Monday, November 30, 2009

Required reading I haven't read yet

I was going to do a followup on my earlier post on the importance of convention, and I may yet, but as I was researching that response a colleague pointed me at Jakob Nielsen's web site. Nielsen has for some time now been a major voice when it comes to usability on the web, sort of the web's answer to Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, not that Tog is a stranger to the web, or that he and Nielsen are strangers to each other.

The two have a lot in common, not surprisingly. Notably, they share the strong conviction that if you want to figure out how people are going to respond to a system, you need to actually bring in some people, put them in front of the system and observe what happens.

They also have odd-looking sites. When I first saw Tog's, I thought I'd gotten the name wrong (even though it was the top google hit) and landed on one of those "sorry, the site you wanted is no longer there but here are some commercial links with the words you asked for in them" sites. I can't say why, but it's probably to do with the way the page is laid out, including plain-text ads for Tog's courses. Nielsen, for his part, is defiantly old school, almost all text and links, with only a yellow stripe and multicolored logotype at the top, oddly and odds with Nielsen's advice to avoid looking like an ad at all costs (It's item 7. Curiously there are no anchors for the items themselves).

Both seem to think sans-serif body fonts are fine.

No matter. Both sites are chock full of useful information, clearly and engagingly presented. You might not agree with everything they say, but that's not the point of required reading. Agree or disagree, one should at least know the major arguments. So I'll, um, be working on that ...

[Both Tog's and Nielsen's sites are still around.  They're considerably spiffier than the description above, but still quite spare compared to many other sites.  I would expect that this is more what they were originally going for, but that the tools at the time didn't give satisfactory results. --D.H. May 2015]

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