“It reminds me of papyrus”

Home Technologist 03 “It reminds me of papyrus”

The worst design sins to avoid, according to usability guru Jakob Nielsen.

Pixelated portrait image of Jakob Nielsen, with each pixel replaced by a letter, digit or symbol

TECHNOLOGIST What’s the worst mistake in web design?

JAKOB NIELSEN It’s the one-size-fits-all idea: that the same design can work on PCs, tablets and Smartphones. You really need to think differently for each one. Another issue is design concepts leaking from touch devices to PCs, like swishing, which is impractical without a touch screen, or the “hamburger” icon with its three lines that hides the option menu.

TECHNOLOGIST Tablets are held on your lap, like books. Could books be an inspiration for tablet functionality?

JAKOB NIELSEN I don’t think so. Books are linear, which is good for mainly one thing: reading a fiction story on which you’re hooked and just want to go on. With digital ink, e-reader devices can be a good replacement, but they should not provide Internet access. Reading fiction should be immersive with no distraction.

TECHNOLOGIST What do you think of vertical layouts with long scrolling pages?

JAKOB NIELSEN Often a bad idea. You never know when you’ll get to the end of the page, and you don’t get closure. It’s a strange throwback to linear story telling. It forces readers to keep going in one direction, instead of using the power of computing to let them select what they want. It’s an example of the mistake of feature underload: removing choice. It reminds me of papyrus, 2000 years ago.


JAKOB NIELSEN The opposite, of course: feature overload. At some point, any extra button you add will confuse users. In surveys, people often say their first impression of a website is that it’s “busy”.


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