February 7, 2002
10:01 AM   Subscribe

Jakob Nielsen believes that Cleartype can save you $2000/year. Um, yeah, Jakob.
Go just for the experience of seeing the God of Ugly Design say, "We desperately need better-looking computers..."
[link via typographer.com]
posted by Su (34 comments total)
Mac OS X has a similar psudeo-anti-alias feature in the entire OS, which I'm surprised he neglected to admit and instead bashed their hardware design group.

Cleartype is a nice feature if you have a bright new LCD (which could definitely offset your cost savings by having to buy that first), and I would agree it's hidden in the preferences (to enable it I had to search the help in xp first), and I can't believe microsoft doesn't offer Cleartype tuning inside the OS itself. I had to find this on a weblog before I really got the benefit of cleartype.
posted by mathowie at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2002

oh man, i don't know about you, but ClearType kinda makes even the crappiest of web-sites just a *little* bit... well, they're still crappy, but easier to read now.

i think it's a nice feature to have no matter what you're using. from LCD to garbage-found 15".
posted by jcterminal at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2002

The Apple II had this kind of technology. This guy does not like Cleartype.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:32 AM on February 7, 2002

ClearType isn't new. Microsoft announced the branding of this existing idea in 1998, and Adobe has had it in Acrobat Reader (on both platforms?) for at least a year. The funniest part is that Apple (of course) was using something similar on the Apple II in 1976.
posted by joemaller at 10:32 AM on February 7, 2002

posted by joemaller at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2002

If this user spends 20% of his or her time reading emails, intranet pages, and other documents on the computer screen, then... ClearType will make this user at least 10% more productive while reading from the screen, for a gain of $2,000.

You can tell Jakob lives in academia and not in the real world. Most cogs I know spend at least 60% of their work time reading emails and webpages. And none of it is work-related.

So much for increased productivity. But at least the nice, new font rendering will make it much easier on my eyes while I'm surfing for pr0n at work.
posted by ratbastard at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2002

Wow, it's neat to hear somebody else dump on Nielsen. I was beginning to think that I was the only one who believed he was an idiot.
posted by johnmunsch at 10:45 AM on February 7, 2002

Why does everyone want to foist blurry type on me? Small, crisp and distorted is easier to read than small and blurry, period. Antialiasing should be used for graphics, not text. Feh.

And honestly, they should start throwing patent examiners in jail for green-lighting junk patents with such blatant prior art.
posted by krebby at 10:49 AM on February 7, 2002

Tons of folks on Mefi like to take swipes at Nielsen. Most of the time unnecessarily so.
posted by owillis at 10:49 AM on February 7, 2002

I don't think he's necessarily an idiot. But when he puffs his chest and makes ridiculously self-aggrandizing statements like, "There, reading the Alertbox just saved you $2,000." it makes me cringe.
posted by ratbastard at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2002

Me reading MeFi probably costs my company several thousand dollars.
posted by panopticon at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2002

The bolder the statement, the more traffic he gets.

His Flash is 99% Bad article was the most popular (in traffic terms) ever.

He's smarter than you give him credit for - he's not trying to make friends - he's trying to make a point and get people to read his article.
posted by stevengarrity at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2002

He has some good points, but tends to make outrageous statements to attract attention. If we're going to equate getting lots of traffic with being smart... then all your base are belong to Mahir
posted by Stuart_R at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2002

Wow, it's neat to hear somebody else dump on Nielsen. I was beginning to think that I was the only one who believed he was an idiot.

most of us are sick of beating that dead horse. :D
posted by jcterminal at 11:30 AM on February 7, 2002

(using the traditional rule that employees cost twice their salary due to benefits, overhead, etc.)

Gee, and I used to use 35% extra, including pension and profit-sharing costs. But this was a real company doing real work, not a dot-com. Maybe that's the difference.
posted by anewc2 at 11:31 AM on February 7, 2002

I don't know how you could quantify a statement like that financialy. Crisper fonts don't let you read faster.

I have to say though, the 'font smoothing' on macs, at least in my experiance is really just obnoxious. It just makes the letters look blurry. I think windows does it right. Really large text is smooth, and so is really small text (otherwise you wouldn't be able to read it at all) Stuff in between, however is left as it is... and is much easier to read.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on February 7, 2002

you can actually customize how font smoothing works on the macintosh -- at least with OSX. i set mine to begin with 12 points and up, and i'm mostly happy, though the terminal app doesn't respect my font smoothing settings and blurs everything. (courier new looks pretty awful.)
posted by moz at 12:02 PM on February 7, 2002

> Crisper fonts don't let you read faster.

I don't know about Jakob's claims exactly, but crisper fonts do let you read faster.

That's the best link I could find - anyone know of any better research on the effect of screen resolution on reading speed?
posted by stevengarrity at 12:33 PM on February 7, 2002

Clearly, Neilsen should be given the Nobel Prize for Economics. This amazing news just might be enough to pull the US out of it's recession. Let's consider the numbers. If a medium-large company of 100 people all switch their systems to cleartype that would be 100x$2000= $200,000 per year.

Now if 1000 companies running XP did this 1000x200,000= two hundred million dollars!

Wow. And this guy is giving information like that out for free? He must be seriously crazy. Incredibly brilliant, stupendously astute. But crazy. . .
posted by jeremias at 12:59 PM on February 7, 2002

Truth be told, there's plenty of business folks out there who don't value intangibles like legibility until it is expressed as a dollar amount. Believe me, I've worked with them.

If he's willing to stake his rep on a statement like that, and it helps someone get a much needed upgrade because of it, then good for him!

As for the Apple slight, well, I think some of Tog's bitterness has been rubbing off on him...
posted by teradome at 1:07 PM on February 7, 2002

Oh, btw, I don't like Nelson because he acts like frames are evil because they 'break the metaphor' of the web... but who ever said the 'metaphor' of the web was so great? I'd hate to try to slog through the Java API documentation without them

He also seems to be responsible for the whole 'break pages up' thing, which meant I couldn't read a damn article through without waiting for the next page to load... which sucks on slow sites and modem connections.

Scrolling is not that hard.
posted by delmoi at 1:20 PM on February 7, 2002

You know... he's right! I've got a 15" LCD monitor, and I just turned on Cleartype... the difference is pretty remarkable.

I mean, it won't necessarily blow your mind, but it's pretty darn cool, nonetheless.
posted by ph00dz at 2:17 PM on February 7, 2002

I will be more than happy with my enormous, heavy CRT until decent-size LCD screens come down to a reasonable price.
posted by Su at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2002

I have it turned on using my CRT, and I think it even makes a difference on the CRT screen.
posted by benjh at 6:54 PM on February 7, 2002

Yes, Cleartype (and the equivalent technology in other systems, XWindows included) is nice, but where did those figures come from? I'd fail a student if they threw figures down like that without proving them through research or citing an appropiate study. Maybe this is why he writes for his own website -- a peer-reviewed journal wouldn't publish that crud.

Even if we accept those figures, 10% easier doesn't mean 10% faster. The employer doesn't pay for the employee's glasses.

He has also not included that the technology requires LCD screens, which are not only more expensive, but smaller that most CRTs. Smaller screen size and lower resolution will decrease ease of readability.

Jakob really needs to stop dropping all that acid and join the rest of us in the real world...
posted by Lionfire at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2002

Good news for your students--now they can cite Jakob! ;)
posted by rodii at 7:36 PM on February 7, 2002

a peer-reviewed journal wouldn't publish that crud.

Are there any peer-reviewed journals for usability research? Because most everything coming from Tog, Spool, Nielsen and the others make for some pretty shoddy experimental design. I went off on this on my own site a couple days back.
posted by mathowie at 7:46 PM on February 7, 2002

Wow, I just enabled ClearType on my WinXP box, and I am amazed ...

... by how much more it now resembles my OS X box.
posted by Fofer at 9:05 PM on February 7, 2002

Jakob's theories may be sound, but his economic logic is not. Just because you might save 2 hours a day (or even 6 hours a day) from some enhanced feature, it doesn't mean you magically earn two hours more money that day. So it doesn't save or make you any more money what-so-ever unless you're an employer and all of your employees just suddenly started getting more productive in those 2 hours. Will that happen? No.
posted by wackybrit at 9:09 PM on February 7, 2002

While it's not really my field, user interface design is a large area of research and would cover most of what Jakob talks about. "Usability" is, after all, just a term for how well an interface works.

After a quick search, I've already found TOCHI and TOIS both deal with human computer interaction (HCI) and information interfaces. I'm sure there are others.

There are also a number of UI conferences (peer reviewed, of course) that occur regularly around the world. AUIC2001 was a stream at a conference I went to last year (ACSW), and quite a number of interesting papers and studies were presented.
posted by Lionfire at 10:27 PM on February 7, 2002

I don't have an LCD monitor and Cleartype makes a huge difference anyway. I don't know where JN gets his idea that it only works on LCD monitors. If you have XP and a regular monitor, try it anyway.
posted by holycola at 6:34 AM on February 8, 2002

XP does of course have a 'standard' font smoothing option as well as Cleartype, which does ordinary anti-aliasing. I use that and find it much more appropriate on a CRT.
posted by kerplunk at 6:41 AM on February 8, 2002

ClearType is one reason why I wanted XP installed on my machine at work, instead of 2000, when my hard drive bombed.

ThemeXP is the other ;)
posted by Foosnark at 8:45 AM on February 8, 2002

I bought Windows XP just for the ClearType. I am satisfied. My eyes coo.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2002

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