The column starts with a summary, and I almost
agree with it, but I don't think I'm reading it the same way that Dr. Nielsen is.
I bolded the part I emphasize when I read it out loud.
Simple, unobtrusive designs that support users* are successful because they abide by the Web's nature -- and they make people feel good.
Here's how I envision Jakob Nielsen reading it:
Simple, unobtrusive designs that support users are successful because they abide by the Web's nature -- and they make people feel good.
when I take a step back, and look at what he is really saying, I start questioning the whole thing.
...they abide by the Web's nature...
These sites are successful
because they abide by the web's nature
Exactly what is success, and what is the nature of the web? I think that needs some clarification. But even that isn't really the problem I have with the article.
The best thing about the article is the alliteration that drives the title: Mastery, Mystery, Misery. Great stuff there. But, it's wrong. Those aren't "approaches to design". The first may be an indication of an intelligent use of the web. The second two are just failures to communicate, and to understand the medium.
Where does the article fail?
[list] Simplicity matters when it aids in understanding, and communication. When a site is simple, but incomprehensible, it can be more harmful than a site which is complex but easy to use. (How simple is Amazon.com? How successful is it?)
2. While it's easy to make generalizations about visitors to a site, the truth is that a complexity of design
which recognizes differences in visitors and their preferences can provide a better experience
for more people. If we all shared the same interests, and the same way of looking at the world, most sites would look exactly the same. Many graphical user interfaces include more than one way of completing the same task.
If one of my primary business objectives is to get a visitor to contact me, I'm going to include a number of different ways to do that, including email, phone number, fax number, mail address. I don't care which one they choose. I'd count any of them as a success.
If my goal is to sell a book, I am going to make it easy for a person to find a specific book, or find categories of books, or to find books that are similar to one they've read, or to find books by the same author, or to read comments made by other readers of the book, or to include the book on a wish list that others can visit and buy for them.
When I describe a service, I'm not going to just list the features of the service, I'm going to explain the benefits of the service. I may describe those benefits as they apply to different people in different situations. I may use a variety of case studies that different people can emphasize with.
Those are design ideologies. Those are approaches to design that have little to do with mystery or misery.
3. The truth is that we have many more ways of communicating that just the book. Novels, movies, music, art, television, and mathematics are all different ways we've developed of communicating ideas and sharing experiences. We're just beginning to develop different ways of communicating on the web
, and one of the strengths of the web is the ability for people to interact with a web site, or to interact with others on the web. To try to pigeonhole designers to standards set in 1997 ignores some great new ways of communicating on the web, such as RSS and blogs. [list]
I'm going to suggest another word that begins with the letter "m" that I'm reminded of when I read this article, and that's Myopic.
This article is a rehash of an older one from Dr. Nielsen. I think he's recycling his ideas. This quote reminds me of another article of his:
On balance, the mystery approach to design succeeds for Rowling -- just don't try it for sites that are not about teenage wizards.
See this article: In the Future, We'll All Be Harry Potter
where he says:
Every page that doesn't conform to expected behavior and design conventions undermines users' ability to build a conceptual model of the Web, and thus reduces their ability to use other sites with ease, confidence, and pleasure.
What simpletons he makes us out to be.
Here's a thread we had on that earlier column (yes, we can recycle our ideas, too):site visitors as muggles
A very quick summary:
[list] Make intelligent design choices that fulfill your business objectives.
[*]Consider the needs of different visitors and recognize that they are not all alike.
[*]Create clear pathways to follow through your site, and
[*]test to make sure that people do understand how to use those pathways.[list] Creating a clear navigation system and making a design that is easy to understand and follow doesn't necessarily mean that your site has to look like everyone elses. It's often very easy to be ignored when your site is exactly like everyone elses. But, if your site can engage and entice, and fulfill your business objectives (don't ignore that last part), then you have a good chance of success on the web.