Good old Jakob Nielsen and Web 2.0

By | 06/06/2007

Among academics it is not uncommon to criticize Usability experts such as Jakob Nielsen. The critique is simply put that Usability is blind to fact that one has to take into account other factors than whether a product is easy to use, and that Usability is at fault for not trying to understand how to make product pleasurable to use. So we are asked to believe that Jakob Nielsen does not realize that a Lamborghini sportscar has to be more than easy to use. In the article “Seductive User Interfaces” from 1996, Jakob Nielsen is stating that, computers are used for many purposes in which the main goal is to please the user rather than maximize transactions. Therefore we need systematic methodologies for making user interfaces attractive. But Jakob Nielsen does not make the mistake of trying to make Usability a science about the pleasurable aspects of design. Thereby Jakob Nielsen makes Usability a science that has both the strength of knowing its boundaries, and the open mindedness to leave plenty of room for others to be experts in the pleasurable aspect of a product. But sometimes Jakob Nielsen comes close to stepping outside the boundaries of Usability, and he writes something that is not about how to make products easy to use, but about how to make the virtual product better than real life. For those who are following discussions about Web 2.0, they might find it interesting to take a trip back in IT history and read this article from 1998. Take a look at the very last part of the article, there is a resemblance to the way we discus Web 2.0.

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