Jakob Nielsens Antworten auf unsere Fragen

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Letzte Woche hatte es ihm zunächst die Stimme verschlagen – heute hat Jakob Nielsen allerdings Wort gehalten und mir die Antworten auf unsere fünf Fragen gemailt. Wer hätte gedacht, dass das dann doch so schnell geht. Und tatsächlich sind seine Aussegen durchaus konträr und bieten jede Menge Futter für spannende Diskussionen.

Jakob Nielsens exklusive Antworten auf die fünf eingesandten Fragen mit den meisten Stimmen (und einer kleinen Bonusfrage von mir. Deutschsprachige Fragen habe ich übersetzt und zum Teil leicht verkürzt, da ich davon ausging, diese im Rahmen eines Videointerviews zu stellen):

Could you please explain why sites with such a low usability profile as myspace.com could become such a great success among web users?

Because they target people’s friends, and not outside customers. Two of the biggest concerns in Web usability and learnability and credibility, and neither is an issue if you are looking at your friend’s MySpace page. You already know the guy, and you know how much you can trust him, so the design don’t need to communicate nearly as well as when a prospective customer visits a new business site for the first time.

In a world of ever growing screen resolutions, what would be your recommendation for the layout of text. Should it be used in columns, like people are used to in print, or is this not a working model for screen reading?

Columns may well be the way to go, once screens get the size of newspapers. For sure, we need something different than just a single scrolling block of text.

What is your position, when it comes to the semantic web? Will this be a new future for indexing and finding content on the web? Will it change and enhance the usability of search engines?

I don’t believe in it. We haven’t even been able to get companies to write headlines using the guidelines for writing for the Web, so getting them to provide more advanced tagging or meta-data is doomed.

The core idea of the web was all about user generated content. After more then a decade, we see the web taking this direction finally. How do you see the importance of blogs and all social media sites? Do you see hardcore users of this kind of products as a group to optimize for – even if they are not the mass, but the ones creating the content…

There has always been user-generated content on the net. Think of Geocities, or the AOL discussion groups. There is just more of it now, and the very fact that there is more is proof of the importance of usability, because the growth has been due to the increased ease of posting through the various weblog hosting services and video hosting services like YouTube. Heavy users are certainly always a promising customer base for niche products. For example, there are special products for eBay’s high-volume sellers to help them manage their many sales. But for mainstream businesses, it’s important to recognize that only 1% of users fall into the heavy-contributor niche, because of participation inequality (see http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html ). Usually, it’s better to target the mainstream 99%.

How would you explain the concept of your website useit.com? Does it follow all the rules in terms of usability that you would recomment to your clients? Or can it be descibed with a german saying that goes like „the shoemaker always has the worst shoes“.

It’s a great website for my type of business: that of the world’s #1 usability company. I don’t even think it would work for a second-tier usability company, and it definitely wouldn’t work for companies in other industries. As an analogy, even though I advise against the use of Flash for the homepage of normal business sites, the site for the world’s #1 Flash designer should obviously be done in Flash anyway.

Where do you see the future of portals, now that we have all this trends like personalization, RSS and ever faster growing niches for all kind of content?

Intranet portals have a great future. Our analysis of enterprise portals (see http://www.nngroup.com/reports/intranet/portals/ ) showed a lot of potential benefits to employees from better organized access to intranet information. (But we also found many pitfalls and cases where intranet portals were designed poorly and were not used because of low usability, so it’s certainly not enough to have a portal. It has to be a *good* portal.)

On the public Internet, I also think there is a good potential for portals like Yahoo, because they provide a good way of getting to lots of useful information, such as the weather forecast or stock prices, in a single location. I am a strong believer in niche services on the Web (see http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030616.html ), but there are also many general needs that are common for large numbers of users.

Thank you very much Jakob. Answers are open for discussion – please switch to english for your comments.

Oliver Wagner von Oliver Wagner

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