The Usability Guru Keynotes Online Information

Jakob Nielsen, usability guru, reviewed the past 10 years of usability studies to a packed house for the opening session of Online Information. He began by saying that usability was a concept not restricted to Web sites. He specifically mentioned cars and phones. For this audience, he could also have included library catalogs, but that’s a usability horse of another color. Statistics on Web search are interesting. In 1997, only 40% of Web searches succeeded. Today it’s 66%. Nielsen was heartened by this statistic, but some in the audience wished it was higher. He then reviewed the design flaws that the Nielsen Norman Group identified through their testing and compared the ones from 1994 with the situation today. Some remain problems, while others have ceased to be issues for Web designers. Still in the problem category are:

Links that don’t change color

Breaking back buttons

Opening in new browser window


Looking like advertisements

Violating Web conventions

Vaporous content, non-specific hype

Dense content, non-scannable text

Nielsen sees improvements in download time, decreased use of frames, long videos, cross-platform design, flaws, low relevancy, and frozen layouts.

A new usability flaw is plug-in icons for multimedia.

Nilesen ended his talk with the comment that focusing on simplicity rather than glamour is the answer to usability.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

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