This week, usability guru Jakob Nielsen suggested to the BBC that Web 2.0 was neglecting good design. According to the BBC website:

He warned that the rush to make webpages more dynamic often meant users were badly served.

He said sites peppered with personalisation tools were in danger of resembling the “glossy but useless” sites at the height of the dotcom boom.

I’m with David Armano, I agree and disagree at the same time. I think that Web 2.0 sometimes sacrifices good website usability and design for attractive graphics and dynamic effects.

Yet, the trend I see with Web 2.0 designs is that they’re often much cleaner and leaner than most current websites.

Many have opinions on what Mr Nielson had to say:

What do you think? Is Web 2.0 good or bad for websites and website users?

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. It’s not good or bad, it’s the new standard. Whether Jakob wants to adapt or not, the social web is here. Web 2.0 may not be completely mainstream yet, but it’s already influencing the “old guard” of the web. Heck, even my lame hometown local TV station’s website has comments enabled.

    “Good design” has for so long meant “simplistic design”; Web 2.0 seems to embody that philosophy, not contradict it.

  2. ryan,

    I see most Web 2.0 sites as modeling simplicity – even amongst more complexity. I figure Mr. Nielsen has a perspective that he doesn’t want to progress with the times. Usability is subjective AND it’s always changing. Some things become standardized that weren’t before (look at the RSS icon). What we need to do to accurately test usability is keep up with the modern standards and trends.

    I just wonder how Mr. Nielsen is handling modern standards. He’s been pretty forward that most graphical layouts are unnecessary. Yet it doesn’t stop designers and users from enjoy attractive sites.

    What are you thoughts?

  3. I’m still trying to understand what Web 2.0 is and what people mean when they refer a site as being Web 2.0. What I think of when I see that phrase is that it is interactive and high tech but still simple.

    But why call it Web 2.0? Surely the internet has gone through more than 2.0 phases? 😉

    I took a lot of computer classes in 2001-2003 and earned a webmaster’s certificate. But now it’s only 4 years later and I know almost nothing about how things work anymore because I stopped updating my knowledge and was not online much during those few years. I think it’s great that things are changing so quickly but it’s a little frustrating at times as well. Now I’m playing catch-up but it’s slow going.
    -Laura

  4. Laura,

    I think you have a good point. What is Web 2.0? The best example I’ve seen personally was in this video I posted a while back. Very well done in explaining how Web 2.0 is different than Web 1.0. And from the video I see that there really is a difference.

    BTW, I don’t like the terms either.

  5. Dawud,

    That’s actually one of my fundamental issues with Nielsen; he eschews conventions that might make the web more usable because they are, in his eyes, “fads”.

    I’ll grant that “Web 2.0” is sort of a dumb labeling of the next evolution of the web, but the concepts aren’t diminished by the term. Nielsen isn’t keeping up with the web and becomes more academic every year. His research is the basis for much of the new web design he now proclaims a fad. Look at his site; locked up content, no RSS, not a graphic to be found until he’s trying to sell his reports. His site is the epitome of what Web 2.0 is trying to get past; content that’s locked in format.

    But, to your original post, of course he’s right that some sites are glossy without substance. That doesn’t translate into “all gloss is useless”, as he often tends to imply.

  6. Dawud,
    Thanks for the link to that video. Someone worked very hard on it and it’s a very cool result and simple to understand.
    -Laura

  7. ryan,

    I would actually agree. Not knowing Mr. Nielsen personally, it’s hard to say what he knows and doesnt’ know about the modern web. I have seen for years, though, that he seems to have a bias against graphics, beauty and attractive design. So when we begin making more attractive sites, it makes sense that he would go against it.

    Is he right? In some ways, sure. But not in everything he says, in my opinion. There is room for elegant, attractive design that still carries high usability quotient.

  8. David,

    Hey, great to see you on my site. Thanks.

    I think what you’re saying is that Web 2.0 is good for usability on some fronts but possibly not so good on others.

    If that’s the case, I would suggest that those writing Web 2.0 sites could use with a little education around good usability standards. But of course, so can all of us.

  9. Web 2.0 exploded in 2005. Although most people think web 2.0 is all about ajax it’s more about clean, usable website designs that may incorporate AJAX and other JavaScript.

    I think too many people are misguided by what Web 2.0 really is. It started off as a Trend that grew into it’s own style classification.

    – Dwayne Charrington.
    http://www.dwaynecharrington.com

  10. Dwayne,
    That’s half of what I think Web 2.0 is about, myself. The other half is the ease of publishing afforded by a host of services like Flickr, YouTube and, of course, blogging. Social media is the other half of Web 2.0. Clean design and social media.

  11. Site design is such a subjective think and how do you know if it works or not really?

    I just tried this http://budurl.com/musthavetool for example.

    It is free for a good single site owner user and you have to pay if you use more than three sites but it is the absolute best tool I have ever seen or used and because of the free test I got I am now using it on everything I do.

    Iit is so insightful I am now going to redesign everything I do as finally I can see what needs doing because of this tool. I can’t say more than that – if you have a site and you care about getting it right then you need this tool http://budurl.com/musthavetool

  12. Well I totally agree with the point you make there.It’s just simple design not bad ones.A web 2.0 site having awesome good designs but bad ratings on usability and user friendliness is worth nothing out there.I guess this is the current trend every website now follows.

  13. I think web 2.0 designs play an important role in main sites easier to read also more efficient. The trends match the times and conveying a point more accurately and clearly is more important now than ever.

  14. I have designed many websites for my self as redesigns for my own business and I can say that the Web 2.0 type site i was using at the start of this year has probably been the most successful website design i have used for my business.
    I am now testing the water with a new simpler more corp looking design so only time will tell if my web 2.0 website was the cause of my inflated wallet or was it simply because i am 7th on google for the search term website designer and I am going to get work anyway.

  15. everything has pro’s and con’s we just have to focus on the good things it can do. if not, we just have to weigh them, if the bad things are more than the good things, then we might as well stop using it. that is no problem at all.

  16. There seems to be two trends at the moment, either the web 2.0 curvyness or this paper grunge. A good version of either is good, but there seems to be a sea of poor quality sites drifting at half hearted curves and half hearted grunge. – If you’re going to go for it..go for it!

  17. My analogy of web 2.0 vs “old style” is a normal book vs a popup book. It depends on what the reader is looking for, I prefer substance over style.

  18. I think it’s all about preference. If you like old school versus new school. Eventually the new school will become old school so it’s best to keep up.

  19. I think it’s just one of those things that we should learn to accept. Web 2.0 is the new thing, whether it’s good or bad, it’s almost the new standard for web design these days. Although I would say that it is still a work in progress, there’s still a lot of room for improvements. And there will be.

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