Happy birthday

it’s not his birthday Jakob’s Nielsen’s is actually October fifth, making him a libra like yours truly. It’s […]

it’s not his birthday Jakob’s Nielsen’s is actually October fifth, making him a libra like yours truly. It’s another dane’s birthday…. but the thought remains the same. As we mock, remember to thank as well…

orginal post Though we all like to scream about his pronouncements or catch him when he makes an error in his own rules, it’s time everyone who has a job relating to human factors to acknowledge that Jakob Nielsen’s tireless promoting of usability is very likely the reason our bosses or our clients are willing to consider allowing usability testing.

Jakob paved a road for us to drive down made of his controversial titled alertboxes (“flash is 99% bad” anyone?), his scholarly and his accessible books, and his innumerable keynotes and commentary in the press.

He shoved usability into the web culture consciousness, fought against the painfully gratuitous bells and whistles that accompany a new technology, helping cure those glaring flaws with reasoned advice. He undoubtedly helped the web mature into the admittedly adolescent but pervasive and oh-so useful medium it is today by reminding us all that someone was going to want to use the damn thing.

So I want to say, Happy Birthday Jakob. What about adding a few more items to your Amazon.com Wish List so we can say thank you properly?


Add Yours
  1. 1

    I agree. As much as we (myself included) feel the need to mock, complain about, quote, mis-quote, steal from and argue with him, he has done a lot for the profession, and for that we should be thankful.

    I do find it amusing, though, that on his wish list all he wants are DVDs, and the DVDs are encoded for USA/Canada only, yet, according to his “location,” he’s in Denmark…

  2. 2

    The thing the cracks me up every time the usability community gets up in arms about something Jakob says is that, in general, he’s not talking to us. Alertbox nowadays has a much broader readership than usability professionals. Jakob makes these broad generalizations and outrageous statements because he knows they get the attention of the design community, the business community, and pretty much every other community he aims for, and any fallout in the usability community is kind of beside the point. The CIA has a term to describe this sort of thing, where a news story placed in the media in another country inadvertently gets picked up by domestic US media; wish I could remember the word (“blowback”, maybe?).

    Anyway, Nielsen has perfected the art of selling usability by sound bite. The whole flap over the recent “Don’t listen to users” column was a great example of this. I don’t think the people who were complaining about this actually read the article, which was just a restatement of one of the most basic principles of usability testing, that you get better data by watching what users do than by listening to what they tell you they do. I’ve seen lots of instances where managers think that a focus group acts as their usability effort. Such people need to hear this sort of message.

    On the other hand, what does bother me is when he uses the same tactics when talking to the usability community. I’ve seen him at conferences like CHI where he did that, and in those circumstances, where the audience is made up of usability professionals, it comes across as condescending and shallow. I wish he knew when to stop talking in sound bites.

    But yes, all due props to Dr. Nielsen for his missionary work among the unwashed business elites. 🙂

  3. 3
    Jakob Nielsen

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    Please note, however, that it is *not* my birthday today (August 20). The Jakob you found on Amazon is another person. The giveaway as noted by Jeff is that he is located in Denmark. I live in California.

    Before the growth of the Web and search engines it was not a problem that several people share the same name. Now it is.

    Jakob Nielsen

    (The Jakob who works in usability, co-founded the Nielsen Norman Group, and writes the useit.com website – hopefully that’s enough for a unique ID.)

  4. 4

    Well, then, now is a good time to post a link to your true wishlist, so we can all start planning our shopping lists….

  5. 5

    Or, we could set up a new list: “all-usability-people-except-jakob[@]acm.org” and start a discussion on what to get him? Maybe together we could buy MacroMedia and improve Flash’s out-of-the-box usability 😉

  6. 7

    Nice sentiment, Christina. Like Jeff Lash, I sometimes disagree with his opinions and style–humility ain’t exactly his middle name–but it’s not as though I don’t have “Usability Engineering” and “Designing Web Usability” right here next to me. I read Alertbox regularly, and I appreciate that he’s given a face to usability, even if it turns my stomach every time he refers to one of his own “laws.” (Couldn’t he wait for one of us to do that after he’s dead? 😉

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