a blog talking about how he isn't quite the Saint he's made out to be, the Jakobites turn-up with flame-throwers at full strength.
Sometimes Nielsen is right, sometimes Nielsen is wrong. He was right to slam the Flash intro all those years ago - is he right to still be slamming it, after all, I haven't seen one on anything other than a personal site in a very long time?
He is right to say that the over-use of pop-ups has made their 'legitimate' use difficult for 'good' designers, but he never seems to realise that sometimes sites have to make money, and sometimes the best way of doing that is with advertising. And if no-one clicked on pop-up ads or float-overs, as he seems to imply, people wouldn't use them anymore - there would be no commercial value in them.

Regine Stern

I'll start off by saying, yes please do refrain from comparing people - anyone for that matter to Hitler, it's not exactly appropriate and I believe this has nothing to do with political correctness, but just plain sensitivity. Ranting and raving about how design practices are being done has no bearing on Hitler.

Now for more general comments about this article: We should note that Jakob Nielsen's voice is being heard and he has accomplished one thing and that is to drive awareness to the general public the importance of usability. Design is not done/created out of a vacuum, but rather when designing web sites, applications or anything for that matter we should do so with certain rules in mind. Design isn't something that can be thrown out, people read, scan and absorb information on the web a certain way, so we as designers should design with these 'rules' in mind. Perhaps reading Wittgenstein may help us all as well, and this includes Jakob.

Chris McEvoy

I am hoping to stimulate some debate about the responsibilities of "usability spokespeople" (whoever they are) and Jakob is an easy target because of his very good PR machine.

It is interesting to note that the Guardian interview appears on a web page where an annoying pop-up ad appears over the text you are trying to read. Does this mean that the Guardian is staffed by evil designers? I think not.

How has the problem of pop-up ads been dealt with? Have people listened to Jakob and stopped using them? No, the problem has been solved by technologists building pop-up blockers into browsers so that we don't have to see them at all. Jakob says that pop-up ads have given pop-ups a bad name and spoilt the party for people who want to put help text into pop-up boxes. Perhaps it would be more useful to argue for web sites that don't need pop-up help rather than complain about the advertisers who mis-use (in Jakob's view) pop-up boxes.

Perhaps Jakob could put his money where his mouth is and fix his own search engine before he starts having a go at everyone else. He could also publish a returns policy on NNGroup while he's at it.

Yes, Jakob has spent decades saying the same thinkgs over and over again. Perhaps one day he will make an attempt to engage with people working in the industry rather than berate them for being evil, stupid and lazy.

And on the 'little hitler' comment. I am not trying to compare Jakob to Hitler, but am re-using a phrase I have heard used for many many years to describe someone who is self righteous and who finds it very difficult to handle any criticism. It is usually used to descibe a young child who wants to be the centre of attention and is unable to share their toys with anybody else.

David Walker

I second the comment above about comparing people to Hitler. It's much worse than "blaming, critical, and selfrighteous tones". And since when was a "critical tone" taboo - especially on the Web, where Nielsen spends most of his time communicating?

This is the standard aggrieved designer's criticism of Nielsen: "He's so rude about the dominant trends in my profession, and he's a fascist/egomaniac/opinionated bastard/middle-aged guy with glasses as well."

Meanwhile, Jakob's still just about the only guy who has ever succeeded in getting usability in front of the non-Web audience. He does it in part because he knows to give interviews like this one. What matters is that he has the arguments to go with the media-friendly "grabs" - and for a decade now he's been putting those ideas out on the Web. He's successful not just because of those "grabs", but because he keeps winning in the marketplace of ideas.

Try engaging with those ideas instead of making personal comments.

For example, the "evil design" comment is directed at the people who put ads into pop-ups, thus forcing the world to start treating pop-ups as a hazard. Anyone want to argue that the pop-up ad was not a pretty horrible move?

Jens Meiert

Jakob Nielsen is almost always right in what he says (except when it comes to other topics than Usability [...]).

As long as there are not even one tenth of a percent designers out there who only understand a little bit of Design and Usability, he is definitely right in sensitizing and accusing! And though there are some (few) "questionable" assertions of and designs associated with him, he does a great and ultra-important job. Ah, and wait: You need to list 99 good things he says and does before you list even 1 bad thing, I'm sorry - except you're another ueber-expert which I suspect you're not.

Chris McEvoy

I have just posted my response to Jack's interview here.

Louise Ferguson

Jack was right that the article hit a nerve. But the nerves he hit weren't the 'usability' nerve, but the J**** N****** nerve and the 'treatment of usability in the media' nerve.

Jack kindly responded to the blog posts about his article, and I'm afraid I've followed up with a more extensive critique mailed back to him, which I won't bore you with here.

Suffice it to say that I believe Jack and the rest should perhaps spend more time encouraging and promoting good practice in the UK and less time repeating the incantations of certain visitors to our shores.


Interesting to see the piece hit a nerve. However, one of the points is that the same basic errors are still being made after 10 years of Useit. And if so many web designers continue to make the same mistakes, then I won't feel at all bad about repeating Jakob's advice in another five or 10 years, if not sooner!

> Even better to pretend like you have all the
> answers and that no humans (with feelings)
> were ever involved in the design.

I guess the same thing applies to journalism, too ;-)

Chris McEvoy

Louise Ferguson has commented on this also over at City Of Bits.

Johan Sjostrand

Since credability was an issue...

Johan Sjostrand

For f*ck's sake, can people please stop comparing people to hitler?

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