is usability dead??


via Design is Kinky

Usability is not dead, it’s never going to be dead – it’s so multifaceted and
universal that by its very nature, it can’t die, no matter how many designers
fire silver anti-vampire bolts at certain people.
This tension between ‘usability experts’ and designers is borne out of
fanaticism from both camps – the self-proclaimed ‘experts’, eager to prove
their new religion, brandish ‘authoritative’ notes, decrying anything which
conflicts with their view on ‘how it should be done.’ The designers cry foul,
angered at the sudden encroachment upon what was once their exclusive

But this shouldn’t be the case – usability is an integral part of the design
process, it always has been – on the web, even if you can make pretty pictures,
it doesn’t mean squat if you don’t know how to let people navigate to those
pictures. Designers have learnt usability through time and experience. All
these experts are doing is showing us the way, alerting us to potential
mistakes before we make them (and now that some sites cost over a million
dollars to build, we can’t afford to learn by trial and error anymore.) But
instead of swallowing our pride and accepting their words, we arrogantly turn
up our noses at the insinuation that we need to be told what to do.

As someone who takes great interest in different forms of interaction, I believe that the web’s still too new and large for usability to be qualified in such a simple, 400 page ‘bible’, and so I believe that usability in its ‘Jakob Nielsen Extremist Fad Franchise’-style form will continue to exist for many years to come, which is little a shame, as it’s little more than hotair, wafting off a layer of redundant words describing how to build for the lowest common denominator.

The book isn’t geared towards designers, and therein lies the same problem I’ve
spent the last three paragraphs unnecessarily repeating (guess this isn’t a
very usable theory 🙂 – usability is being promoted as a separate branch of the
development process, where currently, there are already too many branches – we
have development and design, the backend and the frontend, and it’s this
separation which is causing so many problems. We can’t continue with our
current methods of building sites – we get designers to build pretty pictures
and menus, we get the developers to build fantastic database driven systems,
then we whack them both in the same directory and expect it to work.

And does it work? No, it often fails miserably, and as internet
companies around the world began to lose revenue due to user-unfriendly pages,
usability came to the fore as a solution, except somewhere along the way, some
people went a bit overboard and came out with self important comments like:

”In the future, first of all, websites will be designed by my guidelines …
for the simple reason that if they don’t, they are dead.” – Jakob Nielsen.

Ignore it.

I guarantee you that there are usability experts out there who hate Jakob and
his over rampant ego, who believe that he’s destroying whatever credibility
usability has. Please, for the love of god, don’t base your stereotype of
usability experts on him; he’s an aberration. Closing your mind only makes you
as bad as him.

Usability is new to the web, the web is new to usability, let the kinks iron
themselves our before we start baying for blood, lets mold usability into
something we want it to be, rather than bitching and moaning at it until it
grows into something immoveable, bitter and wrong.

Glen Murphy ::
Design Lab: http://glenmbox/ sausage internal]
Kaput.org: http://kaput.org/ _______________ /

By Aaron Harper
For “Theory” on Designiskinky.net

Personal instinct distinguishes how useable a website is.
The usability of a website or navigation should be taken into account when the project is in the design stage. The designer should be asking him/herself “who is my target audience?”.
A website for public consumption, like a commercial site, should have an instinctive usability to someone who isn’t used to features outwith the norm.
If the site is aimed at the new media or design world, then the sky is the limit. The website can afford to be much more exploratory and less obvious, yet still instinctive to the target audience.
Navigation or features should not be so obscure that the page has to include instructions or a demonstration. I like to see minimal things that are not obvious, yet your mind unconsciously spots them and you know what to do or where to go.Should I stay or should I go?
I find myself tiring quickly when I come across a site that involves dragging something into another to activate changes. What seems to be a novelty on the homepage soon becomes tedious on lower levels.
More often than not, sites that have a challenging usability factor don’t have the content within to sustain the user’s interest enough to explore the site further.
The magnetic and interest qualities of a website are decided in the user’s mind within 30 seconds of them opening the homepage. If they can’t get to grips with the navigation or are bombarded with so much that they become confused, will they stay? – Probably not.
Mind you, every now and then, a site will come along and it will go against exactly what I just said.
These are the sites that grab our attention, make us sit back from our monitor and pause in awe.
Sites like Yugop, which inspire the creative minds of both designers and developers. Innovative navigation ideas and interactive toys to keep you amused for most of your lunch hour. Mind you, saying that, I remember tiring of having to waggle the mouse to reveal streams of text on the site.
I have to admit, even the likes of K10k doesn’t inspire me to delve further because a fear of getting lost. I mostly use k10k for their news and reviews, probably logging on five or six times a day.
When I’m designing a site, I always consider navigation, usability and the design at the same time. Whether it’s a project at work or a personal site like konspiracy or cunted.
A lot of designers tend to design how a site will look first and the navigation takes back pew. Sometimes, not even tackling the navigation until the site is in the hands of the developer/author.
If the designer isn’t involved with the building of the site, he/she should discuss options or ideas with the person/people who will be. More often than not, they can throw in new ideas or suggest ‘toys’ they have been developing. Authors like their fun too.
The best test of usability is to get someone who isn’t involved with the project. They can cast a fresh eye over the work and usually point out things that have been overlooked.
If someone who isn’t a designer or author casts judgement on any of my work or points out faults, I don’t take it as an insult, I’ll take it as a point to ponder and probably resolve.
I have had a lot of positive feedback about the simplicity of design and usability of i.am/cunted. This site was dreamt up in a day and was built over a weekend. The navigation was born from a JavaScript source online which made me stop and think “nice and simple”. The design side of the site just basically reflected the simplicity of the site and the functions needed. 
No clutter, no fuss, no bright colours or distractions and arial.Conclusion?
I hope this has been an informative read, I’ve just been sitting typing whatever’s been coming into my head while supping a beer. If you oppose my views, or if you’re with them, I have hopefully provoked some new trains of thought.
aaron harper
designer / author
at http://www.blackid.com
“Is Usability Dead?”
Lets start out by defining what we understand as usability. For my purposes, I will limit my comments on usability to that which pertains to the internet. Usability is the measurment of how well the user interacts with and navigates a website. Although there is a wide range of usability levels, I feel it is safe to say that all webpages are usable in some way, shape, or form. 

If usability was dead, you would not be reading this page, you would not be online, the web would not exist without usability. Anything that triggers a reaction from the user is usable. But as with anything, there are different levels of achievment within the confines of usability. 

Navigational systems and user interfaces may change, but usability will always be maintained. Jakob Nielsen dictates that usability is at its maximum when we stick to designs and interfaces that resemble yahoo and amazon. This may be correct for websites targetting first-time users, but more and more people are moving into their fourth, fifth, sixth year of using the internet. 

As people continue to become educated in the advancement of online communication, designs will push the envelope further, developing new and interesting methods of user interaction. People are smart, they can handle change, they learn, they adapt. 30 years ago, the remote for your Television had 1 button, now it has 60. People have grown with the technology, and will continue to do so as technology advances. New experiences, new ways of presenting them, and new levels of understanding from users will continue to make usability more sophistocated. We are in the fetal stages, looking to evolve into a full grown industry. It just takes time..
Thomas Brodahl
- Surfstation


Filed under: academic, graphics, new media, research

One Response

  1. Vulkan says:

    Just to let you know of my site and my little films


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