Invasion of the Usability Experts!
January 12, 2001 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Invasion of the Usability Experts! It's about time someone said this, and I'm glad it was Dale. [ via kottke, where another conversation is going on ]
posted by fraying (11 comments total)
The whole cult of Nielsen reminds me of 1996, when web designers were under siege by the cult of David Siegel. He did the same thing: made sweeping, dramatic claims to get attention. And, as a freelance web designer, it became my job to educate clients who came to me, demanding 1-pixel spacer gifs.

Now it's 2001 and I'm having to reeducate clients who come to me spouting Nielsen-isms. "Well, yes, sometimes frames are bad, but they're great for this case here, see?" "Yeah, dropdowns can be confusing ... when they're used poorly."

As web designers (and information architects, user experience designers, et cetera) it's our job to draw a client's motivations out into view. We are counselors, who happen to know a lot about making websites. We should help our clients to understand their intentions and audience, communicate their identities clearly, and create the best website to accomplish their goals.

And sometimes that website might even look good.

posted by fraying at 11:03 AM on January 12, 2001

Dale doesn't get it. Usability experts don't make value judgements about whether a site is attractive, pretty, or cool. Calling usability experts "critics" is the tip off. Usability analysts test how users react and interact with web sites and report their findings based on the users. People who dislike usability experts actually dislike users. Dale needs to sit down and go through a usability test so he gets a clue.

I separate these thoughts from Jakob Nielsen, who is a different case. Nielsen is obviously selling himself and says provocative things. A usability analyst is different from a guy who goes "on tour." Don't you dare to try lumping everyone into the same boat.
posted by fleener at 12:01 PM on January 12, 2001

Indeed. Jakob has some good things to say, but he's not god, either. He's just 'zis guy; you know? If what he says rings true for you on reflection, use it; if not, ignore it... just like everyone else. :-)
posted by baylink at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2001

Dale doesn't get it in a big bad way.
I wrote about it on my site (Jan 12).
posted by peterme at 4:57 PM on January 12, 2001

To protect Peter from any annoying allegations of self-blogging, allow *me* now to recommend his rebuttal. Link above.

posted by baylink at 5:38 PM on January 12, 2001

Baylink, you can link to your site in a thread, just not on the front page.
posted by ericost at 7:23 PM on January 12, 2001

Peterme writes:
> Dale doesn't get it in a big bad way.

Hmmm ... you should do a little bit of research. Dale isn't a journalist. Never has been. He may not be a certified member of the designer's guild, but he's been building usable web sites since he started GNN, one of the very first professional web sites.

As to your desire to "promote the dialogue of further discussion," that thought would have a lot more weight if there wasn't a big box promoting your "What Would Jakob Do" mousepads.

I think Dale's analysis was right on and well done, and was thankfully lacking in personal ridicule and silly satire.
posted by CarlMalamud at 8:31 PM on January 12, 2001

I hope you don't think those WWJD mousepads are serious. (Or maybe there are people not familiar with the WWJD-What Would Jesus Do? movement?)

Look, I know Dale. I like Dale. I know he's been working on the Web for a long time. But I still believe his analysis in this instance to be at best unoriginal, at worst unfairly damning.
posted by peterme at 10:13 PM on January 12, 2001

I think I can't wait till 20 years from now when a record of experience will drive out all this bad medicine. I think that where we as designers/developers have the greatest impact is not in the endless arguments over the gospel according to guru such and such but in creating the kind of indisputable facts on the ground that people will come back to time and time again.

For what it's worth, I found Dougherty's piece rather thoughtful and restrained.
posted by leo at 10:21 PM on January 12, 2001

Too many articles like Dale's seem to buy into the idea that design and usability are essentially antithetical. This is certainly not a given.

The way some designers and/or usability folks frame their arguments make it seem as such, but it's not true. Name a designer in *any* field whose work has passed the test of time and then tell me that that designer didn't take the users' concerns to heart.

"Good design is probably 2% aesthetics and 98% common sense."
— Terence Conran

Here, here.
posted by bilco at 4:57 AM on January 13, 2001

Excellent point, bilco. And when I hear that usability people are all a bunch of fact-driven analytical types and designers nothing but a bunch of "arrogant" impractical self-obsessed navel-gazers, I want to barf.
posted by leo at 3:38 PM on January 13, 2001

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