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Nielsen: Move away from the bright light

17 Dec 2007
Posted by Jay Small

Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox article, Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous, reminds us that fancy trick plays in site development don't always bring the same great benefits as good old blocking and tackling.

Nielsen calls out Ajax, rich interfaces, mashups, so-called "user generated content" and online communities -- noting they can be valuable in proper context, but can also distract Web teams from more important user experience objectives. One example:

"Facebook has much drama that makes for good press coverage, but most of its features are worthless for a B2B site that, say, is trying to sell forklift trucks to 50-year-old warehouse managers. Instead of adding Facebook-like features that let users "bite" other users and turn them into zombies, the B2B site would get more sales by offering clear prices, good product photos, detailed specs, convincing whitepapers, an easily navigable information architecture, and an email newsletter."

I know Nielsen has a rep in corners of the design community as being too curmudgeonly, but I read this piece twice and can't find fault in it. In my "day job" and in consulting, I find myself practically begging site and product managers to focus on the basics of their businesses, and divert their gaze from faddish bright-shiny-objects of Web development.

I'm reminded of the current IBM commercial with an interactive developer showing a product manager a digital avatar of himself.

"Can you make money?" the manager asks. "My avatar doesn't know how to do that," the developer replies.